Wendell Holmes, a century and a half ago, saw the metaphorical
significance of the chambered home of the Nautilus.
These fascinating seashells are spiral in shape and
consist of a series of ever-larger chambers in each
of which the sea creature lives for a season until it
outgrows that particular space. The Nautilus then enlarges
its shell by the addition of a new chamber suitable
for the next stage of its life.
wrote, in a poem entitled The Chambered Nautilus, "Build
thee more stately mansions, O my soulů.Let each new
temple, nobler than the last, Shut thee from heaven
with a dome more vast, Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!"
What a perfect image for spiritual evolution! In order
to begin a new stage in our growth, we have to think
"outside the box." Yet, every time we abandon an old
worldview for a new and wider vision, we merely find
ourselves in a larger box. And while each box serves
its particular function for a time, we are always in
danger of claiming that the chamber we currently occupy
is the ultimate one.
The spiral shape of the Nautilus shell suggests that
it can keep growing forever. There is no design for
a "final" chamber. The creature must keep building new
chambers as long as it lives. It cannot go back to the
previous ones; they no longer fit. It cannot stay in
its present space or it will die. It has no choice but
to move on. And on.
one day we might be able to create for ourselves a box
so large that it would encompass all of God. But that
space would then include everything, even those realities
which we now purposely exclude by limiting the size
of today's chamber.