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As above, so below:
Modern Cosmology as Psychological Metaphor


"An archetypal content expresses itself, first and foremost, in metaphors."

Carl Jung


In the days before the Copernican Revolution, it was believed that the earth was the fixed centre of the universe. At a still earlier time in India, this geocentric position was given to people. Each person, psychologically speaking, was recognized as being the centre of the universe. Although this sounds egotistical, it was not, since every person was recognized in this way.(1)

Since the Copernican Revolution, science has increasingly alienated mankind from the cosmos.(2) Appreciating modern cosmology as a metaphor for some of our most intimate psychological realities can contribute to a reversal of this trend.(3) The only enquiry more archetypal and mythological than asking how the universe began, how it evolves and what is its final state, is asking the same questions about ourselves.(4)

In the sixth century BC, the ancient Greeks, believed that the individual and the entire cosmos were governed by the same principles of central order and harmonic relation. Plato postulated that if man went through life without engaging in the world around him, he would have little sense of life, for the universe could only be understood by participation in its dynamic laws.(5) Two thousand years later, science has uncovered a more sophisticated cos-mology to describe humanity's interaction with the matter and 'mind stuff' of the universe.(6)

In the big bang model, the universe is a continuous expansion of curved four dimensional space-time,(7) with nothing existing outside of, or before it; it is all there is. Depth psychology(8) likens it to the archetypal uroborus, the mythological self-contained dragon, eating its own tail.(9) In the same way, according to depth psychology, nothing exists outside the mind. With no outside to focus on, psychologists and astronomers alike have been forced to turn their attention to the inside.

The Copernican transition from geocentric to heliocentric astronomy required its initiators to think in new and disturbing ways that violated their basic sense perceptions. But modern cosmology, with its invisible matter, universal Hubble expansion and boundless, curved space- time has a more abstract impact on mankind's psyche, requiring an unprecedented effort at revisioning.(10)

In the latter half of the twentieth century, astronomy has developed the big bang model for the birth, evolution and death of the universe. This modern cosmology rests solidly on the interplay between Einstein's theory of relativity and the observations from modern telescopes.(11) However, like all earlier cosmologies, this modern theory has archetypal and mythological dimensions.

According to standard big bang cosmology, the universe began about fifteen billion years ago in an imaginably hot, dense fireball of elemental particles and then exploded, cooling and forming the galaxies that still recede from each other today.(12)

Early in the twentieth century, it was discovered that the average mass density of the universe (mass per volume) was the critical factor determining the ultimate fate of the universe. If the average density is smaller than a defined critical value,(13) then the universe will expand forever. All galaxies will endlessly recede from one another, eventually cooling into the dead cinders remaining from stellar evolution. Conversely, if the density is greater than the critical value, at a certain time, the recession will cease and reverse. The galaxies will then fall back together at ever increasing velocities into a cosmic inferno.(14)

In the last few decades it has become a firmly established scientific belief that the visible universe - everything seen by employing the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radio wavelengths to gamma rays - represents less than one tenth of the total mass of the entire universe.(15) The spiral galaxy, for example, is overwhelmingly composed of non radiating matter. The visible universe, of consuming interest to mankind, since Neanderthal man gazed skyward, is like the tip of an iceberg. In the visible universe, there are about ten billion galaxies(16) and in each of these galaxies, there are typically one hundred billion stars.(17) Yet all these galaxies, stars and gas clouds, visible in any part of the electromagnetic spectrum, comprise only from one hundredth to one tenth of the universe.(18)

The gravitational effects on the matter that is visible, such as the motions and clusters of galaxies, was used to determine the presence of the unseen preponderant of the universe. Since the great invisible bulk of the universe largely determines the average density, the invisible matter mostly decides the ultimate fate of the universe.(19)

This modern cosmology provides a strikingly apt meta-phor for the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious aspect of the human psyche.(20) The realm of the conscious,(21) the arena of images, known content, feelings, thoughts and desires, comprises only a fraction of the total psyche. Like the luminous galaxies in the universe, it is enfolded in a much larger, invisible component - the unconscious. Just as invisible matter dominates the universe's physical evolution, the intangible unconscious dominates psychological evolution. Yet, consciousness plays a critical role, since the unconscious is often reacting to it. Although visible ego consciousness has occupied much of recent psychological thought, depth psychology has postulated that the dark, invisible aspect of the psyche - the unconscious - displays a profound wisdom in directing human psychological evolution.

