Metaphor, Utility and Limitation

Our existence is like a wave. Simile or metaphor? Our existence is a wave. Statement or illustrative analogy?


Whatever… associative thinking is useful in building understanding. It can lead to a radical shift in perspective. Take the statement  “our existence is like a wave”. We typically ground our sense of self in the material. And yet.. the cells in our bodies are constantly changing. There are very few molecules in you now which were in your body at birth. You, we, are not material. What then? Certainly existence seems to me to be validated in relation to other. Without – other – there is no existence. Indeed existence as relativity (see AN Whitehead) seems logical to me. In that case – is there not a wave of influence that we have on other and it has on us? And does that wave of influence (on our children, our friends etc) not continue after our material body seizes up and degrades? In fact, isn’t the influence and therefore real existence of Michelangelo more apparent now than when he was “alive”?

Existence is like a wave. Metaphor has utility. But, limitations too.


There are many ways that existence is not wavelike, but granular. Influence stems from individual tiny acts, which stem from individual thoughts.


Anyway, there you have it. Metaphor appears, to me anyway, to have immense utility. However we need to be ready to abandon a particular metaphor or association by recognising when its limits have been reached. Perhaps this is immediately when it has achieved the objective of fracturing and shift our set thought patterns?

Atheism’s empty tomb

Check out this week’s Spectator. Atheism’s empty tomb. “new atheists are now hitting the intellectual buffers. The problem that confronts them is as stark as it is simple: our morality has religious roots…A.C Grayling.. reveals a frankly dishonest account of intellectual history.. their unattractive polemics have surely helped to push some semi-Christians off the fence, onto the faithful side – including A.N. Wilson and Diarmaid MacCulloch”.

.. and me. much, perhaps most, new atheism is dishonest and manipulative. I’m particularly struck by Dawkins’ misrepresentation of evolutionary science. (Read Pierre Teilhard de Chardin).  I have often wondered what a professional psychoanalyst would make of the motivation of the atheist evangelists.  (Something, perhaps to do with killing your father?)..



On this day, just before 3pm, as the sky and outlook is darkest. Surely we humans are incapable of redemption without disaster. We are destroying this, our earth. Russians and the West face off to war yet again. Google is moving toward making our humanity an adjunct of its electronic controlled universe. Our children relate with each other through screens rather than face to face. Syrians act with a barbarism not seen since Hitler to their citizens. 1/3 of the world’s population are starving, 1/3 have far too much (me included). Materialism thrives – the new religion – sedating each of us into an animal rather than spiritual state.  Which of us has faith that alone we humans will control our exploding population, or enable just societies where all have respect and place?


Thank goodness for Christ’s passion, hope and the Easter redemption which is coming.




Teilhard de Chardin on the Redemption Suffering of the Passion

Teilhard de Chardin


The following was written based upon his experience witnessing the carnage of trench warfare in World War I:

What a vast ocean of human suffering spreads over the entire earth at every moment! Of what is this mass formed? Of blackness, gaps, and rejections. No, let me repeat, of potential energy. In suffering, the ascending force of the world is concealed in a very intense form. The whole question is how to liberate it and give it a consciousness of its significance and potentialities.

The world would leap high toward God if all the sick together were to turn their pain into a common desire that the kingdom of God should come to rapid fruition through the conquest and organization of the earth. All the sufferers of the earth joining their sufferings so that the world’s pain might become a great and unique act of consciousness, elevation, and union. Would…

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Consciousness, the rose and the fire


All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one

TS Eliot

Any static theory of consciousness feels incomplete. Reality is much closer to a process than a material. Whitehead’s “Process and Reality”, is impenetrable, but so much is clear. Consciousness, our awareness of self and the universe, is transitory, fleeting for most of us. This is to be expected if reality is the intersection of process and the material. It takes intense meditation and study to be able to hold oneself within the stream of the process that is reality as it pours through us. (I am told).

To quote Max Tegmark (New Scientist “Solid, Liquid, Consciousness”) “consciousness is a process that can occur in certain physical systems”. Whilst he invents new language (consciousness is for instance renamed as perceptronium) – it’s an old truth restated. As old, or older than zen. The mathematics are apparently called “Integrated Information Theory” or IIT for short. The system conditions necessary are interesting involving a fluctuation dynamic balance between various factors – system integration and internal separation for instance.

Reality may in fact be the same thing as consciousness (since observation crystallises out particular reality from the infinity of potential). In any case both are a process within a material setting. Matter doesn’t exist without the process of observation and the process can’t flow unless it is materialised. Just as gravitons need material to interact with to create weight. Matter matters – like the zip travelling through time, along the zipper. In this metaphor, what is reality? The changing space that the opening zipper reveals?

And what of the observer phenomenon? After 100 years of quantum investigation there is still no explanation of who or what the “observer” is. In the quantum world at least the observer certainly affects the observed – crystallising out one particular reality from the infinity possibilities that exist. Tegmark states “recent papers have argued that the observer is the key to understanding other fundamental physics mysteries, such as why our universe appears so orderly, why time seems to have a preferred forward direction, and even why time appears to flow at all”.

But is this not what we, each of us are? Fundamentally we observe. For me at least, the words observer and soul are interchangeable – as are the words observation and witness. As Teilhard de Chardin puts it – together we are the phenomenon of man and through us “the universe becomes aware of itself for the first time”. And Teilhard de Chardin also makes the powerful case that consciousness must have been a property of matter from the outset (his inner and outer), and that evolution has led along the path to emergent self-awareness and will eventually lead to (re)unification with God’s love at the Omega Point – when individual units of consciousness, our separate selves – unify and merge.

It seems to me that the separate strands of enquiry – scientific, spiritual and philosophical – are converging or possibly a better description is co-emerging; and toward a knowledge of the presence of God’s love. A rose is a rose by whatever name – love, connection, truth, God.

The Priest and the Physicist – emergent convergence

This week’s issue of the New Scientist features an article by Max Tegmark – “Solid, Liquid, Gas, You” – which is an exposition of his article (see previous post) in Cornell University Press. Essentially it posits consciousness as a different state of matter, in the same way that solid/liquid/gas are different phases. There appears to be some evidence for this. The argument is that as matter complexifies in certain circumstances consciousness arises as an “emergent property” (see God as an emergent property).

This is a mechanical version of Teilhard de Chardin’s hypothesis – that consciousness has always been within matter and inherent in it, and that evolution is the story of phase shifts toward an awareness or consciousness of the glory and love of God. Put another way – what would you call the system where in an emergent reality the whole universe were self-aware, conscious.

What Tegmark calls “Perceptronium”, de Chardin would call the love that is God.