Friday, March 19, 2021

The Ouroboros

The Ouroboros is a snake that eats its own tail.

It is a symbol of unity, of something that embraces the whole universe. You can interpret it in many ways. In one way, you understand that this totality is made out of a paradox. That a lot of truths about the universe are contradictory, but nevertheless what makes it real. For instance, "there is no absolute truth and this is an absolute truth." But more than that, something that is finite (like a snake), but infinite in its shape. 

You can also interpret it in the sense what the universe does, it does it to itself. You can't act on anything out of it and there is nothing acting on it. Enclosed circle. The snake is a symbol for what is earthly, animalistic, receptive, concrete and not abstract, something that crawls and lies in our unconscious. 

The ouroboros is, like the circle, a symbol of being complete, full, eternal and at the same times this can only be because you are also finite, incomplete (like a snake seeking to bite something) and momentary.

It essentially represents how existence is a never-ending cycle powered by itself. The tree of life is a way more in depth exploration of this idea (the top triad's process for example: kether giving chokhmah the juice to create a huge blast of energy that binah gathers).

It can also be seen as a representation of duality, the combined flow of the expansive and receptive forces in our universe (yang/yin, fire/water shiva/shakti, etc). The serpent is simultaneously and continuously expanding outwards and then being received into itself, to expand outwards again, ad infinitum. In this way, it could be compared to the taijitu or the star of david (and is often combined with the latter, which is a more straightforward symbol of duality).

It is constantly devouring the tip of the tail (receptive), swallowing it and then continuing to grow through the nutrition gained from doing so (expansive). For every inch it swallows, a new inch grows along it's body - it's mouth never gets any further along it's own body because it is continually growing as it eats.

Nietzsche turned to it as a symbol when he got weak kneed about God being dead. He couldn't hack a universe without purpose, so settled on eternal cyclicity to add a firmer outline to his worldview.

In Norse mythology Jormungandr (Midgard serpent) kept growing from when the earth was young until it could bite its own tail and when that happened, Ragnarok began. Though never specifically stated that Ragnarok began when it finished growing, the texts state it had finished growing upon Ragnarok, so I think it is fair to say that the symbolism is apparent here. 

Notice how it is a representation of time and it was eventually killed by Thor. Perhaps Thor could be seen as a Norse parallel of the Hindu God Shiva. 

Whether or not the many creators of this myth over time knew consciously what it represented or not it does not matter because the unconscious mind did, and the unconscious mind expressed itself in these myths. 

Carl Jung
There is a reason religion is so intrinsic with us humans. It's not simply a creation founded by fleeting thoughts, but something created in a way in which our unconscious mind recognizes and asserts as life and the many intricacies of it. We cannot easily dive into our unconscious mind, thus religion is there as a conduit to our unconscious and that is why people drift to certain gods and ideals over others.

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