Lines, Circles, and Spirals

Circular                           -                      Linear 
Limited                            -                      Limitless
Completion                      -                      Perfection
Earth                                -                      Heaven
Known                            -                      Unknown
Retro                                -                      Avant
Past                                  -                      Future 
Right hemisphere            -                      Left hemisphere

 Line + Circle = Spiral

Cultural historian [Jean] Gebser […] theorised that five structures of consciousness developed throughout human history, calling them archaic, magic, mythical, mental, and integral (emerging). Gebser, Steiner, and Wilber also claimed that time consciousness changed with the evolving consciousness of humans throughout history.

The shift from magic to mythical consciousness paralleled the shift from nomadic life to settled agricultural villages and the world’s first cities […]

Gebser calls the time consciousness of this mythical period ‘rhythmic/cyclical.’ [Eleanora] Masini agrees, referring to the cyclical time perspectives found in the mythological narratives of Buddhist and Hindu cultures.

Gebser and others place the origins of mental-rational consciousness in the ancient Greek period of the great philosophers [and] refer to the beginnings of the concept of linear time in this period, and by association, the beginnings of the default idea of the future that we have today.

Masini’s linear time concept also originated in the Graeco-Roman era and is symbolised by an arrow.

It later came to represent progress in the modern period of scientific and technological development. She also points to the erosion of the idea that linear time is always associated with progress, in the wake of the Club of Rome Limits to Growth Report in the 1970s.

The fifth type of consciousness, which Gebser called integral, began to appear with the Renaissance and is gradually strengthening in individuals and culture through advances in sciences, philosophy, human rights. It parallels the development of higher models of reasoning, identified by developmental psychologists. Gebser’s integral consciousness, being the most highly evolved, is associated with the most highly evolved time consciousness. Gebser calls this ‘time freedom’ or ‘concretion of time’ in which we are capable of experiencing all the different cultural time senses, rather than being restricted to only one.

Masini’s most evolved time consciousness is symbolised by the spiral, which is an integration of the circle and the arrow, and draws on the work of systems scientist and consciousness researcher Ervin László.

[Jennifer Gidley]
The Future: A Very Short Introduction, p. 21-2

Although the conception of time and the future exist universally, they are understood in different ways in different societies. Eleonora Masini (1996, p. 76) argues that there are three main representations of time. The first representation is:

"A variation of cyclical motion, as in the enclosed circle of life and death in living organisms, or of night and day in cosmic time. This representation is well reflected in the Hindu and Buddhist 'cosmic eras' (kalpa) which are delimited by mythological events in time periods through which all beings continue ad infinitum. The cycle is represented by a snake.

In this conception we see the future as part of an unending continuum. The future is part of life and death. Naturally this influences one's perspective of the future: there is little reason to despair or to strive to achieve."

The second representation is based on the Graeco – Roman and the Judaeo – Christian conception of time:

"Founded on the idea that all people are the same in relation to God. Time is perceived to be a trajectory towards something more, towards accomplishment. In this representation time is symbolized by an arrow; the future is better than the present and the past and may be in contradiction to the historical present, as in utopia. The possibility of the future being worse than the past or present is out of the question.

This is the conceptual base of progress . . . the time of scientific and technological development, where every success has to be bigger and better than anything in the past or present . . . (but) this concept of time and the future is being challenged by environmental barriers and barriers emerging from its own frame of reference."

The third representation has been developed by ―Vico and others and was more recently extended by Ervin Laszlo. According to this representation:

"Time is a spiral, an evolutionary process of world civilization giving a structure to spatial and temporal events ranging from the natural to the social, that develops over time."

These three basic metaphors for time — circle, arrow and spiral — influence the type of futures thinking and the very understanding of the future across cultures.

[Ivana Milojević]
'A selective history of futures thinking'

Remember, everything in this universe is elliptical or circular in motion; that applies both to the abstract and the concrete, the mental, physical and spiritual.

[W.D. Gann]
The Tunnel Thru The Air, p. 76

The law of octaves explains why there are no straight lines in nature.

At the moment of the retardation of vibration a deviation from the original direction takes place.

Let us assume that a movement begins at "do". It will continue in a straight line through "mi". But a deviation occurs between "mi" and "fa" which causes a change from the original direction. From "fa" through "si", the movement continues in the new direction. Between "si" and "do" the second interval occurs which causes a new change in direction.

The next octave gives an even more marked deviation so that the line of octaves may eventually complete a circle.

[P.D. Ouspensky]
In Search of the Miraculous, p. 127

[...] we have plunged down a cataract of progress which sweeps us on into the future with ever wilder violence the further it takes us from our roots.

[...] it is the loss of connection with the past, our uprootedness, which has given rise to the "discontents" of civilisation and to such a flurry and haste that we live more in the future and its chimerical promises of a golden age than in the present [...]

