Archive for December, 2009

End Of Life Story Redemption Chapter 2

December 26, 2009

My end of life conversation with the devil continues here with more dialogue about consciousness, freedom, God, religion, and intelligibility. At the end of this story post and all subsequent posts, I refer to some of my written work that compliments my conversation with the devil. I will not include, for the most part, the referenced work in this story. Instead, I will skip to my next redemption conversation with the devil. However, a lot of the work referenced (for instance, at the end of this post I am referring to my description of God’s footprint) is posted under a different title. If already posted, I will ID the referenced work.

Redemption—Freedom/Consciousness And Content/Form Interdependence

Future Time Nine Continued

“Stop whining. It doesn’t become you,” replied MV.

“I’m not whining, you’re the whiner,” I said. “Or if you’re not then you should be! But, hey, I’m willing to give the Devil his do. I can not compete with the enabler of creation, so tell me about God. Obviously, you are in the knowing position. After all we’ve been through, the least you can do is share a little of that knowledge with me. Come on, what do you say?”

“You already know God,” replied MV. “Err let me rephrase that. Because of our metaphysic, you know as much as you need to know about God. But, you’re right, we have been through a lot and I’m feeling a bit generous, so tell you what, I’ll tell you what you already know, but coming from me, any doubt you might be entertaining concerning the One On High, ought to be put to rest.”

“Great! You begin and I’ll follow.”

“As you know, God is all about communication,” said MV, “communication and structure. Remember the ‘affirmative ideal’, the underlying principle of structuralism? Well God is It, and from the ‘affirmative ideal’ communication follows. I’m sure you’ve heard these words before: “(1) In The Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was in the beginning with God; (3) all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. (4) In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (5) The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….” [Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version. Gospel According to John, 1952] Well, we’re all talking about the same thing here!”

“What are you’re telling me, that the God of Christianity is the God On High?”

“Well I am the Devil aren’t I? Oh, forgive me,” said MV, “I’m saying that there are many people, just like you, who have come to know the one true God. Besides, God does not discriminate! I’m the one that discriminates. Through me, religions thrive. God simply makes my job possible. If God plays favorites, it’s not found in icon worship; rather, it’s found in the discovery and application of universals, in the logical structure of all things reasonable,—in language, freedom, goodness, and in all heavenly gifts that rain down upon humanity. Do you remember these words? They are your words not mine: ‘In the negation of God, God becomes immanent and free. God’s immanence is important to us because this immanence is what we call physical reality.’”

“Your right, I don’t remember,” I replied, “but it sounds like something I should or could have said. When things start to go, they really go. Old age– can’t live with it, can’t live without it, but hey, if it gets too bad just stick around because you’ll forget about it eventually.”

“Do you remember your concept of reciprocal movement?

“Of course,” I replied. “As the source of all things physical, biological and divine, reciprocal movement weaves its way up the synchronic ladder producing identity, language, and free thought. Need I say more?”

“Very good,” said MV. “Then you also remember the interdependence between content and form. I believe you first discovered that relationship in the work of Piaget, more specifically; it was the driving concept in his constructionist theory. Am I right?”

“As I recall, yeah, in biological terminology,” I replied, “in addition to natural selection, Piaget believed something more was going on in an organism’s adaptation to its environment. For him, the life process proceeded along two developmental lines. First there was the assimilation of objects to individual activity, and second, the accommodation of organisms to their environment, and these two processes didn’t necessarily operate in equilibrium. It was in this ‘content/form interdependence’ where Piaget located biological development.”

“That’s not exactly what I’m talking about, but it works,” said MV. “Actually it works well because it demonstrates how ‘content/form interdependence’ moves all creation forward. You see, the open ended relationship between content and form not only drives life, it drives knowledge as well. In fact, Piaget described the nature of knowledge as being ‘a spiral the radius of whose turns increases as the spiral rises…This means, in effect, that the idea of structure as a system of transformations becomes continuous with that of construction as continual formation.’ Piaget further elaborates on the idea that knowledge, as a system of transformations, is always undergoing reconstruction when he says:

“Since Godel,…the idea of a formal system of abstract structures is thereby transformed into that of the construction of a never completed whole, the limits of formalization constituting the grounds for incompleteness, or, as we put it earlier, incompleteness being a necessary consequence of the fact that there is no “terminal” or “absolute” form because any content is form relative to some inferior content and any form the content for some higher form.” [Piaget, Structuralism, 1970 p. 140]

“You lost me,” I replied. “Where’s God in all of this?”

“My, my, you have slipped in your old age, haven’t you,” responded MV, “for every time there is a season and yours, perhaps, has come and gone?”

“Stop that! I know all about Piaget,” I replied, “but you’re supposed to be clarifying God, not obscuring the issue, so I repeat myself what does all this have to do with God?

“You’re right, I’ll try and be more clear,” responded MV, “but it had to be this way because from here on out it’s mostly logic; that is, the logic behind the ‘structure of transformations.’ But let me answer your question: God is found in the ‘continuous construction of system transformations.’ Or, to put this idea in your own words, the words that you have so earnestly developed over the course of your life: Freedom is form. Consciousness is content. Freedom expands consciousness. Form restricts freedom. God is free in the continuous construction of system transformations that result in more freedom, more consciousness.

Redemption—The Story Continues

Future Time Nine Continued

“The story of God,” said MV, “is the story of the rise and fall of freedom and consciousness. Does that help?”

“I think so, but I think also that I will better understand if we stay with my vocabulary when we talk about God.”

“No problem,” replied MV. “How’s this: Where consciousness is most restricted, where the form of freedom is reduced to the condition of ‘neither this, nor that,’ you find all the ‘strangeness of the quasi-real world of quantum mechanics.’ But, after a sufficient complexity arises in the universe, after freedom and consciousness go through a sufficient number of transformations, consciousness breaks out of the condition of ‘neither this nor that,’ and becomes more free in an environment that both sustains and propagates life, albeit an environment which limits longevity and the possibilities of adaptation. This process continues, though, and once again, upon achieving a level of sufficient complexity, consciousness becomes conscious of identity and reason. At this level of transformation, consciousness becomes free to confront obstacles and ask why! Of course, it is still limited by its environment and mortality, but, in terms of liberation, consciousness experiences an exponential rise in possibilities! There; are we on familiar ground yet?”

“You bet!” I replied. “But how about slowing down so I can get a better handle on form, content, and the God connection.”

“As you wish,” said MV. “We’ll start over. It all begins with the diachronic movement of physical events through time. These events—the charged particles, masses, forces, fields, etc. of nature, are embedded in the laws of nature. However, these events are also embedded in synchronic structure–the reciprocal movement of form and content, which also is bound by law, the law of intelligibility. Transformation is the medium of synchronic movement and transformation need not be a temporal process: 1+1=2; 6 divided by 2=3; clearly, the ‘following and making’ here meant, are not temporal processes. The law of intelligibility is the foundation of all ‘laws.’ As you already know, the whole of synchronic movement is framed by the double negative, ~(~b), and, as is the logical case with double negatives, affirmation is implied. This double negative encapsulates all diachronic movement. In other words, all phenomena takes place between the negative poles of the ‘affirmative ideal’ and, you and I call this ‘affirmative ideal’ God.” God’s freedom expands through synchronic transformations, and within this process, the horizon of consciousness expands also.”

“How come I never learned about the law of intelligibility in logic class?” I interrupted.

“You did,” MV replied. “In order to know anything at all you start with what’s given and whatever that is, it is not compatible with its negation. We’re talking about the principle of non-contradiction my friend, but in this particular case, I’m talking about the negation of an already negative condition, thus an implied affirmation is the result.

“If this wasn’t already my religion, I’m not to sure I could follow what you are saying,” I said. “But what about content and form movement, does it have to be that difficult to comprehend?”

“Well, here it is in a nutshell,” responded MV. “Try to remember it, okay. “Content is form relative to some inferior content and any form the content for some higher form.” Take, for instance, the form we’ve been discussing, the ~~b form. Content encapsulated in this form is all there is; that is, no other content can be identified outside ~~b. Diachronically speaking, this content evolved into the universe that we experience today. But, synchronically speaking, our knowledge of that universe is more about the liberating transformations of freedom and consciousness; the transformations that occur when ~~b becomes ~bb, and when ~bb becomes b~b~bb. And, in terms of the “contents of these forms,” mass/energy evolves into living energy that exists far from equilibrium, which, in turn, evolves into the electrical synapseing that produces human intelligence. In the “affirmative ideal of human intelligence,” form and content merge to create an environment of physical events (facts). You know this experience as the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self embedded in a physical event, but everybody else knows this experience as the beginning of the culture produced by the species Homo sapiens. In the end, this experience is the effect of the ongoing evolution of how “content is form relative to some inferior content and form the content for some higher form.” Death is important here for not only does it conserve the law of intelligibility that allows for the comprehensibility of the universe, it also moves life forward into expanded realms of freedom and consciousness.

