The Universe Is a Fractal
Looking at each of the pictures, one can see how they establish a pattern—particularly because of the repeating spirals and especially because of the first figure in the image that keeps repeatedly appearing. The figure is called the Mandelbrot set, and if it doesn’t appear to us in its entirety, at least fragments of it do. This figure is known fondly as the “little apple man” and it shows us the universe of all fractals in its entirety. Beyond the little apple man that appears in the first picture, there is nothing. But upon enlarging a point on its contour, one finds a world of shape and color, a universe that can be enlarged forever. Computer processing capacity is what sets the limit on precisely calculating the exact coordinates. And it all comes from a very basic formula, the formula that gives birth to the fractal universe. The formula is z = z2 + c.
The Hermetic key principle, “as above, so below”, implies that the Universe we inhabit behaves in the same way. Galaxies are miniature universes, solar systems are miniature galaxies, we are miniature solar systems, our cells are miniature human beings, and atoms are miniature cells. And, according to the Big Bang theory, the entire Universe emanated from a singularity of space-time more minuscule than an atom, so “as it is below, so it is above also.”
This is why the little apple man that appears again in the eighth picture is no longer the entire fractal Universe. However, it is made in the image and likeness of this Universe. Perhaps this little apple man is us.
There we are, wrapped in layers of distinct colors, with spirals sprouting from the outer layer, giving birth to other spirals. We are a replica of the Universe, we are an expression of the universal consciousness. At least this is what the diverse spiritual traditions of the world tell us. For example, Hinduism calls the Universe Jagat, its Consciousness is Brahman, and that same Consciousness expressed at the individual level (the replica of Brahman) is the Atman. The Book of Genesis, written by Moses more than 2,500 years ago, says that the human being was created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Sioux tradition calls the divine Wakan Tanka, a term that we could translate as the “Great Mystery” or the “Great Spirit.” For the Sioux, every creature or object is wakan, and is sacred. It is, in short, an expression of Wakan Tanka, of this sacred entirety. Similar things are stated in many other traditions.
Time Is Also a Fractal
IN THIS FRACTAL that is the universe, space-time would be symbolically represented by all of the spirals that appear in the above pictures. Einstein said that space-time was curved. If it is, it is curved like a spiral. That is why that image could represent the cosmos wrapping around us. And there we are, in the center, surrounded by spirals from which even bigger ones are being born. The image below would represent an expression of the universal consciousness in a point of space-time. It could be an atom, or a molecule, or a human being, or a planet, or a galaxy… Look at who is in the center: the little apple man again, an expression of the same consciousness that inhabits the entire Universe.
Space-time manifesting itself as a spiral means that the lesser cycles are no more than just replicas of the greater cycles and that a point where they touch always exists. It is as if there was always a point in which the spirals of different sizes were holding each other’s hand. We can observe this, for example, in the daily and the annual cycles. The day cycle, with its diurnal and nocturnal periods, constitutes one of the cycles that governs the behavioral patterns in Nature. In the morning, flowers spread out their petals and birds sing to the rising sun, while during sunset these same flowers close their petals and cicadas buzz the sun goodbye.
But the same occurs with the annual cycle. With the spring a new year begins; nature dresses itself in flowers and colors, while many animals wake up from their winter hibernation. And in fall, it is the leaves of the trees that are dressed in colors—colors of the land—to announce that they will soon fall to the ground, while the birds migrate towards warmer latitudes. Upon winter’s arrival, the trees are left completely naked, ready to go to sleep; the animals settle themselves into their dens; and the first snowflakes cover the fallen leaves. These same leaves will provide the nutrients needed to start a new cycle, so the fields can flourish again and the birds can once again announce spring’s arrival and sing to the rising sun.
Both of these cycles touch each other at the poles until they blend together. There, day lasts for half of the year, and night lasts for the other half. There, the daily and the annual cycles hold hands at the point representing the center of the spiral. This is where the big spiral (the year) and the smaller ones from which the sides are born (the days) fuse and mix together.