[...] reforms by advances, that is, by new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for. They by no means increase the contentment or happiness of people on the whole. Mostly they are deceptive sweetenings of existence, like speedier communications which unpleasantly accelerate the tempo of life and leave us with less time than ever before [...]

[...] all haste is of the devil [...]

[C.G. Jung]
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p.263, 264

There are many planes of Being — many sub-planes of Life — many degrees of existence in the Universe. And all depend upon the advancement of beings in the scale, of which scale the lowest point is the grossest matter, the highest being separated only by the thinnest division from the spirit of the All.

And, upward and onward along this Scale of Life, everything is moving. All are on the Path, whose end is The All.  

All progress is a Returning Home.

All is Upward and Onward, in spite of all seemingly contradictory appearances.

[...] This Involuntary stage of Creation is sometimes called the "Outpouring" of the Divine Energy, just as the Evolutionary state is called the "Indrawing." The extreme pole of the Creative process is considered to be the furthest removed from the All, while the beginning of the Evolutionary stage is regarded as the beginning of the return swing of the pendulum of Rhythm — a "coming home" idea being held in all of the Hermetic Teachings.

[...] The Hermetic Teachings regarding the process of Evolution are that, the All, having meditated upon the beginning of the Creation — having thus established the material foundations of the Universe — having thought it into existence — then gradually awakens or rouses from its Meditation and in so doing starts into manifestation the process of Evolution, on the material, mental and spiritual planes, successively and in order.

Thus the upward movement begins — and all begins to move Spiritward. Matter becomes less gross; the Units spring into being; the combinations begin to form; Life appears and manifests in higher and higher forms; and Mind becomes more and more in evidence — the vibrations constantly becoming higher. In short, the entire process of Evolution, in all of its phases, begins, and proceeds according to the established Laws of the "Indrawing" process.

The Kybalion, Chapter VII: ""The All" in All"

Oh, if only it were possible to find understanding," Joseph exclaimed.

"If only there were a dogma to believe in. Everything is contradictory, everything tangential; there are no certainties anywhere. Everything can be interpreted one way and then again interpreted in the opposite sense. The whole of world history can be explained as development and progress and can also be seen as nothing but decadence and meaninglessness.

Isn't there any truth? Is there no real and valid doctrine?"

The master had never heard him speak so fervently. He walked on in silence for a little, then said:

"There is truth, my boy. But the doctrine you desire, absolute, perfect dogma that alone provides wisdom, does not exist. Nor should you long for a perfect doctrine, my friend. 

Rather, you should long for the perfection of yourself. The diety is within you, not in ideas and books. Truth is lived, not taught. Be prepared for conflicts, Joseph Knecht - I can see that they already have begun.

[Herman Hesse]
The Glass Bead Game

It's true that biology and theoretical physics have brought us some fascinating knowledge about the origins of life and the formation of the universe. But does knowing such things help us elucidate the basic mechanisms of happiness and suffering?

It's important not to lose sight of the goals that we set ourselves. To know the exact shape and dimensions of the Earth is undeniably progress. But whether it's round or flat doesn't make a great deal of difference to the meaning of existence. Whatever progress is made in medicine, we can only temporarily treat sufferings that never stop coming back, and culminate in death.

We can end a conflict, or a war, but there will always be more, unless people's minds change.

[Matthieu Ricard]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p.17

Modern man likes the word progress. I think contemporary people are still dragging that idea around. It is easy to accept that logic which proposes a diagram of "progress," progress with stages rising in a line.

On this point, Jungian ideas are pretty flexible, while Buddhism is utterly open. There is no first and last, no beginning or end. Buddhism shows us the world of everything as it is, as a whole.

No real change is going on.

[Hayao Kawai]
Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, p.61

The oft-repeated doctrine of a progressive development of mankind to an ever higher perfection, or generally of any kind of becoming by means of the world-process, is opposed to the a priori view that, up to any given point of time, an infinite time has already elapsed, and consequently that all that is supposed to come with time is bound to have existed already.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, Volume II, p.172-7, 184

Debt is only required of systems built around the demand for growth, and that is where our current capitalist system has failed. Constant growth without end, and without any thought to the preservation of resources, is simply and wholly unsustainable.

Our current economy is built around the stock markets, and those markets demand never-ending growth at all costs. If your company cannot promise growth from one quarter to the next, and the next, and the next, then you go bankrupt when all of your investors flee to someone that can give them what they want - free money with no expenditure of work and no productivity. The only thing that keeps a system like ours running is more and more debt, and a system like that will always eventually fail.

What we are seeing now is the last gasps of an empire desperately trying to keep the illusion of prosperity going. Going into debt is not prosperity because it is a form of slavery.

David Icke Forum

The ordinary Balinese term for the period before the coming of the white man is "when the world was steady" (doegas goemine enteg)

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('Bali: The Value System of a Steady State'), p.121

[...] I came to live here where I am now between Wounded Knee Creek and Grass Creek. Others came too, and we made these little gray houses of logs that you see, and they are square. It is a bad way to live, for there can be no power in a square.

