Mandalas, spirals, labyrinths… These universal cultural symbols are characteristic of all peoples and cultures of our planet. It is quite possible that they have a rational bioenergetic basis.
NEURAL NETWORK REVEALS A MYSTERY
In the animal world there is a phenomenon of whirling. It has been recorded how herds of reindeer move in a circle, folding into a giant spiral. This is perhaps the most spectacular round dance. But the fact is that whirling is observed in large groups of animals, regardless of the stage of evolution at which they are.
Not only in mammals, but also in birds, fish, turtles, ants, and even worms, a tendency to coordinate movement around the center of the group has been found. This phenomenon is rather mysterious. They tried to give it many rational explanations: supposedly it is easier to warm up, look for food, navigate in space, mate, etc.
But, obviously, none of them was satisfactory – the biological function still remained incomprehensible to scientists, although many evolutionary biologists and systems theorists struggled with it. And finally, they guessed to connect a neural network to solve the problem. The conclusions that artificial intelligence eventually came to were published in the journal Science Reports.
CULTURAL SYMBOLS ARE NOT RANDOM
After analyzing the strange collective behavior of living things with the help of AI, the scientists built a model that started from the goal and was formulated in terms of reinforcement learning. In this model, the animals had to be within specified limits from each other and from the center of the group.
As a result, by trial and error, they spontaneously learned and came to a circular motion. A team trained in this behavior minimized energy costs, while becoming more resistant to any external influences: air and underwater currents, the threat from predators, etc.
Modeling has shown that animals always group in such a way as to find an energy-saving, optimal configuration for movement: two of them line up, three of them – in a triangle, four of them – in a rhombus.
How can one not recall the most ancient symbols wandering from culture to culture: spirals, rhombuses, circles, lines… Perhaps our ancestors symbolically passed on some important information from generation to generation – creating models of reality long before the advent of AI.
CIRCULAR DEVELOPMENT OF SPACE AND TIME
A study of the rituals of various human communities shows that whirling is a specific technique for the physical and mental coverage of space. The circle or oval, for example, is associated with nomadic dynamics and contrasts with the static square of sedentary cultures.
Man, like animals, keenly experiences his environment and himself in it. The circle itself does not have any given properties for it. But as soon as movement begins in it, everything changes dramatically, something similar to the “exploration of space and time” occurs.
It is enough to recall the various symbols of infinity or time: mandalas, wheels, eights. In human culture, the collective unconscious necessarily “adds” movement to the idea of a circle. For example, among the northern peoples, the grazing maneuvers of the same deer follow a circular pattern. When moving, nomad camps unfold into a ribbon, and at the parking lot they fold into a ring.
ROUND DANCES AND LABYRINTHS
Perhaps the most famous example of collective circular motion among people is tawaf. This is the name of the seven-fold ritual detour of Muslims who performed the Hajj around the Kaaba. Similar round dances, although on a smaller scale, have been known since ancient times.
Plato argued that “the person who did not practice round dances is an ill-mannered person, but that who practiced them enough is educated”. That is, the philosopher emphasized a certain formative influence of the circular collective movement on the personality.
Homer called the labyrinth “a heterogeneous round dance”. Plutarch mentions the round dance of the stork on Delos, dedicated to the rescue of Theseus from the labyrinth. A similar ritual dance is described by Virgil. The labyrinth is an important structural element of the narrative in Dante’s Divine Comedy.
He had a defining influence on the work of Jorge Luis Borges. The labyrinth researcher and author of the fundamental work Labyrinths Jeff Saward notes that the structure of the universe according to Ptolemy is labyrinthine. It is a nested sphere. In whirling life, as it were, generates itself.
THE CENTER OF THE WORLD IS WHERE YOU STAND!
Thus, the circular symbolism that exists in the culture of peoples around the world is not accidental, but is an inevitable product of the spatial orientation of all living things, striving for an “energy optimum”.
Perhaps it is from the need for such an orientation that the grandiose edifice of culture grows. Jung believed that there is no linear evolution, that “an unambiguous development is possible only at the beginning, and then the center clearly appears”.
However, if you pay attention to the cultural myth of the “eternal return”, then the center is fundamentally impossible here – in the center, most likely, there will be a blind spot. A person that is involved in such a circle also turns out to be the vanishing center of the world, devoid of any center whatsoever.
Something similar happens to the dervish when he whirls in his mystical dance. And it is not at all accidental in the Celtic tradition to the question: “Where is the center of the world?” followed the answer: “Where you stand.”