“And that’s where we are at right now,” I replied, “here, where the bell tolls and it tolls for me and, as the great equalizer, for all others eventually.”

“Yes,” replied MV, “I’m glad you worked through those cobwebs, but there’s still a bit more to say on this subject. Things get more complicated at the next level of transformation. Perhaps you’d like to move this conversation in that direction?

“Now you’re talking,” I replied, “why don’t we take a closer look at freedom and consciousness; we can’t really go too far without that exploration. God knows, I spent a lot of time struggling with those two topics.”

“Certainly we will get to freedom and consciousness,” responded MV, “but first we should refresh your memory concerning the physical consequences that make possible the expansion of freedom and consciousness. We can refer to work already done, your work. That will make it easy for both of us.”

“Of course,” I replied, “let’s do it!”

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End Of Life Story Chapter 1

December 19, 2009

Here’s another short story—a story of redemption (four, five….chapters probably). The content of this story covers some material already posted but from a different angle—the angle of my personal life. In my journal writing, in order to spice it up and add perspective, I couched my story in a plot where I made a wager with the devil (the Faust story was/is a favorite of mine). In the wager, if I found God the devil would take my soul (a pretty safe bet I thought). The devil, in the beginning, I knew to be the onset of my insanity (a voice in my head that had a life of its own). The upside of the wager, however, was that I could tell the voice to go away. In other words, I got control of my mind back. The devil still popped up occasionally—to teach me how to find God—but he would also leave at my command. Throughout my journal writing I would have conversations with this voice, but in this story I am having my end of life conversation with the devil.

Redemption—The Indictment

Future Time Nine

“So it’s finally come to this,” said MV.

“Come to what?” I replied.

“Look at yourself; alone again,” said MV. “Most people, in the end, are consoled by real accomplishments, services they have performed, treasures they have accumulated, and extended families they have produced. They can say, ‘Hey, I’ve lived a good life and here’s the proof.’ But you, you sit in that hard rocker, listening to ancient and sad music. Perhaps you’ve missed something, eh?”

“My kids are grown now. Some things don’t work out as planned,” I said. “Their mother, after a long battle with Lupus, has passed over. My memories, if not too impressive, are still consoling. Regrets? Sure, why not, who can go through life without them, but, if it’s my time, I’m ready, bring it on. In fact, I look forward to it, it will be like going home.”

“But, don’t you think that ‘home’ would be a bit more hospitable if you hadn’t left so many opportunities unanswered?” MV responded.

“I’m not sure I like these questions,” I said. “Certainly there would be less suffering if people only knew they were on a ‘chance of a lifetime’ journey. But what’s that got to do with me? Everybody is on that journey. I found God, but it took me half a lifetime to do it. It can’t be forced. What are you saying, that my time was wasted?”

“No, not at all,” replied MV. “I’m just saying, in terms of squandering resources, which you chronically badger about, your education could have been put to better use. I mean education doesn’t grow on trees you know. It’s a dream unrealized for most people. To bad it’s not like popcorn, plentiful enough to give away. But it isn’t, so the lucky ones have to give back. At least that’s the way it used to be. It’s all about accountability you know!”

“A death bed indictment; is this what I’m hearing? I didn’t rob, commit adultery, or murder anybody,” I said. “I found God. I’m not guilty of anything. Besides, as you know, my education came late, and that’s not very helpful. I mean, Jesus, I spent mouths trying to do volunteer work for the criminal justice system. They didn’t want me. I guess I was just too honest, but I kept trying; that is, until I broke my leg. It was my custodian job that paid the bills. Being thankful for small favors is one of life’s difficult lessons, but I’d say I learned that one pretty well. Why should I feel guilty?”

“It sounds like somebody wrote that old blues song just for you,” replied MV. “You know, the one: ‘If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.’”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” I said, “employment, for me, has always been difficult to find, but otherwise I’ve been pretty lucky.”

“You can say that again,” responded MV, but it wasn’t luck.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Turn on your radio,” said MV, “turn to public broadcasting.”

“What?”

“Do it, said MV. “There’s a ‘dedication song’ playing right now. Eric Clapton is singing it, and it’s dedicated to you!”

“If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all…”

“Wow, how did you know that song would be on the radio?” I exclaimed.

“Because your time is up. You are my property now,” responded MV.

“I’m nobody’s property.”

“Come on,” said MV. “Don’t be obstinate. I hate to break it to you like this, but remember back in ’75, in Deadwood, when you tried to put your lights out in that cocoon full of lethal gas? Well your luck wasn’t all that bad back then. You succeeded, but then again, so did I. You didn’t die because I wouldn’t let you die. You are alive today because of me, and further, because of me you found God, you found God in a place where others would never dare even look. Now I’m here to collect my due!”

“I didn’t die in Deadwood. You’re crazy. Go away. I command you to go away.”

“Those days are over,” said MV. “Besides, telling me what to do only worked before you found God, not after. From the moment you drew your last breath in Deadwood, I’ve been the consummate puppet master. I lead you down the path that you desperately wanted to find. Go ahead, ask yourself, was it worth dying for?”

“I thought I was finished with you. I thought I was rid of you.”

“You might want to rephrase that—‘Breaking news story, the king is dead. Long live the king’–you’re dead,” said MV. “Death by affixation the coroner said. Congratulations! On that cold February afternoon in 1975 you succeeded in killing yourself. It was just another suicide, didn’t even hit the paper, but that was expected. Deadwood had an image to uphold.”

“What is this! I might be dying, but you’ve got nothing to do with it. I have lived a good life–family, God, and the memories.”

“Arrogant to the end, I see,” said MV. “You have been living in a kind of limbo since your death, living at my behest. But it all stops now. What matters is that you have lived your dream. You should thank me. It hasn’t been easy, though; you’ve been a challenge, even for me.”

“I am not dead.”

“You wanted to discover God and you did,” said MV. “What more can I say? At first, you were slow, but, with a little help from me, you did it. Think of it this way: it’s our mutual success. You got what you want and I, well, one might say, for me, its all in a job well done. We can both be proud! Who knows, if you hadn’t murdered yourself, you might even have discovered God without my help. But we will never know, will we. Why don’t you just think of yourself as a little voice in my head, that shouldn’t be to hard should it! Hey, nothing goes as planned you know. How does it feel? Call it your just desserts. Ah, how sweet it is; that song I mean, ‘if it wasn’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have no luck at all.’ Don’t you agree?”

“I’m not dead. The joys, sorrows, love of family, love of life, love of God, all of that was real. It is real. You’re a phony. You don’t exist.”

Redemption—My Refuge Lies In Your Nothingness

Future Time Nine Continued

“If I don’t exist, if I’m not real then who am I then?” said MV.

“You are something that has gone radically wrong. You are an unhinged piece of my brain. You are insanity–my insanity,” I said.

“Don’t flatter yourself. You’re not insane, never have been. That’s a lame excuse, a rationalization,” exclaimed MV, “and you know it. Wake up. I’m real. This is not a dream. God is real and, at least from your point of view, the rest was also real.”

“I know it’s all real. That’s what I’ve been saying all along,” I replied.

“Only the part about God,” said MV. “Your metaphysic—our metaphysic–turned out to be pretty accurate, but it is far from the whole story. I’m not just an unhinged piece of your mind, a figment of your imagination. I’m a hell of a lot more substantial then that—in due time you will see for yourself.”

“You are an empty voice in my head, caused by the firing of to many or to few synapses in my brain,” I replied, “or maybe your just some unconscious, out of control demon haunting me from the past. I don’t know what you are. I just know that you are not who you say you are! Without the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self you wouldn’t even exist–nor would I.”

“Very good,” responded MV. “Now you’re beginning to talk sense. But I’m more than that. Think about it. It’s all there in your metaphysic. Am I just a product of the for-itself, or am I something else? Let me give you a hint. Without me there wouldn’t be a for-itself.”

“You are the force that keeps opposites apart,” I said. “You are fragmentation. You are the enabler of life, and self-consciousness, but you also subvert freedom, subvert that which seeks liberation.”

“Now you’re starting to get it,” MV replied, “but you can do better. Remember, as you pointed out many times before, you have to take the bad–with the good. Go deeper.”

“You are the reason I am here. You liberated me so I can be here, so we can both be here,” I said.

“You’re on a roll. And who are you?” responded MV.