You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that this is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round.

[...] The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our tepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation's hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.

[Black Elk]
Black Elk Speaks, p.194-6

He who covets a mythical abstraction must always be insatiable!

[Gregory Bateson]
Mind and Nature, p.239

I must say that progress is the invention of someone who suffered immaturity and who craved to be initiated. This could be the reason that nothing is definite, final, and everything is fast moving.

[Malidoma Patrice Somé]
Ritual, p. 65-6

Having achieved a certain plateau of living, the Amish do not want to be forced to live on a higher standard than what they feel comfortable with.

In a recent election year when presidential candidates were promising a higher standard of living, an Amish patriarch remarked:

"Striving for such a high standard of living is nothing more than the worship of the golden calf."

[John A. Hostetler]
Amish Society, p. 131

In his introduction to the 1979 edition of his novel Pig Earth – the first in a trilogy chronicling the decline of peasant life in Europe in the 20th century – John Berger makes a distinction between what he calls a ‘culture of progress’ and a ‘culture of survival.’ 

The culture of survival [...] is the culture of the peasantry, of indigenous people; of pre-modernity. It is the culture of the great majority of human history, and of many people still, and it is exemplified for Berger by the French peasantry he still lives among. A culture of survival does not have an end goal; it just is. Its purpose is to live from day to day and year to year. It is a repeating pattern.

The end goal of the culture of progress, meanwhile, is at its grandest the abolition of death itself.

For this goal, the destruction of traditional ways of being and seeing, and much of the world’s wild beauty, is a sacrifice worth making.

[Paul Kingsnorth]
'Brexit and the Culture of Progress'

From the days of the early Greeks we have been seeking the certainty that lies in what could be called closure. 

Closure implies that final world that brings discussion to its conclusion; it is a wrapping up, a resolution of the great questions of the universe, an ending of time. But this is also the sort of ending beloved of Victorian novelists in which all conflicts are finally resolved, warring parties united, loving couples married and the wrong-doers punished. Although life may go on after the novel's ending it is a life without conflict or tension.

While post-modern stories can no longer afford this luxury some scientists still believe that the story told by science can reach an ultimate conclusion through its laws, a conclusion in which time is finally blotted out.

Truth, however, may be of a very different order from timeless stasis for it may require a search for what is straight rather than what is static.

[F. David Peat]
'I've Got a Map in My Head'

[Quinlan] Terry's universe is one in which, at a certain point (in some long-gone Golden Age) "they got it right" and we can only keep repeating that cosmic "rightness" forever.

Unfortunately, many rock musicians are stuck in the same belief -- nothing can ever top "Pet Sounds" or whatever. It's a tragic belief for the medium involved, because it deprives practitioners, instantly, of any motivation to be inventive or innovative.


Terry's classicism is more than just modernism in reverse. It's a completely alternate point of view, and one just as defensible as modernism, I think.

Classicists feel a responsibility to the Past, while modernists feel a responsibility to the Future, both forgetting that neither the past nor the future really exists, only the present.


'The paradoxes of Quinlan Terry'

No straight lines are to be found in the natural world. 

Everything that really exists follows a series of curved shapes to which the logical products of the human mind can only ever approach tangentially – flow, once again, reduced to a series of points. Leonard Shlain has pointed out that the only apparently straight line in the natural world is that of the horizon; but of course that too turns out to be a section of a curve. Even space, it turns out, is curved.

Rectilinearity, as Ruskin had similarly demonstrated of clarity, is illusory, and can only be approximated, like clarity, by narrowing the breadth, and limiting the depth, of the perceptual field.

Straight lines are prevalent wherever the left hemisphere predominates, in the late Roman Empire (whose towns and roads are laid out like grids), in Classicism (by contrast with the Baroque, which had everywhere celebrated the curve), in the Industrial Revolution (the Victorian emphasis on ornament and Gothicism being an ultimately futile nostalgic pretence occasioned by the functional brutality and invariance of the rectilinear productions of machines) and in the grid-like environment of the modern city, where that pretence has been dropped.

By contrast the shape that is suggested by the processing of the right hemisphere is that of the circle, and its movement is characteristically ‘in the round’, the phrase we use to describe something that is seen as a whole, and in depth.

Circular motion accommodates, as rectilinearity does not, the coming together of opposites. 

Cognition in the right hemisphere is not a process of something coming into being through adding piece to piece in a sequence, but of something that is out of focus coming into focus, as a whole. Everything is understood within its penumbra of significances, in its context – all that encircles it.

There are strong affinities between the idea of wholeness and roundedness. The movement of the right hemisphere is not the unidirectional, instrumental gesture of grasp, but the musical, whole-bodied, socially generative, movement of dance, which is never in a straight line towards something, but always ultimately returns to its origins.

[Iain McGilchrist]
The Master and his Emissary, p. 447

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Live Forever? 
The Middle Path
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