WE ARE EXPRESSIONS of divinity, dressed in the body of the Universe; we are little apple men and women, halfway between the macrocosm and microcosm. What are our cycles? We human beings are ruled, above all, by two major cycles: day to night, and life to death. These are two cycles that, again, show the same pattern, as if every life were a spiral and every death were its double spiral. They are spirals that end and then are rebirthed again on the next turn of the snail shell. This is the pattern they follow until an even bigger spiral is completed: the spiral of the human condition.
To better appreciate the similarities between both cycles, we should study the phases of which they are composed. The three phases of the daily cycle are:
- Deep sleep
Wakefulness constitutes the period during which both the physical body and the mind are alert. When both are awake, the mind is connected to the five sensory organs of the physical body (sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell), causing our senses to be externalized, that is, focused on the outside world. This is the period in which we spend the majority of our time, approximately two thirds of the day (16 hours).
Then, when night falls, we go to sleep. What we call falling asleep means that our physical body is entering a state of rest. Once the body falls asleep, the mind disconnects itself from the physical sensory organs in order to connect to the sensory organs of the other more subtle layer: the astral body. It is then that we begin to dream. We spend approximately two thirds of the time that we are asleep in this phase (almost six hours).
This disconnection from the sensory organs and subsequent connection to the astral organs does not occur suddenly. Between them, there is a hypnagogic state. During this hypnagogic state, the sensory organs have already disconnected from the physical body, but have not yet connected to the astral body. The dreaming hasn’t started yet. It is a state felt daily by all of us. For example, by giving oneself a little background noise, such as some pleasant music or a boring movie, we notice how, as the physical body falls asleep, we slowly experience a pleasant drifting sensation. But if the sound suddenly intensifies, waking our body back up, we notice how we pass from experiencing the deep silence in which we were finding ourselves in the hypnagogic state to hearing the surrounding noise in all of its intensity. It is then that we think: “I was falling asleep and that noise woke me back up.”
Nevertheless, when nothing wakes the physical body once it has traveled to the in-between hypnagogic state, our mind will finish connecting to the sensory organs of the astral body. It is then that we submerge ourselves into the second state of consciousness: the subconscious. In this state, we forget that just a few seconds ago we were home on the couch listening to music or watching television, and we enter the world of dreams.
The moment that we start dreaming, the astral body will have completely disconnected itself from the physical body with the exception of the eyes, which will move around under our eyelids according to where we direct our sight in our dreams. It is as if we had taken off our clothes in order to stay in our underwear (our astral body), but were still wearing glasses (our physical eyes).
This is the phase called REM, which stands for Rapid Eye Movement. They say that the eyes are the reflection of the soul and that, since the soul is not asleep, but rather awake and living in the dream world, it is normal that the eyes, the reflection that they are, are also moving to the soul’s compass. The soul is the blending of bodies more subtle than the physical, including the astral and mental bodies (among others). They are less dense bodies, so subtle that they can’t be perceived by the physical body’s sensory organs, but not subtle enough to keep from possessing a certain material consistency. It is matter lighter than air, but matter nonetheless.
The third state is that of deep sleep. There we spend the remaining two hours of the day. We don’t go through them in a single stroke, but in three or four periods. These are the cycles that bring us from REM to deep dreaming, and then back to REM. Every cycle lasts approximately 90 minutes, and several cycles are usually completed in one night. If we do not reach deep sleep during the night, in the morning we wake up tired and with red eyes, for, although the body slept, the mind spent the whole night sailing, dreaming. Our mind also needs its time of rest. Otherwise we would end up going insane.
When the mind falls asleep, it disconnects from the astral sensory organs. It is then that we enter the unconscious state of deep sleep. The eyes no longer move; all of the muscles of the body are completely relaxed and the brain starts to emit very low frequencies called delta waves, which oscillate around 0.5 to 2 Hz. The heart beats very slowly, but never stops beating, or it would immediately cause the death of the physical body.
