The Universal Round:
Comparing Modern Scientific Theories and Ancient Creation Mythology

Brian Schmitt


The world of mythology seems distant, separated by hundreds to perhaps thousands of years, depending on which civilization, tribe, or religion one favors. Especially in this rapid era of scientific and theoretical ingenuity, the world and eons of myth seems irrelevant at mere glance. Thanks in part to mythological scholar and theorist Joseph Campbell, the psychological advances of the recent centuries have been tied closer to mythology than ever before. His theory on the archetypal heroic journey combines the Freudian concepts of mother-father aggression, Oedipus/Electra complexes, and Jungian archetypes have brought together civilizations from the distant past to the most recent times. His treatise on what he calls the Cosmogonic Cycle—the endless cycle of the universe into being and nothingness—reflects the creation myths of generations of humanity. The basic mythological universe corresponds directly, in both literal and even metaphorical terms, with the scientific inquiries, experiments, and theories of recent times.


Joseph Campbell, in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, describes what he terms the “Cosmogonic cycle.” This cycle outlines the eternal cycle of universal birth and rebirth: from nothingness, matter and energy are created, which evolve into modern humanity, which is the precedent to a universal unraveling, leading back to nothingness (30). The developments of the cyclic model of the universe and its hypothetical “Brane World” illustrate this cataclysmic rebirth: the collision of two universes, formed in eleven dimensions as membranes (or branes), causes the Big Bang: the creation of matter and energy from the radiation of this collision. Dark energy, theoretically, then pulls and stretches this matter over a period of a trillion years, eventually stretching everything back into its original, nonexistent state (Steinhardt and Turok 2-4). In comparison, world mythologies such as the Mayans, and even the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam account for the apocalypse (Campbell 322-327). Another collision acts as a rebirth. Rather than a finite beginning and end, the universe and all existence wait in limbo for the next collision to occur. Then, the spark ignites another trillion years; humanity is brought into being, unprepared for the trials of the human condition to test the human spirit. No matter the achievement, however, dark energy stretches every galaxy, star, and atom back into nothingness. The cycle continues infinitely, on perhaps millions to trillions of other membrane universes.


In modern biological advances, it is theorized that a meteorite extracted from the surface of Mars transported microbiological life onto the surface of the primordial Earth (Treiman). This reflects another archetype in mythology, as illustrated by Campbell: the Father Sky impregnating the Mother Earth (241-243). The Meteorite, symbolic of the life-inducing sperm of Father Sky, penetrates the egg of Mother Earth. In this theory, molecules present on the meteorite—much different compounds than those familiar to earthlings—combine with molecules on the supposedly inhospitable earth, acting as the spark in the primordial soup of the Mother Earth’s womb. Hesiod’s Theogony describes Ouranos (Father Heaven) and Gaia (Mother Earth) as being the parents of the Titans and grandparents of the Olympians, all of which culminate into the Greek system of gods and goddesses.

 

Dr. Michael Persinger’s work with the neuropsychological realm closely reflects the heroic archetypal journey of Campbell’s Monomyth. As Campbell states, “The regions of the unknown (desert, jungle, deep sea, alien land, etc.) are free fields for the projection of unconscious content” (65). The Campbellian hero crosses the first threshold into the transformative space, where mysterious beings, tests, and hindrances demand to be conquered; in doing so, the hero can retrieve an apotheosis, or divinization, or atonement with a mother-father figure. The hero then returns with what Campbell calls the “boon”: a priceless item, wisdom, or self-realization that cleanses the world (211). As Campbell illustrates throughout The Hero with a Thousand Faces, what many heroes—such as Gilgamesh, Jesus Christ, Buddha, etc.—search for and preach is eternal bliss, the infinite space beyond existence. Some, like Gilgamesh, realize the mortal state of humanity; others, like religious divinities and heroes, realize, culminate, and symbolize this eternity.


What Dr. Persinger is searching for in his neuropsychological experiments is the god experience, where a consciousness imagines contact with a perhaps infinite being, and reaches a moment of euphoric bliss, as described on the Behavioral Neuroscience website of Laurentian University:


The primary experimental method to study the "presence" is to place the person in a simulated "cave", an acoustic chamber, where they are blindfolded and sit in the dark for about 30 min. The person wears a helmet or a collection of solenoids arranged around the head (like a crown) through which complex magnetic fields are generated. By applying specific patterns of weak magnetic fields that imitate the brains own activities, about 80% of the normal population report the experience of "another". Only specific patterns produce the experience; a reversed presentation of the pattern does not.


By placing a patient in this darkened chamber and subjecting them to a magnetic stimulus, Dr. Persinger and his followers are forcing this individual to partake in the Campbellian departure of the hero: the threshold-crossing of consciousness into the mystic world. Their neuropsychological process of this god-experience resembles the hero’s discovery in the transformative realm, where a god-like figure is perhaps encountered and apotheosis or atonement is achieved; or, rather, a boon or elixir is given from the divinity to the hero. The tested individuals, once relieved of this experiment/experience (crossing the threshold back into reality), are mesmerized and perhaps even enlightened, as other heroes of mythology have been.

 

Perhaps the Jungian archetypes of mythology and literature have perpetually blended themselves into particle physics and cosmology. Whether this is mere coincidence in the infinite, yet altogether relative, human psyche and imagination; or instead, a representation of a universal fabric of knowledge that binds everyone—this remains to personal interpretation. Campbell’s heroic journey demands a plunge into the deep unconscious, a search for personal and universal truth. Perhaps science can provide similar understanding as theorists reach farther and further into the ever-escaping truth of the cosmos.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Steinhardt, Paul J., and Neil Turok. "The Cyclic Model Simplified." Princeton, Apr. 2004. Web.   22 July 2010. 2-4.

 

Treiman, Allan H. "Fossil Life in ALH 84001?" Lunar and Planetary Institute, n.d. Web. 22 July             2010.

 

"Sensed Presences and Mystical States." Behavioral Neuroscience, Laurentian University.             Neuroscience Research Group, 2000. Web. 29 July 2010.

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