“I am consciousness that is free because of you. I am the divine incarnate, the discriminator of right and wrong in the here and now. I am in partnership with God in the ongoing process of creation.”

“That’s right,” said MV, “and what does that make me then? Take your time. I want to hear this. Go for it!”

“That makes you the source of my consciousness, the source of my free will, the source of purpose. You truly are the fallen angle of God, God’s compliment in every way. Without you there would be no awareness, no sacredness, no wholeness, no God! ”

“Great, I thought we’d never get there,” replied MV. “I am the enabling force of creation. Wouldn’t you say that makes me a little more than a run amuck voice in someone’s head?”

“Yes, I suspect it does. I see now,” I said.

“It follows from everything I know, but you don’t know everything. You can’t! You are the negative side of the universe.”

“Indeed, that is true,” replied MV, “but that is enough. It is more than you can imagine or even dream. What you call creativity is little more than a sensing body’s stimulus/response to a space/time event. I, however, exist across time, everywhere, from eternity and back, so don’t tell me who I am. I will tell you who you are. Remember, ‘There are many mansions in God’s house,’ and your arrogance has been duly noted. In God’s house you are barely a spectator, so stop trying to second-guess me!”

“You’re missing something, though. And that something is everything,” I replied. “The potential for beginnings precedes all beginnings, and it is in your nothingness that that potential gets affirmed. You may be a part of it all, but what’s really real is above that, above you! Your job is to keep everything, including me, separate from the creator. By your own admission, I have found God, and you cannot trump that. I am not your property. God is above everything.”

Meditation For The 21st Century

December 12, 2009

While I was deciding where I wanted to go with my Footprint story I stumbled across this meditation and decided very quickly that it was a good summary of my Footprint story. Except for posting on the web, this meditation represents the only other time I attempted to “tell my story” to others. I presented this meditation to the philosophy club at the university where I work. The student President of the club felt I should be compensated, so he passed me off as a visiting lecturer and I walked away with $100. I guess that makes me (or made me) a one time professional!God’s Civilizing Attribute

I have found that many of the paradoxes associated with thoughtdissolve when I consider the point of view that existence, in general, and identity, in particular, ensues from the expressive aspects of God not being God’s own non-being. The idea that God is free to not be God is unusual but not unique. In the journal, Deconstruction and Theology (1982, p. 89-90), Robert P. Scharlemann, in the article The Being of God When God is Not Being God, adds some commentary to this idea:

“The thesis I should like to propound here is that, in the theological tradition, the otherness of God has remained unthought and conceptually forgotten in exactly the same manner as has the question of the meaning of being. …What cannot be thought, in the tradition of this picture (the concept of finite being as ens creatum) is that the world is itself a moment in the being of God; what cannot be thought is that the world is the being of God when God is not being deity, or the being of God in the time of not being.”

I realize that many people find elitist the notion of a privileged-human-nature, but I disagree. When considered from the point of view of this meditation it is not that human beings are superior, rather, it is that human beings are born into a much larger and richer reservoir of potential freedom, and, I might add, that in this privileged space (if indeed privilege is the right word) advantage and responsibility are joined. Ian Barbour, in his book, Issues in Science and Religion (1966, p.29.) puts it this way:

“In the capacity for abstract thought and symbolic languagethere is a radical distinction between man and animal. Self-conscious awareness, critical self-reflection, and creative imagination are found nowhere else in nature. In memory of the past, anticipation of the future, and envisagement of ideal potentialities, he transcends his immediate environment. He is unique in his search for truth, concern for moral values, and acknowledgement of universal obligation –and above all, in his relationship to God.”

In a supportive environment, life propagates and grows more complex. The same holds true in a knowledge environment –the self-conscious environment of the human being.

When non-being occurs in being (~bb), the self-consciousness of being becomes, by implication, conscious of itself. When the negative condition of continuity gets experienced in the higher dimension of a factual event (b~b~bb), knowledge, in its propositional and signifier sense, gets liberated. Analytically speaking, this condition identifies the source of the principle of logical contradiction and thus denotes the original precondition for the evolutionary development of language and mathematics. Rene Descartes, was, as far as I can tell, the first person to isolate and consciously describe the experience of discontinuity occurring in continuity (~bb). Descartes’ methodological doubting brought him to recognize, in his “Cogito ergo sum”, the fundamental bottom line of human experience: I experience non-being therefore I am. But, Descartes’ cogito occurs in its own physical event environment (b~b), and here we discover the less than articulate evolutionary development of this cogito.

With every new dimension of non-being (~~b, ~bb, b~b~bb) comes a new beginning for the resurgence of complexity. In the human dimension (b~b~bb), this movement from simple to complex continues to take place, only now history and civilization evolve right along side biology and adaptation. In the initial stages of human history, Descartes’ cogito was hidden behind the participatory moments of human consciousness. Here the thread of human history–cultural evolution (to paraphrase Cassirer) — may be traced back to that point in time where man/woman ceased to passively accept their negative condition (physical environment), and, in setting themselves in opposition to it, began to create and form it. This act, the transformation of mere impressions into pure expression, began the human psyche’s progress, via the development of myth, ritual, art, language, music and science, toward the liberation of its own non-being.

At this point in the meditation, I would like to point out that there are many comprehensive philosophies that directly illuminate the human spirit’s capacity for liberation. Spinoza, Heidegger, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin are just a few names that spring to mind, but the person who I feel best represents my own position is Ernst Cassirer. In his three volume work, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, (1957), Cassirer’s thesis suggests that as man interacts with his environment through his desires, emotions and work he acquires the capacity, via symbolic representation, to objectify nature – the nature of his inner and outer reality. Objectification here is not meant as a thing to be apprehended but rather as a movement toward constancy, endurance and certainty. Accordingly, the self that we take to the library, the store, a music recital, or sometimes to the bar, must be understood as the ongoing product of human history, which, in turn, must be further understood, according to this meditation, as the being-of-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is in its pursuit to free itself from its own limiting conditions.

Our immediate experience of this process is temporality. In addition to establishing our “I”, — the awareness of being aware of our own non-being (implicative affirmative of the not-me-self), this liberation process also implies (as a consequence of the physical event b~b~bb) an environment of factual events. Here we not only experience ourselves as a degree of permanence in the midst of constant flux, we also experience the forward movement of an implied knowledge of our environment.

Knowledge expands as a consequence of time. We are born into a world of knowledge and knowing, but the throttle of this knowing process–the actualization of what is unique in human freedom, lies in our capacity to actualize our own non-being. Simply put, every time we ask a question we actualize in the question our own non-being. Whether we like it or not our knowledge expands, but when we ask questions we accelerate that expansion by detaching ourselves from being in our capacity as non-being in order to more fully appropriate the world around us. Our passive experience of time does not produce a great deal of knowledge, but because we bring the logical relationships implicit in God’s freedom to bear on an event, we are free to create judgments (and the values which arise from those judgments) concerning the significance and probable cause of an event. These judgments, concerning the nature of an event, are determined valid across a continuum that ranges from sensation divorced from theory, at one end, to sensation reinforced by the most advanced and respected scientific theory available.

There are no guarantees that the answers we propose in response to our questions will match up with corresponding events, yet scientists have a pretty good track record when it comes to the discovery and confirmation of these answers. In experience that is not accountable to scientific confirmation, however, we determine, via our judgments and emotions, appropriate behavior. It is at this level of preferred behavior, this level of “willed consciousness participation” (as it is called by Owen Barfield), that we encounter our potential for the highest order of expressed freedom.

When God’s freedom becomes aware of itself, something very remarkable happens. From our point of view, we see our past, present, and future possibilities, thus, we become free to actualize those possibilities. But, from the divine point of view, it’s simply an “awareness of presence.” For me, this is an emotionally charged consequence since it brings home the notion that God is, in a very real sense, all-knowing and all-present. But even more astonishing is that, via our intentions and concerns, we are responsible for the content of God’s “presence.” Here I am reminded of the words of Walt Whitman, where in his poem “Song To Myself,” he wrote: “Whoever degrades another degrades me. And whatever is done or said returns at last to me.” It follows that if just one person recognizes an act of injustice and becomes outraged, God becomes outraged. Suffice it to say, that if humanity would recognize its own conscience, then perhaps conditions would arise where a sensitive human being might be able to look out upon the social milieu without a shudder.