The Human Being
Where are we when all of this happens? To find the answer, we should first respond to the question, “Who are we?” We are not the physical body, because when that goes to sleep we continue perceiving, although in the other dream reality. We live in the subconscious state, but we live nonetheless.
But if we were the ones submerging into the subconscious state of dreaming, and not another, what caused a discontinuity in our awareness upon falling asleep? Had such a discontinuity not taken place, we would have entered into dreaming with lucidity, without forgetting that just a few seconds ago we were on the couch watching television. Something had to cause that interruption of consciousness.
What happens is that we have identified ourselves so much with the physical body that when it goes to sleep, we get the feeling that what is happening to us is in reality happening to another self—not the one that lives in the physical body. We stop being the self from our conscious state and then become one of our subconscious state’s personalities. From there we lose worldly continuity, and from there we also all suffer from multiple personality disorder. We are all a little bit schizophrenic. It is like when we are watching a movie or reading a book. We identify with the character so much that we forget about who we are in reality.
But if we are not the body, does that mean that we are the mind—the mind that connected itself to the astral body’s sensory organs to experience the oneiric reality of dreams? If we were to ask the French philosopher Descartes, he would say “yes,” given his famous statement, “I think, therefore I am.” As a result of Descartes’ conception of the world, the same word is used for both mind and spirit in the French tongue that Descartes embraced. The word is esprit.
The thinking principle was confused with the existential principle, a confusion that scientific thought made even more extreme to the point of matching the brain (the physical manifestation of the mind) to the mind, in order to search for the zone of the brain where consciousness resides. Science studies the human brain in the same way that a scientist from the late nineteenth century would study a computer. She opens it to analyze the chip under a microscope, trying to find an explanation of not only the software (the mind), but the reason that this software is able to do what it does—without realizing that the computer is being controlled by someone at a distance (consciousness). That someone is the Self, a divine being with a mind. This is why the word human comes from combining *Hu *(the ancient name of the divine) and *manas *(the Sanskrit word for the mind). Hu-manas means Hu (the Divine or Self) living at the level of the manas (the middle mind).
Because of this, we are not the mind either, because, just like the physical body, the mind goes to sleep as well. Again, the problem is that we have identified ourselves too much with what we are not, that is to say, the mind. This is why, when this mind falls asleep, the Spirit, the Consciousness, or the Self—that which we really are—falls into an unconscious state. It is as if we were so connected to a virtual reality machine, and to the reality created by it, that when we disconnect ourselves from the machine, we fall unconscious. In other words, that which observes and feels (our true Self), loses the ability to see and feel from having excessively identified itself with the instrument of perception and analysis: the mind.
Instead, those who live in the Spirit experience deep sleep not as an unconscious state of coma but as a supraconscious state of bliss. From this state they view the entirety of the Cosmos, because there is neither mind to limit them nor body to hold them back. From this supraconscious state they see all of the little apple man, until they end up fusing themselves with the observed whole. The viewing of this whole constitutes the first level of mystic ecstasy, called savikalpa *samadhi *by yogic science. The fusion with the whole constitutes the second level, called nirvikalpa samadhi.
There are many traditions that tried to symbolize what is seen from the first state of mystic ecstasy. Some examples are the Tantric Sri Yantra, or the Andean chakana. From this state, diverse geometric figures are observed, called yantras, emanating from a central point. They represent sound acquiring form, the seeds or primordial archetypes of creation in their instant of manifestation. The sound that is heard is the primordial tone, which is called OM in the East, *Amen *in the West, and *Amin *in Islam. It is the sound of the spheres of the ancient Greeks; the yellow bell, or Huang Chung, of ancient China; the *Sawt-e-sarmad *of the Sufis; the *Ek-Onkar*of Sikhism. It is the speech, the logos, the Shabda, the Nada Brahma, the sound of a single hand clapping. The names with which we try to express this divine word are many…
It does not matter what we call the experience—samadhi, ecstasy, communion, mystic joy, or nirvana—because in all cases we are talking about the same thing. It is an experience that absolutely all of us go through. The only thing that differentiates one from the other is that the majority of us do it in an unconscious state while just a minority do it from the supraconscious state of the Self.
