In the nineteenth century, the nascent field of evolutionary biology produced recapitulation theory: “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” The idea was, in a manner of speaking, that the developmental story of an individual embryo replays the evolutionary history of the embryo’s species. So an embryonic mammal, for example, was thought to take the guise of a fish, an amphibian, a reptile, and a bird before beginning to look like a mammal.
This notion has since been discredited as a scientific explanation for the origin of species. But it remains powerful for me as myth because it resonates with certain of my experiences: like all myth in a Universe pervaded by uncanny and delightful resemblances of which we Pagans like to recite, “as above, so below; as within, so without; as the Universe, so the soul,” recapitulation theory can sometimes prove useful in understanding and retelling our lives’ stories.
Personally, I find that recapitulation theory helps me—in a roundabout sort of way—trace the arc of the story of my spiritual development. Continue reading The Arc of a Story of Spirit