There are many interpretations of this song, but it was written to examine life in general. The album projects a very spiritual aura, enticing people to let go of their hate, grudges, discord and limiting beliefs. (thanks, Zipper - Phoenix, AZ)
This runs 9:22. Radio stations usually play a shortened version of the song that has a shortened intro and the quiet part after the solo taken out. (thanks, Nick - Paramus, NJ)
All of the art work done on the album cover, the CD itself and even the background screen at the concert are the works of Mr. Alex Grey. He is an artist that attempts to capture what humans look like without their outside flesh. Many of his drawings are of human bodies that lack all exterior features such as hair, skin, nails, etc. Grey has found a way to not only draw humans in this state but has drawn their "energy" surrounding them and in them.
Before this, the last album Tool released (not counting box set Salival) was Aenima, which came out in 1996. In 2000 lead singer James Keenan released an album with his band A Perfect Circle, and it appeared that Tool had broken up. This proved otherwise, and the album went over very well with Tool fans.
The line "Black then white are all I see in my infancy, red and yellow then came to be" has to do the the Aborigines from Australia who at first did art work only with black and white paints then later discovered how to make red and yellow, which they incorporated in their art. The "Spiral" would probably be either the earth twisting on its axis or its rotation around the sun. (thanks, Jake - New Jersey, NJ)
The beginning lyrics of the song use the Fibonacci number sequence, where each number is the total of the two before it....
white are (2)
all I see (3)
in my infancy (5)
red and yellow then came to be (8)
reaching out to me (5)
lets me see' (3)
Their drummer is also known to use several other mathematical sequences in his playing. (thanks, Keri - Los Lunas, NM)
The saying "as below, so above and beyond, I imagine" probably has to do with the principle of the saying "as above, so below" used by Neo-Pagans while opening the Magic Circle. (thanks, Raistlin - Middletown, OH)
According to an All-Tool issue of Revolver magazine, this song was originally called "987" because it the time signature changes in a repeating sequence of 9/8, 4/4, then 7/8. Justin Chancellor, Tool's bassist, had this to say about the song: "For me, the song 'Lateralus' was the turning point. I wrote a bar of nine, a bar of eight, a bar of seven, and we originally called the song '987'. I saw it as something that kept getting shorter and shorter and, like a spiral, it kind of folds in on itself." (thanks, Jamin King - Puyallup, WA)