As we enter the world we are infinite. We have no boundary. We are also 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 Warmth, food, security and affection can be withdrawn as well as present.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.
Profuse connection and abundant writhing change. The two things we truly know.
There is a collection of molecules called “I”. They change completely every three years or so, but the “I” continues. Isn’t there a clue here? There will come a moment when a particular set of atoms that is known as “me” finally disperses amongst billions of other creatures. Bound by covalent bonds to the molecules that are in new generations of you and me and billion of others. New realities emerging. Physically we are a constantly exchanging bubbling molecular soup. We’re not separate at all – either from each other or the rest of the physical world.
Metamorphosis. Water becoming ice. Caterpillars pupating, emerging into butterflies. We journey together into wondrous new states. Society has a reality separate from the individuals that it is made from. And we as individuals in turn have emerged as something new, from the molecules that constitute us now. I am a co-evolving emergence from one state to quite another.
Yet; mostly we think of the material world as static and secure. How strange. We manage that by focussing on short time segments. Thus we ignore the riverine flow of rocks, the evolution from raw plasma to chemicals to biology to ideas; and we are also blind to “now”, the window to eternity.
Why? Fear, I suspect, is to blame. The terror, the existential angst that is located in our ego – which of course is definitely an ephemera. This is just a trick of light. Look past the surface of the pool with its (reversed) image where we see our “self” reflected. There, within the water, is the flow of life which is our home. We let our egos rule over us, when – just here, just now (always here, now), in the flow of the universe is our real deathless self. As Rupert Brookes puts it “.. a pulse in the eternal mind, no less”. Like Narcissus, we are transfixed by inner absorption rather than an awareness of all-that-is.
Humanity has been at the leading edge of the evolution of consciousness. But consciousness is a wave, a process. Yes we are (now) at the crest of that wave, but we are not, some fixed centre of existence. We are not the wave – but something different and far bigger – we are the ocean. Together, we carry all the tides and tsunamis. Constantly flowing and emerging into new realities.
Profuse connection and abundant writhing change. The two things we truly know.
Where to? Where from? Why? God only knows.
Metamorphosis. Water becomes ice, caterpillars pupate, emerging into butterflies. We journey together in a co-evolving emergence from one state to quite another. Ancient creatures become rock, or oil or shale gas. All it takes is time – a healer, but also a wheeler-dealer. Yet; mostly we think of the material world as static and secure. How strange. We manage that by focussing on shorter and smaller time segments. Thus we can ignore the riverine flow of rocks, the evolution from raw plasma to chemicals to biology to ideas. Why? Fear, I suspect, is to blame. The terror, the existential angst that is located in our ego – which of course is definitely going down with these particular bodies that we temporarily inhabit. Why do we let our ego rule over us, when – just here, just now, in the reflection of the pool of the universe is our real deathless self. Rupert Brookes “.. and think this heart, all evil shed away – a pulse in the eternal mind, no less” There is a collection of molecules called “I”. They change completely every three years or so, but the “I” continues. Isn’t there a clue here? There will come a moment when a particular set of atoms finally disperses amongst billions of creatures. When they are bound by covalent bonds to the molecules that are in you as you become a billion others. Physically we are a constantly exchanging bubbling molecular soup. We’re not separate at all – either from each other or the rest of the physical world. That’s not how we see it though. We are ego-centric. Each of us the pivot around which existence arcs. Like Narcissus, transfixed by inner absorption. But our self-image is just a trick of the light. Look past the surface of the pool with its (reversed) image that we see reflected. There, within the water, is the flow of life which is our home. Humanity has been at the leading edge of the evolution of consciousness. And so we think we are “it”, “all that is”. But consciousness is a wave, a process. Yes we are (now) at the crest of the wave that is consciousness, but we are not, some fixed centre of existence. Not the wave – something much bigger – we are the ocean. Together, we carry all the tides and tsunamis. Constantly flowing and emerging into new realities. Profuse connection and abundant writhing change. The two things we truly know. Where to? Where from? Why? God only knows.
“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 Elliot
I think that Elliot was pointing to a fundamental symmetry between the material (fire) and spiritual (rose) world. We have to think outside physics to find the answer to the apparent material asymmetry introduced by the dimension of time.
Time is the only thing that we know that is not symmetrical. We can travel backward and forward through space, but only forward in time. This flows from the second law of thermodynamics, where disorder (entropy, chaos), always increases. That in turn flows from the initial conditions of the Universe, which was highly organised.
There must, I believe, actually be a symmetrical partner to time. If you like – something that is running backward, creating order from disorder, which matches and balances the movement toward chaos that we observe in the material Universe.
Everything in the world is dual. Without boundary we could not know existence. Boundary defines by breaking one into two. Forces balance, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. When singular differentiates into dual (when one becomes two) it creates symmetry. Everything is symmetrical, and in a state either of differentiation or integration, separation or unification. This appears to me to be a fundamental truth – equally so in psychology (see all the writings of Carl Jung) and physics. Except for time. Time is different. It’s asymmetrical. It flows only forward. There is an arrow of time.