We begin our conduct with the recognition of desirable behavior, but putting this awareness into action takes on special significance. Just as the validity of a scientific hypothesis is authenticated when it is confirmed against experimental results, so, too, is behavior authenticated when it is made to conform to behavior that has previously been judged appropriate by the individual. In Goethe’s play “Faust,” which records Goethe’s own life-long spiritual development, Faust rebuffs Mephistopheles temptations with the words: “So realm and rule to me will fall—The glory’s naught, the deed is all.” Faust is acting on his supreme vision of a free land and a free people, and, in so doing, his authenticity—better know as character, honor and integrity—arises.

The question that needs to be answered here is, “How is the appropriateness of behavior determined?” Almost always, answers to this question suggest contrary examples, but in this case there is only one answer—that the behavior, which is determined appropriate, is the behavior that is judged appropriate by the individual. Simply put, behavior is a measure and a product of freedom. Herein we may appreciate the significance of those teachers and teachings that encourage students to think for themselves while stressing heightened awareness and social responsibility; and, since freedom is actualized at different levels by different people, it follows that, whenever possible, a responsible person will posture herself or himself as a student or a teacher whenever the opportunity arises. Recognizing the appropriate occasion to accommodate these postures comes with experience.

In the world of experience our thoughts and feelings are experienced as separate from the universe as a whole. That is as it should be for it follows from the nature of God’s freedom. It is precisely because of this limitation that we are able to seek and hopefully satisfy our needs and desires. In the world of non-being, where suffering, injustice, and cruelty occur, we sometimes feel compelled to look upon satisfaction and fulfillment as somebody’s idea of a joke, like some carrot, always out of reach, dangling in front of our noses; and further, we find ourselves, in one stage or another, of the ultimate indignity -our mortality. Without question, the price of freedom is high, but it follows from the nature of God’s freedom that in our suffering, God suffers. We share the price of freedom with God, but more importantly, in our rejoicing, God rejoices, and it is in this light that we, as active agents of transformation, may come to understand our responsibility to work toward a happier, healthier humanity. Ultimately, religion, science, law, art …all of civilization, must be understood as the expression of the freedom of God that works toward this transformation.

Certain aspects of the world cannot be changed, however. Our mortality, for instance, is a condition of God’s freedom and therefore must be experienced and endured. Yet it is in our mortality that we may come to discover an incredible comfort and release. Many of our desires are automatically fulfilled in the realization that we are one with God’s presence in the here and now. With this understanding we arrive at the heart of the experience that is poetically described by mystics and other spiritually evolved individuals. In the immediately grasped indeterminate, all-embracing oneness of God’s freedom lies the source of the knower and consequently the knower’s freedom. All intuitive sensitivity and religiously felt compassion flows from this all embracing oneness common to man’s nature and nature’s creatures, up through the many levels and dimensions of freedom until it finally becomes manifest in the human dimension as love, caring, happiness and reverence. The telling factor behind this whole process comes with the knowledge that the “I” of God and the “I” of you and me are one and the same (paraphrased from the teachings of Meister Eckhart).

For more information concerning how the above ideas were discovered see my last seven posts starting with the We Voice of Humanity post

Gods Footprint-The Significance Chap 4 End Of Story

December 9, 2009

Originally, I thought I would add a couple more chapters to my story, but, after some thought, I’ve decided to end it here, with some last words by Paul Davies, Professor of Theoretical Physics. It appears that when he and I look up into the heavens, we do not see an aging universe—death by fire or ice; rather, we see that we are not alone. Even though my story ends here, my next post, entitled A Meditation for the 21st Century, will officially end my Footprint story.

“Should we conclude that the universe is a product of design? The new physics and the new cosmology hold out a tantalizing promise: that we might be able to explain how all the physical structures in the universe have come to exist, automatically, as a result of natural processes. We should then no longer have need for a Creator in the traditional sense. Nevertheless, though science may explain the world, we still have to explain science. The laws which enable the universe to come into being spontaneously seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design. If physics is the product of design, the universe must have a purpose, and the evidence of modern physics suggests strongly to me that the purpose includes us.” (Paul Davies, Superforce, 1987).

Freedom And Nothingness

I believe the concept of freedom’s structured dialectic allows us to better appreciate who we are. I also believe it allows us to make understandable the unbroken wholeness implied in Relativity, quantum physics, and in the mystical experience of some people. A big step in this process, however, is to postulate a free God.

In the year 1277, Bishop Tempier of Paris admonished: “It is inadmissible to suppose that God is defined and circumscribed by boundaries,” and he then went on to condemn any idea that attempted to restrain the power and presence of God. How are we to understand God’s freedom when freedom, on any scale, implies otherness, freedom by degrees, and/or an unfulfilled purpose or goal? Bishop Tempier gave fair warning concerning the pitfalls in attempting to limit the omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence of the great Creator. If we ascribe to God the freedom to not be God, however, we sidestep all of the good Bishop’s concerns.

Everything– past, present, and future, — with respect to freedom’s structure, implies God, or, more to the point, the logical space of God. Indeed, the logical structure of freedom (~~b, ~bb, b~b~bb) preserves God’s implicative space as it encompasses everything that God can know, do, or be. This state of affairs circumvents any challenge that might arise concerning God’s omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence and, again, with respect to freedom’s structure, God remains free in the process!

There is a great deal of testimony to support the notion that God sprang from nothing/emptiness. In Genesis, for instance, we read, “In the beginning of creation, when God made heaven and earth, the Earth was without form and void, with darkness over the face of the abyss…” Again we read in the Gospel according to John, “In The Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…” The first time I read these words I thought “Ten Commandments,” but that’s not what they mean in the Gospel of John, the most mystical of the four Gospels. All I want to point out here, though, (I defer to the Christian interpreters for the contextual meaning of the Gospels’ words) is that from these words follow both freedom’s dialectic and God the Creator. Before I begin this discussion I need to talk a bit about what nothingness isn’t.

After watching the egg disappear from the magician’s hand, the astonished onlooker replied to the magician’s question, “What’s in my hand?” “Nothing!” That is not what I mean by the term nothing or nothingness. That kind of nothing is what Professor Nishitani, in his book Religion and Nothingness, understands as nihility or the negativity that lies opposite existence. In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, sunyata represents the nothingness that grounds being. That nothingness is different from what is implied in the nothingness/existence dichotomy. Nishitani explains:

“Nihility is an absolute negation aimed at all “existence,” and thus is related to existence. The essence of nihility consists in a purely negative (antipodal) negativity. Its standpoint contains the self-contradiction that it can neither abide in existence nor abide being away from it. It is a standpoint torn in two from within. Therein lies its transitional character. We call it the standpoint of nihility, but in fact it is not a field one can stand on in the proper sense of the term… The standpoint of sunyata is another thing altogether. It is not a standpoint of simply negative negativity, nor is it an essentially transitional standpoint. It is the standpoint at which absolute negation is at the same time, in the sense explained above, a Great Affirmation.” (1982, p.137)

In freedom’s dialectic this Great Affirmation is encountered twice, at the ground of being and in the participatory moment of the human being—as the source of language, imagination, conscience, inquiry, and analysis.

Leaving the authoritarian world of religion behind for the moment, I now want to turn to another account of nothingness, one that some physicists say lies at the center of another creation story—the Big Bang creation story. In the book The Cosmic Code, the physicist Heins Pagels answers the question, “Where did the universe come from?” Pagels says:

“…it came out of the vacuum. The entire universe is a reexpression of sheer nothingness. How can the universe be equivalent to nothing? Look at all those stars and galaxies! But if we examine this possibility carefully we learn that the universe, even in its present form, could be equivalent to nothing.
A remarkable feature of the present-day universe is that if you add up all the energy in the universe it almost adds up to zero. First there is the potential energy of the gravitational attraction of the various galaxies for each other. This is proportional to the mass of the galaxies. Since one must supply energy to push the galaxies apart, this counts as a huge negative energy in our energy bookkeeping. On the positive side of the ledger is the mass energy of all the particles in the universe. This adds up to another huge number, to about a factor of ten smaller than the negative energy. If the two numbers matched, the total energy of the universe would be zero and it wouldn’t take any energy to create the universe.” (Pagels, 1982, p. 283)

Science literature speaks of the beginning in terms of the Big Bang, the evolution of stars and galaxies and, ultimately, in the formation and evolution of life. Richard Dawkins gives us this reading of evolution:

“In the beginning was simplicity. It is difficult enough explaining how even a simple universe began. I take it as agreed that it would be even harder to explain the sudden springing up, fully armed, of complex order—life, or a being capable of creating life. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is satisfying because it shows us a way in which simplicity could change into complexity…” (Douglas Hofstadter, Daniel Dennett, The Mind’s I , 1981, p. 124)

Here we see that evolution proceeds in the direction from simplicity to complexity, but God’s freedom in not limited to just one dimension (although Dawkins would like us to believe it is).

