The Web of Life: (Starring the Itsy-Bitsy Spider)

“The greatest artist and web-designer ever is indeed a spider” – Munia Kahn

Scripture teaches that nature is our first Bible, suggesting that the eye look no further than nature for divine vestiges, images, and patterns to confirm our faith (Rm. 1:20). Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology, affirmed same. Spiders are the last critters whose creeping images one might expect to reveal deeper things. But as divinity is often found where least expected, mostly in the commonplace, sometimes in the unsightly, and always in nature, we’re invited look more closely at her equal opportunity parables. And with an assist from time-lapse video. (highly recommend clicking the Resource tab)

The common garden spider weaves her web nocturnally (only female spiders weave webs). A glance at the silky web reveals a familiar pattern, one that repeats and re-creates the spiraling spin-shape motif found everywhere in the cosmos and nature, from sunflowers, to snail shells, to waterspouts, including the shape of our galaxy, which also rotates and spin-spirals around a relatively small center point. This same spiraling motif doubles as a mini re-enactment of how the entire universe was created, described in Gen. 1, and confirmed by the hot Big Bang (Big Breath) notions of creation. For those so informed, the spiral motif even suggests something of Teilhard’s christogenic pattern of evolution, Alpha to Omega, in individual psycho-spiritual development and collective history. As above, so below, outermost and innermost. More on that ahead.

“Einstein’s general relativity theory, though profoundly beautiful, is likely to be amended. That amendment will somehow entangle spin and rotation” (C.N Yang, Nobel laureate).

Consistent with the Word (logos), God creates, re-creates, and renews ex nihilo, meaning “out of nothing.” And s-he does so from invisible voids and vortices in empty space. That is, from the innermost (spirit) of things s-he creates with empowered subtly, like the spider who hovers in silence over the tiny hole in the center of her spiraling micro-universe. The spider recapitulates the process by extruding material from within her body, thrust from concealed spigots and spinnerets. In physics, this empty space is known as the Zero-Point Field (ZPF), or vacuum state. In religious circles it is often called the axis mundi, or “world axis,” the vacuum still point from which all things emerge, and around which they center, spin, and rotate. As the navel of the world, the axis mundi symbolizes the connection between the horizonaal and vertical, visible and invisible worlds, concretized in the cross, the Caduceus, and da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.

The reader no doubt notices references to the divine feminine in the cosmos and nature, artfully depicted in the spider spinning her web, forming a mini matrix  (from L. mater, or “mother”) that supports her world.

In the created order, small things are replicated in big things called fractals, and conversely, repeating patterns that show up at all scales of creation, micro to macro. Spirit gives rise to created forms of all sizes, shapes, and colors, spin-signing them into existence from their invisible center points, imaged in the spider web motif. After establishing her anchor points, observe how the spider first spirals her web clockwise from its tiny center point of origin, innermost to outermost, then repeats the pattern, this time in a counterclockwise direction from the rim back to the center again, finally coming to rest over the tiny void at web center. Nature always conceals (invaginates) her secret center points. Perhaps this offers a glimpse of how, when, and where God came to sabbath “rest” after birthing (incarnating) the entire universe — enfolding deep inside of matter from whence s-he inspirits, ensouls, or “fills all things.” (Eph. 1:23).

“Energy moves in cycles, circles, spirals, vortexes, whirls, pulsations, waves and rhythms – rarely if ever in simple straight lines” – Starhawk.

The author contends this is why the path to creating a new universe story, one bridging the artificial divide between science and religion, must first involve unifying the apparent divide between classical and quantum physics, shedding light on the synergy between the energy and patterns that connect all things big and small, and how they eventually converge to form a unified whole. Teilhard referred to this convergence as centration. And the key to that resides in identifying the singularity (meaning “singular” or “one”), the single most unifying point around which all things center, orient and unify. And from the point of their explosive departure, how all things unfold (evolve), form, and individuate from that single point or essence, carrying its DNA. And again, the key to understanding that lies in the Big Bang cosmology, conversant with the Genesis 1 account of creation — “Let light Be” (Gen. 1:3).

Same event, different words to describe it.

