Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Embryo-as-God Metaphor

Originally posted on September 22, 2011

Mythmaking tends to draw on ancient metaphors—stories of super-heroes and god-kings, the imagination of millennia past, etc. But what if we created myths that drew on the findings of science in the last century or so? In this case, consider the emerging sub-field of biology called embryology. Two hundred years ago we didn’t know about this near-universal process without the help of the technology of the microscope. In this case, we’ve learned that most complex life forms progress from a fertilized egg to far greater levels of complexity.

Let us consider that the cosmos unfolds along similar lines of complexity. In this myth, God in our own 13.7 billion-year-old existence is the Everything in this Universe, and is evolving in complexity and dimensionality during that whole time, and at every level of size and energetic intensity and any other variable we can imagine.

Consider that as an aspect of complexity, mind is also something that evolves, and God’s mind (in this particular universe) also “enjoys” evolving, awakening to new potentials, experiencing. Surely there are innumerable “death” events and forms of suffering of the parts as the great adventure, experiment, exploration proceeds. God has never done this particular universe before with its peculiar blend of physical laws and types of matter and time—perhaps wondering, “What else could become?”

Now, imagine further that each entity within this evolving cosmos-god is sort of like a cell—has the quality of relationship to the whole the way in our body has to us: however tiny, it contributes to our existence. So, then, imagine God as a gigantic multi-dimensional embryo composed of matter, energy, time, space, and—and this is key—also multiple dimensions of mind that are also evolving and also affecting all the other dimensions. Of course this is difficult to imagine, but just try.

Working from this embryo-metaphor-myth, and remembering that organisms are not only made of cells, but these are in turn made of millions of components. By the time a fertilized egg has developed for a few weeks, there are already hundreds of differentiated cell types that have yet to form lungs or kidneys or a brain. What’s important to imagine is how this process of cell differentiation and organ construction occurs. If a multi-story office building were “organic” like this, every part of this building would have it’s mixture of inner programming and receptivity to subtle chemical and electrical cues from other cells and structures, and ever component would thus have ways to find its way up from the basement to become plumbing or tiles or desks or elevator cables. Each element would need to engage in a groping migration and settling into place and letting the other elements remind it what it should become and what it should not try to do instead.

It does all this, as does most of nature, with no self-awareness, no reflection, no knowing “why” or having a “big picture” in its mind. The way life operates at every level—and especially as embryos—is mind-bogglingly mysterious. Anyway, this process of each cell finding its proper role, its “entelechy” its destiny, might also be recognized as a kind of awakening! There’s where the mind dimensions interface with the matter dimensions!

This god-embryo is forming and trying to go through a thousand stages of integration and subtle awakening. As each set of cells becomes more differentiated, evolved, and as each system begins to unfold into pre-functional states, each is a new level or type of becoming and awakening. Another nice thing about this metaphor, this myth, is that there are no distinct levels or stages— everything blends in to the next phase and there are some events that precede or follow. There’s even a surprising amount of chaos, randomness, groping, and variation as this muscle attaches more to this bone than that, or this blood vessel takes this route rather than that. (Anatomy at this subtle level is actually quite varied!) 

There may be other metaphors derived from science to help up open our minds to the richness and variety of the spiritual process. Admittedly, spirituality tends to become conservative because people of lesser minds need a feeling of knowing rather than of wondering like a child. So they come to conclusions and build structures of theology that fall short of the glory of what we are realizing the cosmos involves.

Father, King, Ruler, even Shepherd may not do justice to whatever is living and dying and giving birth to stars in a hundred billion galaxies. This myth is a feeble attempt to help our imaginations catch up with our knowledge.


It’s more subtle and “organic” to realize that in actual life—in a developing embryo, and in many marriages—no one is “boss.” The individual preferences and needs of everyone concerned make the game that of “working it out so that everyone is optimally pleased” rather than anyone imagining himself as entitled because he’s “right,” in possession of authority and/or reason which is in turn based on social custom, etc. Human hierarchies and power politics really don’t apply to most of the way the world works—and I doubt that this is so even more when it comes to other worlds!

Getting organic again, if you think about it, in the human body, in fact, no organ is “better” than the others—all work together. The ideal of king as ruler as being something better, more powerful, is full of problems. What if we reversed the metaphor? God is infant, very much in need of our co-responsibility to nurture the cosmic unfolding. It can’t do it without us.  (Nikos Kazantsakis, a Greek writer, used this metaphor in a book titled “Saviors of God”)

So, let’s consider that as the cosmos grows, it evolves. We can play many roles in the multi-dimensional realm: We can serve without becoming attached to the fruits of our actions—as Arjuna is told to do in the Indian Epic, the Bhagavad Gita. We can awaken and in this role be agents for God awakening in and through us. We can reflect on our own becoming individually and collectively. (We can be gentle with our own learning, bringing the maturity of our wise-parent or teacher role to meet our innocent child role—and in truth we continue to learn more about how teaching should proceed—there are many mysteries, with Maria Montessori and others asking good questions!)

Although I confess that I just made up this myth, that doesn’t disqualify this set of interpretations from their being useful to some people. I would be interested in other metaphors that may awaken us spiritually.

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