After a sufficient complexity is achieved, science informs us that life becomes possible. Reproduction, growth, irritability, and self-regulation, the distinctive characteristics of life, are all, or at least in part, identifiable in the simplest life forms. In freedom’s dialectic, life retains all of these characteristics and becomes, in a higher dimension, the participatory moment of the human being. The human expression of freedom, as has already been noted, permits self-consciousness. Once again we turn to Cassirer who, perhaps more than anybody else, has taught the substantiation of conscious objectification. Here he informs us of a whole new symbolic dimension:

“Obviously this world forms no exception to those biological rules which govern the life of all the other organisms. Yet in the human world we find a new characteristic which appears to be the distinctive mark of human life. The functional circle of man is not only quantitatively enlarged; it has also undergone a qualitative change. Man has, as it were, discovered a new method of adapting himself to his environment. Between the receptor system and the effector system, which are to be found in all animal species, we find in man a third link which we may describe as the symbolic system. This new acquisition transforms the whole of human life. As compared with the other animals man lives not merely in a broader reality; he lives, so to speak, in a new dimension of reality.” (Cassirer, An Essay On Man, 1944, p. 25)

In the creative interplay with its environment, human consciousness reaches out for the accouterments and the necessities of life and creates new meanings. This creativity, in our cosmopolitan world, gets identified with modern technology, but technological advances, when measured against the significance of freedom’s dialectic, are only scratching the surface of freedom’s potential. Someday, perhaps, the day will come when people will thirst for cooperation, education and shared resources in the same way that today they thirst for power, wealth, and fame. Paul Davies might agree with me on this, or he might not. I’m pretty sure, though, that we are in agreement on the God driven universe. He says:

“Here’s another romantic (and similar) view of evolution: ‘The search for life elsewhere in the universe is therefore the testing ground for two diametrically opposed world-views. On one side is orthodox science, with its nihilistic philosophy of the pointless universe, of impersonal laws oblivious of ends, a cosmos in which life and mind, science and art, hope and fear are but incidental embellishments on a tapestry of irreversible cosmic corruption. On the other, there is an alternative view, undeniably romantic but perhaps true nevertheless, the vision of a self-organizing and self-complexifying universe, governed by ingenious laws that encourage matter to evolve towards life and consciousness. A universe in which the emergence of thinking beings is a fundamental and integral part of the overall scheme of things. A universe in which we are not alone.’” (Paul Davies, 99)

The Observer–Gods Open Footprint Chapter 3

December 5, 2009

Determinism and “not quite determinism” describes the physical event side of God’s footprint. This footprint, however, is linked to an observer. You might say its observers all the way down, but the observer I am talking about here possesses human intelligence. A product of the aesthetic continuum and the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, intelligence can be traced back to its source in the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. Intelligence (rationality) did not pop into existence phoenix like however; rather, it evolved. One might expect then that the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self concept is related to disparate concepts spread out across unrelated disciplines. Perhaps, for instance, the concept of the implied not-me-self speaks to the issue of the derivation of a true theorem in number theory that is its own negation, a negation that, in turn, implies the existence of higher dimensional numbers (Gödel), or, perhaps the not-me-self has something to say about the origin of natural numbers, which, according to one mathematician, can be found in “the mind’s ability to image a thing in a thing” (Dedekind). From a functional perspective, these mathematical concepts have a close kinship with the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. In philosophy too, the “identity inference” implied by Descartes,’ “I think (doubt), therefore I am,” is obviously impregnated with the not-me-self concept. And further, in Sartre’s definition of consciousness: “Consciousness is a being such that in its being its being implies a being other than itself,” the not-me-self is not only revealed, it is defined. And again, in psychology, every time the subject is identified as “coming to be,” or “under construction” the not-me-self shows up. In fact, Piaget’s concept of “self” is defined as “the center of functional activity.” And, again in Sociology, where Thom focuses his studies on the “the overcoming of the primitive ambivalence or opposition between the modes of difference and no difference, and, in a like manner, where Simmel focuses his studies on “man as both the fixing of boundaries and the reaching out across these boundaries—the language of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self is front and center. And lastly, in the physics of the quantum particles, where the collapse of the wave function is observer generated, here we are not only witnessing the language of the not-me-self, we are witnessing (with each collapse of the wave function), all the dots that shape God’s footprint, i.e., confirmation of the God footprint theory.

Two excellent observers peered into the abyss and saw God. Both described God differently, but, when these descriptions are passed through the prism of God’s footprint, it becomes clear that both observers were describing one and the same God.

“The mind and the world are opposites, and vision arises where they meet. When the mind doesn’t stir inside, the world doesn’t arise outside. When the world and the mind are both transparent, this is true vision. And such understanding is true understanding.” Bodhidharma

“That you need God more than anything, you know at all times in your heart. But don’t you know also that God needs you–in the fullness of his eternity, you? How would man exist if God did not need him, and how would you exist? You need God in order to be, and God needs you for that which is the meaning of your life.” Martin Buber

What We Call Self Is A Late Product In The Participatory Process

The Differentiating Aspects Of Culture Began With The Feeling Of The Sacred And The Boundaries Used To Establish The Sacred

Adding the observer to God’s footprint connects all the dots imaging God’s footprint. Here is a bit of the evolutionary process of how the modern observer came to be. I begin with an anthropological take on early humankind and then move on to a more philosophical, even structuralist perspective. All of this, however, is consistent with the observer aspect of God’s footprint. In my next post, when I talk about the relationship between necessary opposites, this will become clearer.

Self-consciousness is a late product of the participatory process, the process that occurs between consciousness and the aesthetic continuum. This process of course begins in parent/child relationships, and gradually, over time and through a reification process, externalizes (objectifies) one’s surrounding environment. Mircea Eliade says it this way:

“If we observe the general behavior of archaic man, we are struck by the following fact: neither the objects of the external world nor human acts, properly speaking, have any autonomous intrinsic value. Objects or acts acquire a value, and in so doing become real, because they participate, after one fashion or another, in a reality that transcends them.” (Myth of Eternal Return, 1974, p.3)

Perception was not something that could be bandied about and examined from the space of perspective in the early stages of consciousness; rather, perception remained fixed in the parameters of the participation moment. The qualities that we take for granted, according to anthropologist Levy-Bruhl, did not exist for Pre-moderns. Owen Barfield, agreeing with Levy-Bruhl, elaborates on the case for Pre-moderns:

“It is not a question of association. The mystic properties with which things are imbued form an integral part of the idea to the primitive who views it as a synthetic whole. It is at a later stage of social evolution that what we call a natural phenomenon tends to become the sole content of perception to the exclusion of other elements which then assume the aspect of beliefs, and finally appear superstitions. But as long as this ‘dissociation’ does not take place, perception remains an undifferentiated whole.” (Saving the Appearances, 1939, p. 30)

It seems pretty clear that early humanity did not participate in the world, which, for the most part, we all share in common today. Yet, it was in this early participatory process where our present experience of self-consciousness developed. This process continues today and nobody, I believe, is more qualified to discuss this subject than Ernst Cassirer. He tells us that Pre-moderns, as they engaged their environment through emotions, desires and work, acquired the ability, via symbolic representation, to objectify nature–the nature of both “inner and outer reality.” There was (and is) a double movement that arises from one’s interaction with his/her environment; in one direction there develops the objectification of one’s self-nature and in the other direction there arises the objectification of the social and cultural contents of society. For Cassirer, art, myth, magic and ritual are co-creative products arising from this objectifying movement, which, in turn, arises from the work that people do in society. “For the form of society,” Cassirer states:

“is not absolutely and immediately given any more than is the objective form of nature, the regularity of our own world of perception. Just as nature comes into being through a theoretical interpretation and elaboration of sensory contents, so to the structure of society is mediated and ideally conditioned reality.” (Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of Smbolic Form, 3 vol., vol. 2, Mythical Thought, 1955, pl 193)

In his three volume work, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Cassirer concentrates his focus on the nature and origins of symbolic form as it first arises in language and myth and then, over time, develops into the theoretical orientations of scientific thought. The utility of symbolic forms is not just about a “thing to be apprehended”; rather, it is about movement towards constancy, endurance and certainty, — an objective that applies to both culture and mind.

Both culture and mind began with story telling, and even today the stories that pass muster in peer reviewed academic journals continue to move this objectification process forward (sometimes forward even if not peer reviewed). But still, the objectification process, then and now, can be traced back to the capacity to imagine and communicate something significant. Cassirer adds:

…”the barriers which man sets himself in his basic feeling of the sacred are the starting point from which begins his setting of boundaries in space and from which, by a progressive process of organization and articulation the process spreads over the whole of the physical cosmos.” (The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, vol. 2, 1955, p.104)

For Cassirer, interrogation and reply, in its most elemental form, moves us into the expression of myth, ritual, art, language, and the abstract logical necessities encountered in mathematics and science.

