Ouroboros:The Left/Right Brain

simbolo alquímico (Ouroboros serpent in old Greek alchemical manuscript)

The Ouroboros, also spelled Ourorboros, Oroborus, Uroboros or Uroborus (pronounced /ˌjʊəroʊˈbɒrəs/ or /ʊˈrɒbɔrɔs/), is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon swallowing its own tail and forming a circle. It has been used to represent many things over the ages, but it most generally symbolizes ideas of cyclicality, unity, or infinity. The ouroboros has been important in religious and mythological symbolism, but has also been frequently used in alchemical illustrations. More recently, it has been interpreted by psychologists, such as Carl Jung, as having an archetypical significance to the human psyche.


The original of Splendor Solis which contained seven chapters appeared in Augsburg. In miniatures the works of Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein and Lucas Cranach were used. The author of the manuscript was considered to be a legendary Salomon Trismosin, allegedly the teacher of Paracelsus. The work itself consists of a sequence of 22 elaborate images, set in ornamental borders and niches. The symbolic process shows the classical alchemical death and rebirth of the king, and incorporates a series of seven flasks, each associated with one of the planets. Within the flasks a process is shown involving the transformation of bird and animal symbols into the Queen and King, the white and the red tincture. Although the style of the Splendor Solis illuminations suggest an earlier date, they are quite clearly of the 16th century

Some who had been followers of my blog are familiar with my references to Carl Jung. You had also seen my reference to Sir Isaac Newton and his relations to Alchemy which many would like to dispel with. As you can see with my emotive descriptions, I am very much concerned with this action, that the essence of distilling the finer aspects of our being, are the anatomical substances of those same emotive inclinations housed in experience. So if you were able to use the crucible and combined the proper substance of these emotive experiences, what value could we have found in placing in every person this Philosopher stone? What the Crown is to signify?

In alchemy, the ouroboros is a purifying sigil. Swiss psychologist Carl Jung saw the ouroboros as an archetype and the basic mandala of alchemy. Jung also defined the relationship of the ouroboros to alchemy:[4]

The alchemists, who in their own way knew more about the nature of the individuation process than we moderns do, expressed this paradox through the symbol of the ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail. ouroboros, has been said to have a meaning of infinity or wholeness. In the age-old image of the ouroboros lies the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process, for it was clear to the more astute alchemists that the prima materia of the art was man himself. The ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite, i.e. of the shadow. This ‘feed-back’ process is at the same time a symbol of immortality, since it is said of the ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilises himself and gives birth to himself. He symbolises the One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites, and he therefore constitutes the secret of the prima materia which […] unquestionably stems from man’s unconscious.

While these are not the scientific allegories one like to hear in the science world, shall I condemn Martin Rees fro introducing such an symbol in the penetration of the Universe’s cyclical nature as we join the the very large with the very small. How about including Holism and Reductionism as a complementary model while we look deeply into the definitions of the brain as a whole, while not distinguishing it’s part? left/right brain?

Holism (from ὅλος holos, a Greek word meaning all, entire, total) is the idea that all the properties of a given system (biological, chemical, social, economic, mental, linguistic, etc.) cannot be determined or explained by its component parts alone. Instead, the system as a whole determines in an important way how the parts behave.

The general principle of holism was concisely summarized by Aristotle in the Metaphysics: “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”

Reductionism is sometimes seen as the opposite of holism. Reductionism in science says that a complex system can be explained by reduction to its fundamental parts. Reductionism essentially claims that chemistry is reducible to physics, biology is reducible to chemistry and psychology and sociology are reducible to biology, etc. Some other proponents of reductionism, however, think that holism is the opposite only of greedy reductionism.

On the other hand, holism and reductionism can also be regarded as complementary viewpoints, in which case they both would be needed to get a proper account of a given system.

Bold added for emphasis.

Looking for a unitary alliance between quantum realities and the the world at large are the recognition that in the end, like the distinctions of left/right brain cannot be taken alone, and not as some larger perspective that is necessary in being. Yet enclosed with this very thinking is the idea of position and momentum?

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2 Responses to Ouroboros:The Left/Right Brain

  1. Phil Warnell says:

    Hi Plato,“The alchemists, who in their own way knew more about the nature of the individuation process than we moderns do, expressed this paradox through the symbol of the ouroboros,”Interesting thoughts, and yet when I think of what the Alchemists might have truly had as only a shadowy grasp of, it is this that comes to mind; as it is this structure that would allow nature to continue from the inorganic to the organic and through to the conscious.Best,Phil

  2. Plato says:

    Phil:….is it is this structure that would allow nature to continue from the inorganic to the organic and through to the conscious.James Watson & Francis CrickIt took an ex-physicist and a former ornithology student — along with some unwitting help from a competitor — to crack the secret of life As the practical and philosophical issues opened by the double helix continue to unfold, policy, philosophy and even religion will evolve in response. But one truth seems likely to endure, universal and immutable. It emerges with equal clarity whether you examine the DNA molecule or the way it was revealed. The secret of life is complementarity.Robert Wright is author of The Moral Animal: Evolutionary Psychology and Everyday Life Yes, I understand one needs to put forth a perspective for clarification 🙂

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