Just as astronomers infer the presence of the invisible matter through the detailed study of the visible matter, depth psychologists infer the presence of the unconscious by carefully scrutinizing its effects upon consciousness. In cosmology, gravitational interaction governs the interaction between visible and invisible matter, while in depth psychology, the interplay between consciousness and the unconscious is governed by unconscious compensation.(22)

Through a series of specific compensations, the unconscious guides the individual along a certain, unique tra-jectory. Through the symbolic understanding of dreams, fantasies and emotional responses, this dynamic process can be observed. In this way, the immense unconscious, whose presence can only be discovered through inference guides psychological evolution in the same manner that the invisible matter in the universe decides its ultimate evolution. However, unlike the universe, that according to general relativity, only has two possible end points, the unconscious guides each individual to a unique expression of wholeness and their particular identity.

The personal realization that an impersonal intelligence, superior to the ego and personal will, guides human development through unconscious compensation, is the psychological equivalent of the Copernican Revolution. It is a major psychological shift to appreciate that the unseen, non localized, immaterial presence is the director of life, as opposed to the overly valued conscious and localized ego.

Shortly after Einstein's 1916 development of general relativity, astronomers discovered that the stars first seen through Galileo's telescope were only in this galaxy, merely one undistinguished member among billions in the universe. Edwin Hubble then discovered that distant galaxies recede from the point of observation, with velocities proportional to their distance from this point. It seemed that astronomers had overthrown the geocentric view, only to find themselves at the centre of cosmic expansion.

A two dimensional analog to this four dimensional space-time, modern cosmological situation can illustrate their initial dilemma. If a balloon with pennies (representing observers) glued to its surface, is blown up, from the vantage point of a penny, all other pennies move away from it with a Hubble expansion. Each penny sees the others receding from it with a velocity that increases with the two dimensional distance between the pennies. Similarly, each cosmic observer would see the same Hubble expansion regardless of the vantage point in the universe. Thus, modern cosmology removes all privilege, all uniqueness. It has truly completed the Copernican Revo-lution.

The psychological experience of ego's centrality finds a reflection in every cosmic observer seeing themselves as the centre of a Hubble expansion. Individuals each experience themselves as the centre of their psychological drama, relating to the experience of ego, the centre of empirical consciousness. In truth, each is only one of an infinite number of equivalent focal points for an imaginatively larger motion.

With the recognition of the inner psychological motions that condition and distort human experience, the historical Copernican Revolution can be appreciated psychologically, as individual awareness of existing as the centre of experience, being projected onto geocentric cosmology.

The implications of this cosmological perspective, divorcing man from his relationship with the cosmos, has been tempered by the relatively recent discoveries of quantum mechanics,(23) that promises to reinstate Plato's emphasis on man's interaction with the substance of the universe.(24)

John Wheeler, recognizing the new physics, wrote, "May the universe in some strange sense be 'brought into being' by the participation of those who participate?"(25)

Although Newtonian physics is still applicable to the large scale world, it does not work in the subatomic realm.(26) Some quantum physicists state that there are no basic building blocks of matter, rather that the universe is an inseparable whole; a vast web of interacting, interweaving probabilities.(27) Bell's theorem(28) supports the concept that subatomic 'particles' are connected in a way that transcends time and space.(29) On this theorem, Gary Zukav(30) wrote, "All parts of the universe are connected in a way previously claimed only by mystics and other scientifically objectionable people."(31)

David Bohm,(32) has proposed that the universe behaves like a hologram:(33) a matrix of circulating, electromagnetic waves, caused by the constant vibrating matter. Even human flesh and bones disappear when highly magnified and what remains is an electromagnetic field that changes with the course of time. Further, the physical human form is continuously affected by the electrical universe as a whole. Hence, each individual is not simply a collection of organs and parts, but a cosmological system, interacting with the universe at large.(34)

Thought and ideas are also vibrating, similarly to matter, but at a higher rate.(35) It has been suggested that humans can become aware of this high frequency reality, akin to Plato's world of forms, and read out the thought waves of the universe in states of increased awareness.(36) In these states, body and brain cells are interacting with other electromagnetic fields, circulating in the universe. Accordingly, this has prompted a new psychology of being that recognises the interface of the self as a pulsating wave with other thought waves in the universe.