Interestingly, even though there is no evidence that Cassirer and Piaget had much direct influence on one another, their thought converges when it comes to identifying the motivation behind the evolution of symbolic meaning. Work for Cassirer and action for Piaget are the instrumental motivators for the creation of symbolic meaning. In addition to the similarity that occurs in Cassirer and Piaget’s concepts of “work” and “action” the thought of these two men converges in another respect also. Both men believed that the subject and object poles of experience were not simply given. Rather, for Cassirer and Piaget, the subject and object poles of experience are products of experience. Cassirer came to this conclusion, at least in part, based on his studies of Pre-modern man’s mythology. Piaget, on the other hand, arrived at this conclusion as a result of his investigation into the language acquisition of young children. For Piaget, the long and active process that results in what we take to be the knowledge of our objective and subjective experience begins in the recognition and coordination of sensor motor activity. By locating the source of cognitive structure in the sensor motor activity of babies, Piaget opened up the possibility that “structure” was grounded in nature and not in mind (i.e., the first glimmer of the comprehensibility of the universe based on the structure of duality). In his investigations Piaget argued that the source of intelligibility—what is common to all sturcturalist thought–is the “affirmative ideal” –the ideal of intelligibility.

Jean Paul Sartre, a member of the academic elite in France like Piaget, came to a similar conclusion, only he discovered the source of intelligibility in the “structure of being for-itself.” In his description of consciousness, Sartre articulates the innate structuring capacity of consciousness. Identifying Sartre’s philosophy (phenomenological ontology) as structuralism is, I am aware, pushing the envelope. However, an authority on structuralism has proposed nothing less. Benoist states: “One might go as far as to say…that structuralism is analogous to Sartre’s view of consciousness—it is what it is not, and it is not what it is.” (The Structural Revolution, 1975, p.1) In Sartre’s book, Being And Nothingness, the title of chapter one is: “Immediate Structures of the For-Itself (1966, p.119). What this means is “conscious content” will form one pole of consciousness while the negation of “conscious content” will form the other pole of consciousness. Consciousness then, takes the form of being-what-is-not (the object of consciousness) –while-not-being-what-is (the negation of consciousness)—and as such, this condition preexists our awareness of objects. In other words, according to Sartre, conscious awareness turns on the pivot point of pure negation—the known exists for the knower but the knower can never be known! This result, the incompleteness of self, (i.e., the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self) brings us back to Sartre’s original definition of consciousness: “Consciousness is such that in its being its being is in question in so far as this being implies a being other than itself. The genesis of what Piaget calls the “affirmative ideal” lies at the heart of what Sartre calls consciousness. When I was reading Sartre I kept a journal. What follows was written before I knew the meaning of what I was writing (the meaning of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self). This early journal writing may make Sartre’s being-for-itself easier to understand, but even if it doesn’t it still represents the kind of mental acrobatics that begs clarification, i.e., the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self:

[According to Sartre, we have consciousness of an object only through the negation of that object, which, in turn, means that being-for-itself manifests consciousness by being its own negation. That negation separates me from myself. Nothingness then, lies at the heart of consciousness. Sartre thus describes man as “the being by which nothingness comes into the world.” Being-for-itself can never, in any final sense, be conscious of itself. It carries within itself the rift of nothingness that negates that very possibility.

Knowledge is found everywhere except in for-itself. Worldliness, spatiality, quantity, temporality, instrumentality, etc. arise in consciousness as objects for for-itself, but the for-itself can never become a conscious object—just like a knife blade cannot cut itself. Were it not for the inherent nothingness of for-itself, there would not be a consciousness of knowledge. Sartre has described the for-itself as the “pure reflection of non being,” and it is this negation of being which let’s knowledge come into the world. In this respect, the knower-known dichotomy is reduced to mere fabrication, since the knower does not exist. “For- itself nothingness” permits the consciousness of reality, but it remains just outside the reach of that reality because there is no knower to know it.

Sartre also tells us that the ever-elusive present is a further consequence of this negation. Our location in time, to put it mildly, is not very precise. I am conscious of being conscious of something other than myself, and that something is my past self. What I grasp in self-consciousness is my past self—the self that has become being-in-itself. But, being-in-itself is being, so it follows that consciousness is always conscious of being. I have a body and I have a history; these are my objects of consciousness. I am never, however, conscious of for-itself’s negation– its lack, hole, nothingness, (it makes no difference how you say it, all are equivalent)—because this negativity for Sartre is the pre-condition for consciousness to be conscious. And further, it is this non-being of consciousness, which becomes the basis of my freedom.

The act by which being-for-itself separates itself from its past (the separation of being-for-itself from being-in-itself) constitutes my freedom. This separation cuts me off from my past, but it also plops me down in the center of my freedom–a freedom that demands that I either sink or swim. Sartre says, “existence precedes essence”—there is no tie-up of my present with my past. I need not be determined by my past. I am separated from it by my own nothingness. Therefore, I am free to freely choose my future until death intervenes, and then everything stops.

Under the weight of my own freedom, I am still able to maintain a sense of personal identity. Sartre denies the ego as an inhabitant of consciousness, although he grants consciousness its own personal consciousness. This ego is given to consciousness from outside of consciousness as “the reason for consciousness.” It becomes what I would be, if I could be myself. Ego is my transcendent possibility. All truths, values, psychic objects—everything that constitutes ego—are introduced to consciousness from the world outside of consciousness, as objects for consciousness. For-itself can never be conscious of itself, but it is conscious (can be conscious) of a lack of self. This inner ego of consciousness—the non transcendent ego, for Sartre, becomes the nothingness of “being-for-itself.”

To recap: Self-consciousness, or my relationship to consciousness, brings to consciousness the pure negative of my own nothingness. Self-consciousness denies itself a coincidence with itself. It denies itself a coincidence with the objects of consciousness–the consciousness-belief dyad. It is in consciousness, however, as presence-to-itself, but it denies itself the possibility of ever becoming fully aware of itself. Self-consciousness is its own negativity. Thus, I am conscious of it as not being what is, as what I lack, as a “hole” in my consciousness, as a “hole” in my very being.]

Ironically, Sartre interpreted being-for-itself as proof of the non-existence of God. Actually, what I got out of his reasoning was that freedom (restricted by its environment) is all that we are. We are the being that is being what is not, while not being what is because we are free to be conscious of everything else. Bogged down with this baggage, though, we cannot be surprised to find the human psyche in a constant struggle with existential issues, unsatisfied desires, and questions! This burden, if indeed it is a burden, is not insignificant; without this baggage there would be no questions,—and without questions there would be no God attribute of openness/freedom; there would be no comprehensibility of the universe!

God’s Footprint–The Quasi-Physical Event Aspect Chapter Two

December 2, 2009

God’s footprint, grounded as it is in the Logos of Existence, is shaped like a piece of pie, the edges of which meet where the observer’s edge of the pie and the opposite edge of the pie (the physical event edge) come together. The pie crust separates the observer from macro level physical events. In other words, without macro level physical events human intelligence would cease to exist (no piecrust, — no pie piece, no determinism, — no human intelligence). The comprehensibility of a micro level event is different from the comprehensibility of a macro level event because, in the same universe, the physical duality that constitutes micro level comprehensibility is different from the physical duality that constitutes macro level comprehensibility. Events on the macro level of the universe are more deterministic than events at the micro level of the universe because the entire universe is comprehensible by people who can comprehend—you, me, and the scientist. In quantum mechanics the loss of space time localization coupled with the realities of wave/particle phenomena have forced some physicists to abandon the concept of a deterministic universe. However, when viewed from the perspective of God’s footprint, one does not give up anything. Just like in the physics of relativity where yardstick lengths and rates of ticking clocks are tied to the observer’s frame of reference, so to, in God’s footprint, the comprehensibility of universe is tied to the frame of reference of different dualities— e.g., ~~b (wave/particle duality), ~bb (accommodation/assimilation of living creatures duality), and, b~b~bb (the physical event/human intelligence duality).