Why is that? After all – ever since Einstein’s special and general relativity was proved, we know that time is only the fourth dimension of space-time. We should in theory be able to travel forward and back in time, just as we can in space. But we can’t and don’t. We are all travelling forward at the speed of light through space-time. (Which is why there is time-dilation. If we travel rapidly through space, we use up some of the time component of that speed and therefore we travel more slowly through time). Since we’re in motion in space-time and with a direction – forward– we have momentum. Our momentum in time is simply mass multiplied by the speed of light. mc (massxspeed of light). We also know that E=mc2 (energy is mass multiplied by the square of the speed of light). That means that “we can consider energy to be momentum in the time direction” (Andrew Thomas). In turn that implies that it is the existence of time (and a time direction) that creates energy – and therefore mass and the material world.
Haven’t we heard this all before, but in a different language – long before the discoveries of physics. “Let there be light” – spoken by “God, the word existing beyond time” . Doesn’t this translate into – let there be a universal speed of light (168,000 miles/second) and time. From this energy and mass flows, and therefore the material Universe.
I believe that the flow of time in the material world – creating disorder from order, is matched by a flow in the spiritual world, where order is being created from disorder. I also believe that this creation of order can be observed in the evolution of consciousness. Ideas are not material. I believe, with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, that at some point (his Omega point) we will evolve to a Universal consciousness of God. I believe that God, existing beyond time, is made manifest in this material Universe by Christ; and that manifestation is perfect Love.
That, I believe, is the answer to the apparent time asymmetry. Spirit is the symmetrical partner of Energy (=matter). This makes sense for me of that great Christian poet – TS Elliot’s final lines from The Four Quartets. The fire is the material world (energy) and the rose the spiritual (love) and it is in their integration through the loving unifying sacrifice of Christ through (the crowned knot of fire), that all manner of things shall be well.
Or perhaps more simply – as Derek Walcott puts it:
“Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than the love that took its symmetry for granted when it was whole”.
Michelangelo’s unfinished statues “the prisoners” show human form partly finished and emerging from the original blocks of stone. Apparantly they are unfinished, though what a metaphor… the human form was always there within the raw block of stone. Materialists would see the rock and tell us there was nothing more. But in the imagination of a Michelangelo the form was within. Does that make his David any less real than the stone from which it was carved and from which it emerged?
The philosophic tradition from Descartes through Spinoza and Leibniz to Alfred North Whitehead describes the duality of all – material and spirit as different aspects of reality. (To be honest I’m wrestling to understand Whitehead so any help here – a synopsis maybe – would be very welcome).
This is as described by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in his “Phenomenon of Man”. The evolution of material and consciousness hand in hand from the big bang, physical evolution, chemical evolution, biological evolution through to ideas evolution (the noosphere, and yes Dawkins he was first and you simply clothe his ideas in the poverty of the “meme”).
And scientific discovery is pointing increasingly to this understanding of existence. Of course materialists have possession of the current paradigm and are managing to suppress these discoveries from the popular media. But paradigms shift, and they do so to reveal a new truth. When that happens will we truly emerge into a common consciousness? Is the emergence of Jung’s collective unconscious to the light of shared understanding what de Chardin means by the “Omega Point”?
Carl Jung gave us spirit as balance to material, the collective unconscious and synchronicity.
Niels Bohr gave us quantum uncertainty – with observation (call that knowledge) crystallising out our reality from the infinity of potential.
Manuel de Landa gave us nonlinear history. Complex systems combining to form new emergeant realities.
Martin Buber gave us spiritual existentialism. I-thou forming a connection between our spirit and other, as opposed to I-It of materialism which is essentially connecting only with ourselves via our projection on to the material world.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin gave evolution awakening consciousness – from the big bang (physical evolution) formation of atoms (chemical evolution), complexification into life (biological evolution) and now arrival of the noosphere (evolution of ideas). He believed that the culmination of conscious awakening will be the ultimate connection between us all with shared ideas – the Omega Point.
Wilfred Bion gave ideas existing before the structures to think them.
Albert Einstein gave us the integration of space and time into four dimensional space-time. There have been experiments that show backward causality, with current observation crystallising out past reality from quantum possibility – to make the current observation true.
Whence, Whither and Why?
Could it not be that God is an emergeant property of the evolving complex system of ideas. The evolution of the material world now supports consciousness that can witness these ideas. If we awoke from Jung’s universal (un)conscious to a shared universal consciousness then we would be at de Chardin’s Omega Point. Consciousness arising from intense connection (the I-thou of Buber’s existentialism). Consciousness, the thinking of pre-existing ideas. Knowledge, witness – observation – which crystalises out reality from the realm of quantum potential. If God were ultimate truth (the word existing beyond time), then end-point of the evolution of ideas and their combination into an emergent property then that observation could perhaps be potent enough to have caused the evolution of the universe to lead to God itself. From our individual standpoint – we would see God as an emergent property of the complex sytems that evolution has thrown up. Cosmology, quantum mechanics and particle physics are discovering the mechanisms through which all this happens. The question – how? is being answered in increasing detail. How?, however, bears no relation to the questions whence? whither? or when?
