Back to the film. The Neverending Story presents the protagonist hero, Bastian Balthazar Bux, as the typical 80s nerd harassed by neighborhood bullies, raised by his single dad. Contrary to popular belief, having half of Simon and Simon as your dad (Gerald McRaney) isn’t as bitchin’ as you would expect. In fact, Mr. Bux is basically a dickhead. But what can you expect, when Simon and Simon ends and you’re in Neverending Story (and your wife has died).
Bastian awakes from a dream startled, and late for school, but this clues us in to viewing him as a “dreamer” as the opening sequence makes clear, when Mr. Bux says he needs to get his “head out of the clouds and keep his feet on the ground.” Bastian is chased by his bullies, and stumbles into an obscure bookshop where he meets a magician. The magus then tempts Bastian to read his occult wonderworking text, The Neverending Story, replete with an Ouroboros on the cover. As it turns out, Bastian is himself written into, and in the process of writing this story. In literature studies, this is known as metafiction, where the narrative is taken to another level–an appropriate usage in this case, since the view of alternate worlds and and all possible worlds comes into play. This is significant because the film is working from a paradigm in which notions of a multi-verse ends up necessitating that all possibilities are eventually made actual. The Ouroboros symbolizes this concept in ancient religions, as well as in gnosticism and hermeticism.
In fact, Plato included the concept of the Ouroboros in his famed esoteric work of cosmology, The Timaeus. Plato wrote of it:
“The living being had no need of eyes when there was nothing remaining outside him to be seen; nor of ears when there was nothing to be heard; and there was no surrounding atmosphere to be breathed; nor would there have been any use of organs by the help of which he might receive his food or get rid of what he had already digested, since there was nothing which went from him or came into him: for there was nothing beside him. Of design he was created thus, his own waste providing his own food, and all that he did or suffered taking place in and by himself. For the Creator conceived that a being which was self-sufficient would be far more excellent than one which lacked anything; and, as he had no need to take anything or defend himself against any one, the Creator did not think it necessary to bestow upon him hands: nor had he any need of feet, nor of the whole apparatus of walking; but the movement suited to his spherical form was assigned to him, being of all the seven that which is most appropriate to mind and intelligence; and he was made to move in the same manner and on the same spot, within his own limits revolving in a circle. All the other six motions were taken away from him, and he was made not to partake of their deviations. And as this circular movement required no feet, the universe was created without legs and without feet.”
In this scheme, it is a symbol of all created reality itself. The view of time and reality here is one of cyclical, eternal return, as it’s called. This is shared in common with Hinduism and ancient Egypt, and is a staple characteristic of pagan religions, in distinction to biblical religions, which view time as linear, with a progression, beginning and end, rather than time and history being a deterministic, karmic trap which must be escaped. In biblical religions, time itself becomes “redeemed” in some fashion. In paganism, time is a dismal illusion of determined, neverending brute force. Thus the film’s title. In the film’s paradigm, the ancient and occultic exterior doctrines of archetypes and cyclical, eternal return are internalized and psychologized, as for example, Hindusim does, as well as other occult systems. Carl Jung did this, for example. In this absurd scheme, the individual is himself the god creating the external reality, writing the whole narrative. This is precisely what is happening in The Neverending Story–it’s Balthazar’s neverending story of eternal return, which is the gateway to the supposed realization of apotheosis.
It is also very significant that the film includes the concept of sphinxes as gateways. This gets very complex and uber deep, but suffice to say this is also an ancient notion that is shared in numerous religions. Ancient Egyptian theology in particular placed emphasis on the sphinx as the gateway guardian to the temple. This same idea exists in Jewish theology, too, in regard to the Temple’s Seraphic and Cherubic imagery, in particular the Ark of the Covenant, as well as places like Eden. The Jewish Encyclopedia notes (aside from the article’s liberal bias):