"Physics has become a branch of psychology, or per-haps the other way round."(37)

The marriage of depth psychology and physics as pioneered by Carl Jung, may prompt the physics that produced fission and fusion bombs to reveal new cosmological and cognitive views that will assist humanity in rediscovering itself. Relativity and quantum mechanics, each in their own way, reveal an entirely different cosmology than the one previously presented to the world by science. Non locality(38) or non separability in a participating quantum universe has awed those addressing the philosophic foundations of quantum theory. This recent work reveals a radically interconnected, interdependent world, one so essentially connected at a deep level that the interconnectedness is more fundamental and real than the independent existence of the parts of the quantum system. The psychological implications of assimilating the meaning of non locality in quantum physics, translates to an understanding of the interconnections between people, races and countries as being more real than the independent existence of egos, religions and nations. Barbara Brennan postulates that this concept will dramatically affect communication in the years to come.(39) Given the current world reality, such a revolutionary outlook seems extreme. However, history teaches that any fundamental shift in the collective psyche, whether the Copernican Revolution that Galileo championed at his own peril, or a new understanding of humanity's place in a non localised universe takes time to be fully understood in psychology and physics, and felt in wider circles.(40) A consensus grows that the near future will see new theories exploding onto the scene, incorporating the older theories and revealing a much larger view of our universe and consequently of ourselves.(41)

The veil has been lifted from the ancient references to the relationship of humanity's harmonic movement with the motion of the spheres. Humanity is being swept out of the mechanistic Newtonian universe and once again enfolded in the ancient Greeks' organic cosmos where all matter is alive and vibrating in a rhythmic cosmic dance.

"The motions that are naturally akin to the divine within us are the thoughts and revolutions of the universe. These each man should follow.(42)

End Notes

1. Zukav, G. - The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics, pg 114.

2. Mansfield, V. - Modern Cosmology as Psychological Metaphor, pg 12.

3. Ibid, pg 7.

4. Mansfield, V. - Synchronicity, Science and Soul-Making, pg 12.

5. Andrews, V. - The Psychic Power of Running, pg 134.

6. Ibid, pg 134.

7. Mansfield, V. - Modern Cosmology as Psychological Metaphor, pg 2.

8. The school of psychology that assumes that explanations of behaviour are to be found at the unconscious level.

9. Mansfield, V. - Science, Synchronicity and Soul-Making, pg 191.

10. Mansfield, V. - Modern Cosmology as Psychological Metaphor, pg 5.

11. Ibid, pg 5.

12. Ibid, pg 5.

13. Found by a combination of theory and experiment.

14. Mansfield, V. - Modern Cosmology as Psychological Metaphor, pg 8.

15. Ibid, pg 3.

16. Ibid, pg 2.

17. Ibid, pg 2.

18. Ibid, pg 2.

19. Ibid, pg 8.

20. Sigmund Freud originally conceived of the psyche as a self contained system with a constant amount of energy continuously exchanged between various components - the ego, the id and the superego. But Carl Jung, who suggested that 'the brain is the space-time limitation of the psyche,' (C.G. Jung, Collected Works, vol. 8, pg 413, cited in Lorimer D. - Survival? pg 300) foresaw the amalgamation of physics and psychology and proposed an expansion of the basic model, influenced by external energy sources or 'archetypes.'

21. Mansfield, V. - Modern Cosmology as Psychological Metaphor, pg 11.

22. According to Carl Jung, this is the homeostatic mechanism of the psyche, the guiding force for individuation.

23. Quantum mechanics resulted from the study of the subatomic realm, that invisible universe underlying, embedded in and forming the fabric of everything around us.