As I was saying in the beginning chapter of God’s Footprint, the physical event/quantum side of the pie piece is embedded in the aesthetic continuum, — or the feeling/sensing side of experience as opposed to the cerebral experience where we encounter the “ideal meanings” that get used in the interpretation of the phenomena that we ascribe to nature according to law. How this translates into the physical event/quantum side of the pie piece is contained in the ongoing story of what can loosely be called “the strange behavior of quantum phenomena.” In order to get a better idea of what is entailed in the quantum event, I’ll let another dialogue (written a while back) speak to this issue. In this half-imagined conversation, three strangers meet at a California state campground. In this conversation, Don, the skeptical university student, Jade, the newly graduated science teacher, and me, the vagabond bicycler, are discussing Fritz Capra’s book, Tao of Physics.

“What are you guys talking about anyway,” said Don, “Catch up to what? How can a scientist catch up to science?”
“Catch up to the universe,” I said. “Science–the scientist– has to catch up to what’s happening in the universe. There’s no going back to Kansas anymore. That’s what Capra was telling us in his book. We just don’t live in a world divided up into the squeaky clean categories of mass and energy anymore, not to mention cause and effect.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Don. “It sounds like you guys, Capra included, have been smoking too much of that hookah weed stuff.”
“Not really,” Jade replied, “Capra is a well respected physicist who just happens to be on the cutting edge of new age thinking. He really knows what he’s talking about.”

Jade’s right,” I said, “The new physics has turned waves into particles and particles into waves. Hell, we don’t even know for sure if the world exists separate from the way we look at it. According to Capra, at the quantum level, the universe looks and behaves differently from the way we typically perceive it. At the level of the very small, we loose track of independently existing things. Physical phenomena appears, at that level, to show signs of being interconnected, which means that we are interconnected with everything else, which means that the sages of the East were right all along. Ultimately, we are all part of some mystical ‘Oneness,’ but we just don’t know it. In reality, we’re just one big happy family.”

“Quantum physics says all that,” replied Don, “I don’t mean to be a party pooper fellows, but didn’t anybody ever tell you that the splitting up of that “small stuff” is what resulted in the ‘now you see ‘em, now you don’t’ cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I mean the family that bombs together doesn’t necessarily stay together, let alone live in bliss!”
“Well, yeah,” Jade replied, “I guess it doesn’t hurt to keep a perspective on things. I think what is being said here is that the world that gave us a better bomb, on a fundamental level, just doesn’t exist anymore. It exists locally, yeah, but even so, we still can’t go back to Kansas. Everything has changed.”
“Like what exactly,” replied Don.

“Like we can’t think of the universe as just a collection of objects anymore,” Jade responded. “Rather, it’s more like a complicated web of relations. Some physicists even go as far as to say that it is a complicated web of relations between the various parts of a unified whole. And that is what Dave meant when he said that Eastern mystics were there first. In fact, Capra is saying the same thing. According to him, even the language used by physicists and the language used by mystics is starting to sound the same. Nagarjuna, a second century Buddhist, preached that things were nothing in themselves; instead, they derived their being from a mutual dependence with other things. A particle physicist might use those very same words to describe the results of a cloud chamber experiment that records the trajectories of colliding particles. Under certain conditions, an elementary particle is no more than a set of relationships that reach outward to other things. The world, on that level, is no more than a complicated tissue of events that determines the texture of the whole.”

“Big deal,” snapped Don. “So what the hell is all that supposed to mean? Physicists still do physics don’t they? They still make weapons that kill don’t they, weapons that when sold produce mega bucks for the seller. Who cares where destruction comes from; it’s still destruction, right!”

“Wait a minute.” I interrupted. “We need to start over, I know what you’re getting at Don, and I totally agree. And I know Jade does too. That’s why I said that it takes time, lots of it, for the implications of new concepts to be fully digested. Maybe a hundred years for all I know, but digested they will be, and when it happens the world will be better off. That’s all I’m trying to say. What’s happening in physics today is a far cry from what happened in the past, and its telling us new and exciting things about the universe, and maybe even about ourselves! This new vision does not exclude, it includes, and therein lies the hope. When humanity is brought into the mix with everything else, a whole new ballgame arises. The center of balance shifts, and overtime, possibilities open, even if in the short run, the rules remain the same. If you ask me, humanity will be in for immense benefits if this new vision catches on. Think about it. What’s happening in science today is the rediscovery of our lost identity, and that can’t be all bad.”

“How many beers are left?” said Don.
“What?”
“If we’re gunna start over,” Don replied, “and if you’re gunna get metaphysical on me, I need to know just how patient I want to be. So how many beers patient will I be?”
“Well,” said Jade, after checking the twelve pack, and handing everyone another beer, “I’d say about two or three, depending of course on how patient you want to be!”
“That sounds about right,” Don said. “Educate me. I’m ready now.”
“Jade, you’re the science teacher. You start,” I said.
“You don’t need me,” Jade shot back, “you need Neil’s Bohr or Warner Heisenberg.”
“That sounds good,” I said. “Start with those guys. Think of it as practice. After all, in the classroom you won’t have such a patient audience. We won’t heckle. Go for it.”

“All right already, enough,” Jade said. “As best I can remember, it all started with Max Planck’s black body radiation experiments at the turn of the century. He discovered that radiation or light propagates in discrete packets. Those packets are called the quantum of action. The energy in a quantum of action varies, but its discreteness doesn’t. That discreteness is known as Planck’s constant. Particles in classical physics evolve in a continuous manner, and in three dimensions of space, but in atomic physics that just doesn’t seem to be the case. With the discovery of the quantum of action, there was a merging of the dynamic state of the elements under study with their localization. The particles’ independence dissolved, as it became impossible to simultaneously determine position and momentum, an impossibility for which the uncertainty relations of Heisenberg became the precise expression. After the uncertainty principle, Cartesian space and time co-ordinates ceased to be applicable, and physicists were forced into learning new rules for a new game. In fact, all the conjugate variables of analytical mechanics–energy, time, momentum, position, had to be dealt with as approximations; they had to be dealt with in terms of statistical analysis. Ultimately, with the loss of space and time localization, physicists were forced to abandon their concept of a deterministic physical universe.”

“Oh yeah, and what about Einstein,” Don said. “Did he abandon the concept of determinism? What happened to his space and time?”
“Well, not exactly,” Jade replied. “His space and time are still there, only it’s not just his space-time any longer, it’s everybody’s.”
“I’ve always wanted to know about relativity. Fill me in why don’t you.” Don said.

“I’d really like to except it’s all a little fuzzy for me, too,” replied Jade. “I really don’t understand much about it. That’s a whole different physics, one that doesn’t fit in well with quantum mechanics. That was the problem that haunted Einstein his entire life. He never stopped trying to solve it. And if he couldn’t do it, don’t expect help from me. You’re right, though; Einstein never did give up his belief in a deterministic universe. In his physics, determinism was preserved, while everything else fell apart.”
“So tell me about it,” Don said. “If a ball is still a ball and we can calculate its velocity and position in Einstein’s universe, then what do you mean ‘everything fell apart?’”

“Basically,” replied Jade, “relativity doesn’t come into significant play until you’re working with velocities at close to the speed of light. When those speeds are approached, compared to say, the speed of a bullet, space and time measurements become radically different when measured relative to each other. In Einstein’s Special Theory Of Relativity the space and time measurements of the system under study are tied to the frame of reference of the observer. A yardstick and a clock traveling at close to the speed of light will measure thirty-six inches and identify twelve o’clock to an observer in that reference frame, but when the same yardstick and clock are measured against other frames of reference, say like here on earth, earth clocks will run slow and yardsticks will measure less than thirty-six inches. Sir Isaac Newton’s absolute space and time collapsed under the weight of Einstein.”

“Oh yeah, now I understand,” replied Don. “Bullets are small compared to the sun, so their length is measured with a short yardstick while sun spots are large compared to bullets, so they’re measured with long yardsticks, right!”
“That’s not exactly what I said, Don. Measuring rods traveling at close to the speed of light,” said Jade, “when compared to measuring rods here on earth measure short, and the same goes for clocks, they run slow. And, vice versa, when earth clocks are compared to clocks traveling at close to the speed of light, then those clocks run slow. I don’t know why. I’m not an Einstein. I guess it has something to do with the constancy of the velocity of light, but other than that it’s a mystery to me, just like it must be a mystery to you. Look, I can see we’re not getting anywhere here, especially since I’ve already admitted I don’t know much about Einstein’s theories. Let’s just say that by using Einstein’s equations, a person can figure out how to measure both the length and speed of an earth bullet and the length and speed of a bullet traveling at close to the speed of light and then communicate that knowledge to an alpha centurion—provided that the alien understands the equations. Once again, I don’t now how that can be done, but I do know it has something to do with Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, which further develops the concept of the space-time interval. A space-time interval, when measured relative to different reference frames, does not vary, but don’t ask me to explain that because I can’t.”