If God, our ultimate shared connection through knowledge, has the power to create itself – perhaps whence? whither? have the same answer or solution.
Of course, that would still leaves the question – why? The answer will not come from the material side of existence, but from the spiritual. de Chardin’s answer is – love – the primal force, and it’s expression through a physical world. We can experience this, and our most intense connection (I-thou) individually and every day – even though that is still experienced “through a glass darkly”.
What is evil?
The anti-thesis of good. Ah, but what is good? In fact are these useful constructs at all, or simply perceived positive and negative outcomes of random events?
Is it reasonable to equate good with happiness and evil with unhappiness? If so, where does happiness lie?
It is politically (but not scientifically) correct to assume a materialistic existence built on a series of microscopic random events unfolding in intransitive time. Therein lies the evil that we must embrace. In other words we focus on and believe in, like Thomas, only on what we see. We do that at least partially because we fear there is no meaning below or beyond what our sensory organs are capable of registering.
Surely one of the great lessons of the exploration of mind started by Sigmund Freud is that the more you avoid a fear, or abyss, the unhealthier you become. All of the mechanisms of dealing with unconscious pain (projection, avoidance, repression etc) simply lead at best to neurosis, at worst to psychosis.
It seems to me that the fundamental issue that haunts each of us is insecurity. That is the symptom of existential angst. How, then, to deal with that?
And it’s worth addressing.
The more secure a person is, the more creative, compassionate, generous, and capable of joy they be. Security leads to happiness and connection.(Happiness being life lived in the expectation of joy).
Conversely when we feel insecure we experience withdrawal. We become self-centred, and disconnected. Our horizons contract to a narrow unhappy world devoid of meaning. (Unhappiness broadly equating with isolation).
The thesis is then, that good is expressed through happiness and that lies in our interconnectedness. We feel able to reach out when we are secure. Conversely insecurity leads to withdrawal and unhappiness, which is nominated – evil.
Are we right to feel insecure? Are we simply minds floating on an ocean of random events and therefore at their mercy?
What does science have to say? Experiments on matter at the most microscopic levels shows that pre-existence is an infinite series of possibilities, potential – until observed. It is the act of observation that, in effect, crystallises out this particular existence that we experience from the cloud of possibilities. That raises the issue of observation. What is it? Surely there must be an “observer” to create our particular reality. Sure enough, what our species is really really good at is just that – observation, whether through science or the arts. We each of us spend our life in observation (or as some would call it – witness, some accumulation of knowledge). Interestingly our gathering of knowledge is escalating in a geometric progression. (Are we approaching Teilhard de Chardin’s “Omega Point”? Is that the Mayan meaning to the end of time?)
It appears to me that our real individual human purpose is to be just this – engines of observation – crystallising existence from potential. (Or as our ancestors put it – we are three sisters of wyrd sitting at the foot of Ygaddrsil, the tree of life, spinning fate). That puts the onus on us collectively. We, the creators of life and goodness.
So if good and evil are the outcomes of our individual witness then what are God and the Devil?
I believe, and in my experience only, that God is expressed in the space between us, in the connection between all things. It is the smile shared between strangers that briefly connects and illuminates us. There have been those who with great discipline, have been able to sense directly the mass of loving connections underlying all things. Most of us however “see through a glass darkly”, it is in only in small moments and in our intimate circle – family, friends, community, even our pets – that we touch and feel the common good. Put another way, God is an emergent property of our connections each to each, and we feel that larger love in the individual links and bonds between us.
The Devil, then is absence of good – the opposite of shared experience. Our de-mergent selves.
There is also some evidence in science, not only that existence is cystallised by observation, but also that this can run backward in time, with reverse causality. Belief or knowledge of an outcome can cause – at least at the level of the electron/photon – history to be reshaped to create the experienced outcome.
So then, perhaps God – the personalisation of the emergent property of our observation and connections to each other – lies in our future. God is what we create together in the future, and this future God intervenes where necessary to ensure that the path of existence-formation will lead to him/her/it/us. (God, the word existing beyond time…)
Was this through the lives of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha?
Does that not change our world view? Good and evil as made by us. A secure future, which is God beyond the Omega Point. Let us accept that good and evil do exist, as outcomes of our collective path through life. When we embrace our joint task – to work for good effect around us. In that way our eyes open to our divine purpose. We no longer need to live with our eyes tight closed against the fear that we are floating on a sea of random meaninglessness. Face up to existential angst and it disappears. As the psychological defence mechanisms fall away – we’re left with the revelation of love behind all things and experienced in our connection, in the Ich-Du of Martin Buber.
It is by embracing evil that we puncture it and experience joy.