Bridging the divide between science and religion via reconciling classical and quantum physics, small things nesting in big things, is indeed THE mythical (Big Story) challenge known to physicists everywhere, tantamount to earning the discipline’s coveted laurel wreath, otherwise known as the “holy grail” of physics. Einstein tried, unsuccessfully, to reconcile them the last 30 years of his life, up until a few hours before his death. But one cannot define the whole by any one part, like math or physics. Besides, Einstein was a deist. No genius, no matter how naturally endowed by the Creator, will ever solve the deeper mysteries of the universe without regular access to the liminal field in which said mysteries pre-exist from eternity past. At minimum, it will take a theist to do so, one scientifically informed and of mystical persuasion. Teilhard wouldn’t have it any other way.

Science is not only compatible with spirituality .  .  . it is a profound source of spirituality” —Carl Sagan.

The Hot Big Bang notions of creation posit that everything emerged from an infinitesimal, high density singularity some 13.7 billion years ago, at which point all things were unified, appearing to separate (differentiate) in the massive explosion of heat and light. After the Big Bang, if any unifying characteristic remained, it must somehow connect (entangle) all things at the nano-molecular (quantum) level everywhere in the universe. How is that possible? The answer lies in empty space, the apparent space within and between all created things. Atomic physics reveals that 99.99999 % of the space within and between things is not empty but comprised of countless electromagnetic entities called atoms, whose component pixel-like particles (Planck’s) meld themselves into an invisible space-time web. Such is what physicist David Bohm called the “implicate order,” in contrast to the “explicate order” of material form. That is, there exists a metaphysical-spiritual (discarnate) source, from which the physical/material (incarnate) order originates, in which it embeds, and to which it ultimately returns.

“Space is not empty. It is full .  .  . the universe is not separate from this cosmic sea of energy” (David Bohm).

This implies that everything that has form is fashioned as an extension of “empty” space itself, as ice (a solid) is an extension of water (a fluid), or as a waterspout is an extension of a column of water spin-swirling from its vortex. And as children can tell you, no one knows waterspouts better than itsy-bitsy spiders. Out of the mouths of babes .  .  .

A spider web is an extension of the tiny holes (spigots/vortices) called spinnerets in the underside of her body, out-pictured in the spiraling web motif. Assuming the web construction parallels the cosmic process in miniature, this discovery is revolutionary because it nullifies linear notions of the created order and allows for “quantum” leaps in comprehending our universe as an electrified ocean from which all things boil up and emerge; and in which they consist, cohere, and informationally connect. Ironic, in that the organic (incarnate) definition of the Christ given by the apostle Paul in the first century is:

“.  .  . he in whom all things consist and hold together” (Col. 1:17).

So much for the Cliffs-Notes explanation of how Spirit incarnates in the cosmos, not just in Christ Historical, but in Christ Universal who inhabits, embeds, and spin-shapes creation from a sea of quantum foam, weaving itself organically into the fabric all things as the highest part of matter.

After all these years, it sure feels good to scientifically validate the vision of Teilhard de Chardin, taking his synthesis mantle upon us in post-modern times to complete his work, while vindicating him from years of ecclesial censorship, and imposed anonymity.

Thus, the “stuff” of all things appearing as solid are merely electromagnetic fluctuations of empty space itself – slowed down light and sound waves. Meaning, it is space that creates reality, not reality that determines and creates space. Reality and all phenomena in it are a function and expression of the zero-point vacuum space, mini-tornadoes boiling into space-time from billions of spinning liminal vortices; just like spider silk extrudes from multiple spigot-spinnerets that appear and weave in volume as “out of nowhere” (ex nihilo). From a truly integrated perspective, Big Bang cosmology is about the emergence and manifestation of the Christ who is both hidden and ambient, and whose fingerprints (vestigia Dei) are found everywhere on everything at all scales, innermost and outermost.

In truth, the implicate and explicate orders require each other, as chalk to blackboard, or pen to paper. For without material creation, any material creation, the Being of Light (Christ) would know nothingness, and the created order would be orphaned and estranged from its origins. Creation offers a physical reality that entails the ability to be born, develop, age, and die. None of these things are possible at the spiritual (liminal-implicate-discarnate) level. 