“Fair enough,” Don replied. “Don’t explain.”
“Now that I think of it, though,” said Jade, “I need to put just a little perspective into what I just said.”
“Do you really?” said Don.
“Have another drink, Don,” Jade replied.
“Determining the change of change in different reference systems,” Jade continued, “is no small accomplishment, but there is something even more amazing going on here. Einstein’s equations let us in on an astounding universe, a universe absolutely different from the one that Euclid mapped out for us a couple millenniums ago. The universe discovered by Einstein even astounded Einstein, but it wasn’t the oddness of it all that astounded him, it was the simple fact that it could be discovered in the first place! He said, ‘The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.’ If you ask me, that statement says it all.”

“If that’s true,” Don interrupted, “then Einstein must have died a pretty frustrated man because based on what you’re telling me here, nobody is even close to comprehending a universe that is free of contradictory laws. What’s comprehensible about that?”

“We don’t know everything, Don,” Jade replied, “but we do know a hell of a lot more than we used to. We are beginning to understand ‘who and what we are’ in a whole different light. It’s true that our knowledge is limited by statistical analysis at the quantum level, but it works, and it works well. That, according to Bohr and Heisenberg, was pretty important all by itself. According to the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, the model attributed to Bohr and Heisenberg, it doesn’t matter what’s going on at the quantum level, what matters is that in all possible experimental situations we can, within certain limits, predict the outcomes. Understanding reality, according to the Copenhagen Interpretation, lies beyond the capabilities of rational thought. The laws governing individual events are, at the quantum level, completely discarded. Only mathematical laws governing aggregations apply. According to quantum mechanics, it is not possible, even in principle, to know enough about the present to make a complete prediction about the future. Even with the best possible measuring devices, it is still not possible.”

“You talk as if Bohr and Heisenberg are gods,” said Don. “To me they’re just two more scientists, two among many, doing their job! I’m sure there are different opinions out there. Einstein certainly didn’t agree. One day another Einstein will come along and see through it all, and on that day the Copenhagen Interpretation, or whatever you call it, will be no more. What are you suggesting anyway, that all progress stops because you want it to? I don’t think so, and I’m glad.”

“You could be right,” Jade responded, “but overcoming all the history that’s still building in quantum mechanics is a daunting task for anyone. Einstein wasn’t the only physicist who disliked the theory. Many have tried to dislodge the Copenhagen interpretation. In every instance, however, the physical world has intervened and said, ‘Your questions are meaningless.’ No physicist likes being told that. When a wave behaves like a particle and a particle behaves like a wave, the concepts that used to define the physical world no longer apply. Nature now requires a marriage of ideas that in the past were designed to live apart. Neil’s Bohr just got tired of fighting the inevitable. That’s when he started seeing things in a complimentary light.”

“Complimentary what?” said Don.
“That was Bohr’s big contribution to quantum mechanics,” replied Jade. “He basically said that there are no waves out there. There are no particles running around, either. That strange animal that interacts with the experiments, the quantum of action, is all there is. Because Bohr believed that, he introduced the idea of complementarity. He considered the particle picture and the wave picture as two complementary descriptions of the same reality, each description being only partly correct and having a limited range of application. For Bohr, the entity ‘electron,’–just like the other elementary entities of physics—had two irreconcilable aspects, which must be invoked in order to explain, in turn, the properties of the entity. To give a full description of atomic reality, each picture is needed, and both descriptions are to be applied within the limitations given by the uncertainty principle. In fact, when the queen of England knighted Bohr for his work in physics, he was forced to pick a family coat of arms, and so he picked the Chinese symbol of Tai-chi. Because he believed that reality had to be visualized in both its complimentary and contradictory aspects, but not at the same time, he felt that, at least at the level of the quantum of action, the basic idea of Eastern mysticism’s yin/yang reality had been confirmed.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right,” I said, “I remember reading somewhere, maybe in Capra, that in the Buddhist relationship between form and emptiness, cooperation exists. That relationship cannot be conceived as a state of mutually exclusive opposites because it represents two aspects of the same reality. From one perspective it appears to be contradictory, but from another perspective it becomes the unifying aspect of that very same reality. Just like at the quantum level, where an event, in order to be wholly an event, exhibits both contradictory and complimentary aspects, so too in Buddhism, the void and the forms that are created from it, exist in a dynamic unity. But, there’s something that still bothers me. What about that observer-generated reality stuff that Capra talked about in his book? How does that fit in with the quantum of action? What’s that all about, anyway?”

“That’s just another aspect of how phenomena manifests at the quantum level,” responded Jade. “The classical notions of space, time, causality–objective reality, break down at the quantum level. Remember there are no waves propagating. According to most physicists, the wave function is not quite a thing, it is more like an idea that occupies a strange middle ground between idea and reality, where all things are possible but none are actual. An electron is not a particle either, it is more like a process, always forming, always dissolving. It can’t be detected until it interacts with a measuring device and even if it does interact we don’t know if it interacts with the device per se, or if it interacts with the last link in the chain of events that define the experiment—the consciousness of the human observer. The physicist, Erwin Schrödinger, devised a thought experiment to illustrate that point.

“You put a cat in a box with some poison gas. When the gas is released, the cat dies. The release of the gas is triggered by radiation decay. The decay is totally arbitrary. In classical physics, the cat dies at the time of the decay, but in quantum mechanics the cat dies when the observation is made, when the last link in the chain of events that defines the experiment occurs. At the time of observation when the box is opened the wave function collapses and possibility becomes actuality. Of course, common sense tells us that can’t be true, but that’s precisely the point, common sense breaks down at the quantum level, things are ‘different’ at that level. So the question remains, ‘Is it, or when is it, necessary to include human consciousness in our descriptions of the world?’ Or, put another way, ‘what role does measurement play in an experiment?’ Does it provide a description of the world under study or does it actually create that world?’ Quantum Mechanics has a hard time answering questions like that.”

“Maybe one day that situation will be better understood,” I said. “But until that day comes, talk about ‘objectivity’ is probably best left to the Buddhists. They don’t have a problem with ‘independent reality’ because there isn’t any; for them, everything is interdependent. My subjective world and the objective world are, for an enlightened Buddhist, just words referring to mutually conditioned relations woven into one fabric; subject and object are not just inseparable, they are indistinguishable.”

“Funny you should point that out,” responded Jade, “I mean, that words interfere with reality, because many physicists believe the same thing. Many physicists believe that the wave function is not an accurate representation of what’s really going on ‘out there.’ Rather, they believe the wave function is an abstract creation whose manipulation somehow yields the probabilities of real events that happen in space and time. But that’s only part of the story, and perhaps a small part, too. In fact, the mathematician von Neumann, the same guy who developed a mathematical proof rejecting the notion of hidden variables in quantum mechanics, believed the problems surrounding quantum phenomena had nothing to do with nature, but, rather, they had everything to do with language. We impose, with our symbolic thought processes, the categories of ‘either-or.’ Language does not allow a mixture of A and not A. The boundaries of discourse, rather, are set by discriminating A from not A. Outside that boundary nonsense rules; where ‘separate parts’ are not applicable, language cannot go. Classical physics discriminates between A and not A, therefore, moving particles and waves can be analyzed. A pictorial description of nature is never a problem there. At the atomic level, however, it is not possible to visualize or describe waves because they are not there—they are purely mathematical constructs. Where things are not things, quantifiers like inside, outside, before, after, between, or connected are not applicable. Where language and logic do not apply, nothing more can be said.”

“It seems that physicists,” I replied, “at the quantum level at least, find the same road block that the Eastern sages discovered long ago; at that point, the language of neti neti, the language of not this not that–is all that’s left. At that level all investigations end, and we are left with mere words that say nothing.”

“Well, I wouldn’t put it quite so negatively,” Jade responded, “after all, at that level, something else comes into play; that is, if you are a sage—isn’t that where infinite wisdom and infinite creativity begins?”

“Okay, then maybe we’ve come full circle,” I said. “We’re back to the endless transformation of energy that the yin, yang symbol represents.”
“For sure, Neil’s Bohr would agree with that,” Jade replied, “but I think a little poetry is more appropriate here. After all, who better to entrust a description of the indescribable then the poet! If my memory holds, in some Upanishad it says, ‘He on whom the sky, the earth, and the atmosphere are woven, and the wind, together with all life-breaths, Him alone know as the one Soul.’”

“Yo! Fellows,” Don interjected, “We’re out of beer. No more beer, no more poetry, pleeease. Thanks for the beer, though. Don’t take offense, but somehow listening to you guys made me feel like I was waiting for Godet. If you ask me, it ain’t going to happen. Goodnight, see you in the morning!”