Arthur Koestler, in his insightful philosophical book The Act of Creation, noted that breakthrough ideas in science and art, in common with jokes, tend to come as the result of links being made between previously unlinked horizons of reference. Archimedes wanted to find a way to determine if an object was solid gold. He took a bath to relax, displaced his body's volume, 'bissociated' between this and the question on his mind, and the rest is history. It is in light of this that we can cast our minds across a certain mind-boggling curiosity. We were long told that black holes were hungry monsters swallowing all around them, and that they were prisons from which nothing could escape, not even fleet-footed light, hence "black". We were also told, in the hypothetical 'second conditional' tense, that if light could escape, it might do so in rather an interesting way, since time, relatively speaking, slows down as gravitational field increases. For example, in fact the field in a black hole is so strong that, some hypothesized, the light, if it could escape, might somehow do so 'before' it went in, somehow changing the past.June 2004 was noteworthy not only because Venus transited the Sun in the constellation of Taurus, but also because Stephen Hawking made known that hewas now of the opinion that superstrings inside a black hole might not be destroyed, but only tangled, and there was speculation that radiation emitted from black holes might contain some information about these superstringsinside.Then we take our metaphorical Archimedean bath, for meanwhile, in the Ancient World, Greek children are being told by their grandmothers about a dark stronghold called the Labyrinth from which no-one had ever escaped, and within which there was a hungry bull-headed monster called the Minotaur which swallowed everyone who went in. But, they were told, a certain hero called Theseus managed to find his way out again by following the path of an unravelled string that had been given him by a Minoan princess through the maze of passages.But the point where it gets really interesting is where we recall that Theseus' father placed certain tokens under a rock, saying that when the lad was strong enough to lift it and recover them he was to come to Athens with them to be recognised as the future king. He grew strong, managed the feat, retrieved the tokens, went to Athens and was recognised by them in a moment that was 'the happiest there had ever been in Athens.'Why is this so mind-boggling? Well, in human terms, how could it be proved that information had come from a future time? This could be achieved if theinformation was only available in that future time, such as information from future science, for example. In other words, were an ancient story to be shown to contain encoded information based on science that did not then exist, we might conclude that it had come from the future, and of course it would not be until that future time that it could be decoded. In precisely the same way, Theseus's father told his mother that their child could not be recognized until that future time when he was grown to manhood and the rock could be lifted and the tokens of recognition uncovered. How amazing to find this metaphor for timed-release tokens within the very same myth that has the black hole and superstring allegory.But there are more amazing tokens still. The hungry Minotaur, spiralling labyrinth and the super-string of Ariadne are just the start. Enter Plutarch.Plutarch was a Greek from the time when Hadrian was Roman emperor, and he was a high priest of Delphi, that sacred site of the Ancient World more famed than any other for receiving information from the future, and his essay on the Greek hero in his book Lives is a primary source for us of the Theseus myth. According to Plutarch the name Theseus is based on an etymological pun in Greek where it refers to both the 'Tokens Deposited' under the rockand also to his 'Acknowledgement' when he arrived in Athens. But that's not the half of it; this Delphic priest also noted, quoting Hesiod via Hereas,that there was a version of the story in which the princess with whom Theseus had escaped from Minos' realm was named 'Aegle', which means, simply, 'Light':-There are yet many other traditions about these things. Some relate that he fell in love with another:-"For Aegle's love was burning in his breast"; a verse which Hereas, the Megarian, says was formerly in the poet Hesiod's works, but put out by Pisistratus.So not only do we have the spiral prison, the hungry monster at the centre and the unravelling string, but we even have the escape of light.Then there is the black sail. It was a white one which was supposed to be flown on the return journey to signal success, but from the mainland a blackone was seen, just as those Ancient Greeks could not themselves possibly have decoded the story to reveal its light, since they knew nothing of blackholes or relativity, and just as back holes seem to be black in the sense of not letting even light escape.We, however, have, demonstrably, the scientific strength to lift the rock, but what on Earth are we to make of it all? How should we rethink our conception of time? And may we consider this some kind of validation of Delphi's oracular process, or more generally of the potentials of the intuitive faculty? Delphi itself features prominantly in the Theseus myth. His father had been to ask the oracle how he might have a child. By way of answer the Delphic priestess gave him a wine sack and told him not to open it until a different time. This can now be seen to represent the story itself, which would one day reveal its significance, but not until after a certain time.
Or will we prefer exclusively left-brain explanations for this, according to which the myth must have been given to the Greeks by E.T.s or technologically advanced Atlanteans or some such? Ask any archaeologist: Delphi was an oracle site, not a landing pad for alien craft, and no technological Atlantis has been found. An acknowledgement of intuition seems a great deal more sane to me, not least because this was how this extraordinary decoding of the myth occurred to me in the first place. I shall not, however, be asking the Athenians to crown me as their king.