Let us become conscious of infinity

Humanity is only half conscious, because conscious only of finity. Collectively we are unconscious. Surely, we are in the process of birth into consciousness, together, of infinity.

Now.  Humanity is conscious of itself, himself, herself. Self-conscious. Even that is a marvel,  the “phenomenon” which distinguishes our species.

But, within that -we are generally conscious only of finity. (Death is certain, our ego will cease). Ego does NOT want to be conscious of infinity. (Have you ever experienced the terror of existential angst?)

Yet, in glimpses – “through a glass darkly” – I (and thus surely many of us) have been conscious of infinity as pure love. “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” according to Eliot. I wish for each and all of us that we die to sorrow and are born to joy. Infinity as the “word existing beyond time” as the Book of Common Prayer has it, or the release from the cycle of birth and death as Buddhists and Hindus express it.

Now, being conscious only of finity we are still trapped in the cycle of death and birth. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin describes an approaching Omega Point as a supreme consciousness. Then, being conscious of infinity, we will have arrived. Together.

Here is an extract from the Wikipedia entry on “The Phenomenon of Man” by Teilhard de Chardin. The book is wonderful – floridly French and yet scientifically profound. If you have time it really repays to consider it together with Harari’s “Homo Deus”. We should welcome Artificial Intelligence but struggle to keep learning and knowledge in our common, societal hands….

“Teilhard views evolution as a process that leads to increasing complexity. From the cell to the thinking animal, a process of psychical concentration leads to greater consciousness. The emergence of Homo sapiens marks the beginning of a new age, as the power acquired by consciousness to turn in upon itself raises mankind to a new sphere. Borrowing Huxley’s expression, Teilhard describes humankind as evolution becoming conscious of itself.
In Teilhard’s conception of the evolution of the species, a collective identity begins to develop as trade and the transmission of ideas increases Knowledge accumulates and is transmitted in increasing levels of depth and complexity. This leads to a further augmentation of consciousness and the emergence of a thinking layer that envelops the earth.Teilhard calls the new membrane the “noosphere” (from the Greek “nous”, meaning mind), a term first coined by Vladimir Vernadsky. The noosphere is the collective consciousness of humanity, the networks of thought and emotion in which all are immersed.
The development of science and technology causes an expansion of the human sphere of influence, allowing a person to be simultaneously present in every corner of the world. Teilhard argues that humanity has thus become cosmopolitan, stretching a single organized membrane over the Earth. Teilhard describes the process by which this happens as a “gigantic psychobiological operation, a sort of mega-synthesis, the “super-arrangement” to which all the thinking elements of the earth find themselves today individually and collectively subject”. The rapid expansion of the noosphere requires a new domain of psychical expansion, which “is staring us in the face if we would only raise our heads to look at it”.
In Teilhard’s view, evolution will culminate in the Omega Point, a sort of supreme consciousness. Layers of consciousness will converge in Omega, fusing and consuming them in itself. The concentration of a conscious universe will reassemble in itself all consciousnesses as well as all that we are conscious of. Teilhard emphasizes that each individual facet of consciousness will remain conscious of itself at the end of the process.”

Neither zero nor infinity have boundary

As we enter the world we are infinite. We have no boundary. We are zero. At three months, or so, we begin to distinguish that there is an “other” – the breast as part object. By 6 months old the boundary between us and the other (usually mother) is clear; and often frightening. Warmth, food, security and affection can be withdrawn as well as present. Our world is strait, though we do not know it. As we age and explore we push the boundary back; and back. If we are fortunate, and conquer our fear, we realise once more that there is no boundary. We are existence and all of existence is us. Death is an illusion. When we leave the world we can then fade to white and lose the loneliness and fear that haunts life, to experience all that is directly once more.

Strong Brown God

Strong brown God is the river

Reiver of sods and odds thrown

Our brownian drownian motion a-quiver

Deep pooling in currents its own

 

Still life flowering river

Our silver shiver of life

A gurgling-guddling quick’ning sliver

Wrangling-tangle of strife

 

All we be is water-taught

Aught but water our withal

A tumbling jumbling ripple of thought

Pride before a waterfall

 

Day the rose-garden lifetime

Wild thyme and strawberry day

And infinitely nightly tight-coiled our lifeline

Running through death and decay

 

Well the still point of the world

Whirled without end to be well

For waving and curling dimensions unfurled

Love and its ocean-tide swell

 

“Success comes in cans; failure in can’ts”

.. great quote from Wilfred Bion. Our whole purpose is to make reality out of infinite potential.  I’m struck by similarity underlying Bion’s model of reality-creation and that of Alfred North Whitehead’s view of a “prehensile” crystallisation of reality in the present moment out of infinite potential.

“The art of being yourself at your best is the art of unfolding your personality into the person you want to be.” Wilfred Bion

“We cannot think first and act afterwards. From the moment of birth we are immersed in action and can only guide it by taking thought.” Alfred North Whitehead

 

Bion has this concept of our thinking as a candle actively penetrating the dark in a quest to mate with and discover the ideas or truths already there waiting.  If I understand aright Bion’s model of how this arises:

– there is a welter of “unthought” images, emotions and other stuff floating around – his Beta elements.

– if we are able to tolerate the pain of the unknown – then we begin to assemble these into the building blocks of thoughts – his Alpha elements. (Mostly we are able to do that because we’ve had a “good enough” mother and a holding environment as a baby).

– these alpha element thoughts then abstract into – pre-concepts which are “looking for” concepts to “mate with” to allow understanding of ideas. Importantly the ideas already exist and our mind and brain is a machinery that has evolved to allow us to think them.

Compare this with Whitehead’s view of the implications for reality of  quantum mechanics (see Process and Reality). The present moment – is like a zipper – moving from a past event into a future that the observer crystallises by selecting from the infinite potential. This then, the process by which reality is created. He calls the present moment prehensile, because there is an active searching or selecting of the future.

This concept (If my understanding is correct – the book is almost impenetrable) surely has resonance with Bion’s view. There is at the heart of both schemas a vital present force which is actively seeking a “mating” with a future that it is involved in helping create or crystallise.

Can we call this free will? Are we witnesses here and eternally now of all of creation?

“The foundation of reverence is this perception, that the present holds within itself the complete sum of existence, backwards and forwards, that whole amplitude of time, which is eternity.” Alfred North Whitehead