There will most likely be those who ask themselves, “All of this, what does it have to do with death?” It definitely has something to do with death—a lot. Like the fractals, the big spiral is a replica of the smaller ones. That is why the only difference between death and falling asleep every night is that in the case of death the physical body does not wake up. Our heart stops beating, our vital energy abandons us, and the silver cord connecting our soul to our body breaks. However, whether the physical body falls asleep or dies, the experiences are very similar. We fall into an oneiric state, we visit the intermediate astral realms, and we even forget that we just died. We stay there for a while—on those intermediate planes of the astral world—and, in due time, also remain in a place called Heaven, Paradise, Nirvana, or Eden. It is a place in non-space and non-time, located beyond the mental planes. There, we recharge our energy and heal our pain, so that, once we fully recover, we can be born again.
With birth the other spiral of life starts, and after that another one, until eventually we are no longer born into a human body, but are born as a distinct being—maybe a planetary being, maybe something else. From there, who knows, perhaps we go on to become a solar system, and then a galaxy, until returning to become one with the Universe. When every one of us returns to the origin, the entire Universe will have gone back to shrinking until reaching a size smaller than that of an atom—until returning to being a non-manifested singularity or consciousness. It will be then, from a point in non-space and a moment in non-time, that a new pulse will take place—and with it the manifestation of a new universe, a new fractal.
Such an event will take place only when we have all reached the state of supraconsciousness, when we have all traversed the last spiral and seen the universe from this Whole. As long as our level of consciousness has not reached its peak, our crossings through Heaven, between one life and the next, will be experienced in a more or less unconscious state, in the same way that we (in life) experience the nocturnal mystic joy as mere deep sleep. But we all pass through Heaven temporarily before being born again—absolutely all of us—and we are all also predestined to reach that level of consciousness in which we will be able to fully bliss out. It is like this because we are all the Absolute, viewing itself from trillions of eyes. We are the little apple man.
In death, what would the equivalent of the hypnagogic state be? Some souls, upon death of their physical bodies, are so attached to everything material that they stay trapped in the ethereal realm. It is a state of intermediate density between the physical and the astral planes. They will live there as phantoms, observing the shadows of the physical world of matter with longing, but without being able to live in that so desired reality due to the lack of an adequate interface: a physical body. In the end, these souls will navigate through the astral realms before ascending to that world above, to that place located in non-space and non-time, where they will be able to heal their pain before being born again. They, like each one of us, are also the eyes of the Absolute dancing to life.
Therefore, why fear death if we die every night and are born again with every sunrise? It is far better to learn to enter this dream state with lucidity in order to maintain that same lucidity on the day we die. By learning to lucid dream, one day we will reach the point at which our flow of consciousness will remain uninterrupted when entering the state of deep sleep every night. Because of this, upon dying, we will know that our physical body was just uttering its last sigh, so that we can then start searching for the light, let ourselves become flooded with it, and live the celestial experience of mystic joy without letting it be forgotten.
Translated by Mike VanNorman
Spritual Axis of the World I, if you want to read about the existing relationship between Sri Yantra, the Andean Chakana, and the image of entirety that is perceived from the state of mystic ecstasy.
Mitote, the dream of reality, to understand how different traditions perceived that dream we call reality.
- This key principle appears in the work The Kybalion, attributed to the North American writer William Walker Atkinson. It is recognized as one of the hermetic principles. ↑
<li id="fn:fn2">All of the images of fractals that appear in the sequence and in the article were created by [Wolfgang Beyer](http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Wolfgangbeyer) using the program Ultra Fractal 3 and are distributed under a Creative Commons license. They can be found on the Wikimedia Commons. <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:fn2">↑</a></li>