Yoga Science is Necessarily Uroboric

Scott Virden Anderson Blog


It’s been a long time since I’ve written (perhaps later I’ll say more about why), but I’ve just made what I think are two important related discoveries: the only way to draw a time scale version of the Cosmic Uroboros is via the STS; and a key necessary feature of the philosophy of Yoga Science is that it is uroboric—self-transforming.

The former I got yesterday studying Glashow, the latter just this morning after looking up “uroboros” in the index of McEvilley’s The Shape of Ancient Thought that leads to chapter 17 “Pyrrhonism and Madhyamika” and the article referenced there by John Visvader, “The Use of Paradox in Uroboric Philosophies.”

Here we’re talking as in Sextus Empiricus, Nagarjuna, and Wittgenstein—philosophy that “completes itself by destroying itself”—meaning that it goes beyond itself and takes the practitioner beyond the philosophizing mind.

Since reading Primack & Abrams last year, their color version of Sheldon Glashow’s sketch of the “Cosmic Uroboros” has stuck in my mind (reproduced above with permission).

Recently I decided to read up on Glashow and see if I could find how and why he came up with this image and what he might think of a version of it drawn in terms of time.

Glashow won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 along with Stephen Weinberg and Abdus Salam for their work on electroweak unification (which I won’t go into here).

Primack & Abrams base their Cosmic Uroboros on Glashow’s sketch that they found in a New York Times Sunday Magazine article 9/26/82 by Timothy Ferris: “Beyond Newton and Einstein: on the Frontiers of Physics.”

It seems that with his long-standing interest in the history of science where he found the uroboros symbol used in Western alchemy, he has used the uroboros as a kind of teaching tool because it suggests how the very large and the very small are “coming together” in modern physics.

In a phone conversation with him at his office in Boston University this morning, he confirmed this.

He pointed out that since he first used the idea, this “coming together” of the macro and micro has actually become a central preoccupation of physics.

The Cosmic Uroboros appears in both of his non-technical science books: The Charm of Physics (1991), and From Alchemy to Quarks: the Study of Physics as a Liberal Art (1994) and graces the cover of the latter.

However, even though in both books he has chapters titled, “Life in Log Time,” it seems he never attempted a time version of his Uroboros—all versions are drawn in terms of size.

When I pointed this out, he agreed that such a time version is readily generated using physics, but that as a backward-looking timeline it is less useful to him in his work.

He commented that such a timeline suffers from being “anthropomorphic” and suggests that somehow we are extended cosmically: “the entire human race is only a hundred thousand years old or so.”

In retrospect, I should have pressed him on this—he assumes that such a timeline is diachronic, historical, rather than being synchronic and thus ahistorical—however, I don’t yet find this an easy distinction to make in conversation.

He agreed in a later email that “the nature and origin of what we call `time’ does remain puzzling,” however, he did not feel it would be useful to consider time as merely “a representation of the human mind.”

Here, what I was proposing is based on the notion of “representation” from the magnificent life work of Glashow’s Boston area neighbor and Harvard faculty member Daniel P. Brown, Pointing Out the Great Way: The Stages of Meditation in the Mahamudra Tradition.

Brown makes clear that “simultaneousness” is a key phenomenological feature of advanced yoga practice as “timelessness” is a feature of yogic realization.

So, the case I tried to make to Glashow is this:

Your Cosmic Uroboros of size scales implies that there exists a comparable Uroboros of time scales (after Einstein’s space/time).


The only way to configure such a size-comparable time-scale Uroboros is by using a back-wards looking logarithmic time scale (aka SummaTime Scale or STS).

Not agreed:  although the statement may be true, we have to choose our time scales to suit our line of work, and physicists find the forward-looking timeline much more useful.

The good news here: this leaves it up to Yoga Science now to demonstrate how the time-scale Uroboros is not only useful, but key to the new science being proposed—onward we forge.