24. "The new data are of such far-reaching relevance that they could revolutionise our understanding of the human psyche… Some of the observations transcend in their significance the framework of psychology… and represent a serious challenge to the current Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm of Western science. They could change drastically our image of human nature, of culture and history, and of reality. - Dr Stainlav Grof on holographic phenomena in The Adventure of Self-Discovery, cited in Talbot, M. - The Holographic Universe.

25. Zukav, G. - The Dancing Wu Li Masters, pg 54.

26. Ibid, pg 45.

27. Brennan B. - Hands of Light, pg 27.

28. In 1964, theoretical physicist John Stewart Bell at CERN (a center for peaceful atomic research near Geneva), published a mathematical proof that supports this concept. However, his two particle experiment, had to be performed in such an infinitesimally brief instant that there wouldn't be enough time for a ray of light to cross the distance separating the two particles. The technological precision required to perform all the necessary operations within a few thousand-millionths of a second, was not available until the 1970's. Talbot, M. - The Holographic Universe, pgs 43 and 52.

29. Brennan. B. - Hands of Light, pg 27.

30. Zukav, G. - The Dancing Wu Li Masters, pg 54.

31. Seymour, P. (Dr) - The Scientific Basis of Astrology, pg 2.

32. The Professor of Theoretical Physics at Birkbeck College, England was a protégé of Einstein's and is one of the world's most respected quantum physicists. Bohm became convinced of the universe's holographic nature after years of dissatisfaction with standard theories' inability to explain all the phenomena encountered in quantum physics. - Talbot, M. - The Holo-graphic Universe, pg 1.

33. Bohm's assertion is that everyday life is actually a type of illusion, like a holographic image. Underlying it is a deeper order of existence, a vast and more primary level of reality that gives birth to all the objects and appearances of the physical world in much the same way that a piece of holographic film gives birth to a hologram. - ibid, pg 46.

34. Andrews, V. - The Psychic Powers of Running, pg 135.

35. Ibid, pg 136.

36. Ibid, pg 137.

37. Zukav, G. - The Dancing Wu Li Masters, pg 56.

38. Unlike in the large scale world, where things have very specific location, Bohm's interpretation of quantum physics indicated that at the subquan-tum level, location ceased to exist.

39. Brennan, B. - Hands of Light, pg 27.

40. Mansfield, V. - Modern Cosmology as Psychological Metaphor, pg 12.

41. Ibid, pg 12.

42. Andrews, V. - The Psychic Powers of Running, pg 140.


Andrews, V. - The Psychic Power of Running: How the body can illuminate the mysteries of the mind, Thorsons Publishers Limited, Northamptonshire, 1979.

Bohm, D. - Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Ark, London, 1980.

Brennan, B.A. - Hands of Light, Bantam, New York, 1988.

Davies, P. - 'The Harmony of the Spheres,' Time Magazine, February 19, 1996.

Koestler, A. - The Sleepwalkers, Penguin Arkana, 1989.

Lemonick, M. - 'Searching for Other Worlds,' Time Magazine, February 19, 1996.

Lorimer, D. - Survival? Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1984.

Mansfield, V. - Modern Cosmology as Psychological Metaphor, Hamilton, 1996.

Mansfield, V. - Synchronicity, Science, and Soul-Making, Open Court, Chicago 1995.

Moon, B. - 'Awakening Conscience,' Parabola, Volume 12, Number One, February, 1987.

Morrow, L. - 'Is There Life in Outer Space?' - Time Magazine, February 19, 1996.

Reber, A.S. - The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology, Penguin Books, London, 1985.

Seymour, P. (Dr) - The Scientific Basis of Astrology: Tuning to the Music of the Planets, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1992.

Stanley Alder, V. - The Secret of the Atomic Age, Rider, London, 1988.

Talbot, M. - The Holographic Universe, Harper Perennial, New York, 1991.

Zukav, G. - The Dancing Wu Li Masters: an Overview of the New Physics, Flamingo, 1979.

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