Enhanced by time-lapse video, note how the spin-spiraling geometric pattern woven into the spider web invites the eye to move from its tiny center point (in evolution), back again to center in reverse fashion (in involution), choreographed so that the entire length of silken strand (and spider) ultimately come to rest where they began, completing the entire web circuitously toward total repose and stillness at center. As revealed in the created order, and replicated in the construction of the spider web, “the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end, first and the last” – or Christ –- the source and destination of all of life’s energies, are one and the same (Rev. 22:13). That is, embedded in matter, Spirit’s trajectory begins and later ends in the same place of origin (Zero-point) in the implicate order, spiraling toward the void again like water down an “eensy weensy” drain.  Such mimics the growth-decay-renewal choreography that is the hallmark of all nature’s cycles, including the paschal mystery enacted at the cross, and the death-resurrection cycles of nature. This choreography is also reenacted in the separation-initiation-return odysseys of ancient mythologies, and replicated in human psycho-spiritual development.

“. . .unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again” (Ecc. 1:7).

The spider and her web also out-picture the locus of contemplative or centering prayer; a silently wordless and listening posture that waits with patient expectancy at the inner door, gate, or void, where Spirit breathes (downloads) vitality, inspiration, and energy into the soul and all things. This is the challenge of our existence, to read through our temporal images and metaphors to the eternal life we are experiencing in the field of time, outwardly in nature, and inwardly in the soul.

“Blessed is the man that hears me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the post of my doors. For whoso finds me, finds life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord” (Proverbs 8:34-36).

At an astronomical cost of $10 billion, and with the capacity to view what the spiraling universe looked like when the first stars and galaxies began to form almost 100 million years ago, the Webb Telescope has revealed much toward the scientific understanding of the origin of our universe. At the same time, contemplating how a common garden spider constructs her spiraling web may reveal as much, if not more, about the sacred geometry, choreographed patterns, and inner meaning of the created order in real time, than any man-made device ever can. There’s no space like liminal space, and no time like the eternal now in discovering the hidden nature of things.

Were Teilhard living today, perhaps he would note the similarities between his “noosphere,” and the spider web and Internet as metaphors, natural (web) and man-made (digital) nets revealing the hidden secrets of the universe – as did Jesus in his parable of the dragnet (Matt. 13:47). For without creation itself as parable and metaphor, transparencies to the transcendent, the human ego cannot reflect upon itself and/or understand its real story. It must have a mirror against which to read itself, and that mirror would be the natural, mythological, and biblical schedule that let it know where it is on the journey, and who it is (identity) along spiritual lines.

The simple things are the most profound, mostly about seeing through and past things encountered in everyday life. In searching for places of renewal and re-creation, be reminded that for those intent on a closer look, all things great and small image the divine.

Telling the greatest story never told the way Teilhard and Thomas Berry might, involves weaving rational, transrational, and intuitive ways of knowing into a balanced whole. And to do so creating the new story by the same energies and vortices creation itself came into being, or the way a spider weaves her web, from the inside-out of things. So defined, real education (from L., educere, “inside-out” knowing) first ignites the fire (heart) that allows the intellect (head) to access the liminal downloads required to tell the Big Story as it was, is, and ever shall be .  .  . “so you don’t need any man to teach you what is true” (1 Jn. 2:27). Light the fire first, and the liminal downloads shall begin.

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).

Continue enjoying the wondrous mega-magnifications of the Webb Telescope that stare without blinking into the vastness of space. But in fairness to nature’s Lilliputians, consider the Itsy-Bitsy spider’s dynamic choreography as parable, unfolding and enfolding her spin-spiraling web near your garden waterspout. Of all things great and small, whale to minnow, nature is God’s handmaid, forever engaging us to peer (blinking allowed) into her geometric shapes and forms with sanctified eyes.

Joe Masterleo

[Note: A more detailed study on the role of sacred geometry in the created order, and the spiral motif as divinity’s spin-signed signature found in the cosmos and nature at all scales, explore the resource,]