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 Warmth, food, security and affection can be withdrawn as well as present.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.
“We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do” Einstein (in relation to wave-particle duality)
Quantum mechanics has repeatedly proved that energy and matter is contradictory – it is both a wave and a particle at the same time. In addition, it is observation that crystallises out our particular reality from the infinity of possibilities.
“When bodies to their graves, souls from their graves remove” John Donne
There is almost incontrivertible evidence that there is meaning within the universe. The physical constants are incredibly finely tuned to allow even atoms to form, never mind reflective consciousness. There are those who fervently wish to deny this meaning. (Why?). Their only defence is what is called the multiple universe proposition – that there are infinity universes and we happen to live in the one that has these constants aligned. Their problems are these. Firstly, there is not a shred of evidence for the proposition. Secondly it fails the test of simplicity (this is certainly not the simplest solution). Thirdly, even were it true – what then is the origin of the multiverses? Indeed, by definition Universe is all that is, and so multiverses are subsets of that. I personally dismiss this concept for what it is, materialist desperation. The Universe is significant and not simply material.
Material is but one aspect of reality, there is another a dual aspect. John Donne would call that “soul” as distinct from “body”…
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
“The attitude of the “I” towards an “It”, towards an object that is separate in itself, which we either use or experience. The attitude of the “I” towards “Thou”, in a relationship in which the other is not separated by discrete bounds…human life finds its meaningfulness in relationships” Ich und Du, Martin Buber
Martin Buber expresses this duality in his wonderful verse-philosophy “Ich und Du”. Not only is there duality in all-that-is, but it is in the dance – the relationships between the Within-Without, the wave-particle, the Ich-Du – that meaning exists.
People have called that meaning by all sorts of names. Who cares about semantics – a rose is still a rose by any name. If you’ve felt the connectedness of the Universe, then you’ve known joy in all its emphemerality, within the life of this body at least.
Dual, we certainly are, and inexplicably so. Although maybe…
“And all shall be well and All manner of thing shall be well When the tongues of flames are in-folded Into the crowned knot of fire And the fire and the rose are one” TS Elliot
* There is a tradition of theft within evolutionary science. Dawkins stole the concept of evolution in the noosphere and clothed in the language of the “meme”. He did not credit Teilhard de Chardin. Charles Darwin stole the concept of evolution by natural selection from James Hutton, who in 1794 wrote “in conceiving an indefinite variety among the individuals of that species, we must be assured, that, on the one hand, those which depart most from the best adapted constitution, will be most liable to perish, while on the other hand, those organized bodies, which most approach to the best consitution for the present circumstances, will be best adapted to continue, in preserving themselves and multiplying the individuals of their race”.
In 1543 Copernicus published his work – De Revolutionibus – which showed that the planets, including this Earth, revolve around the sun. This shook the foundations of the established Church, which had taught that everything revolved around the Earth.
How does this relate to humanism? Well only this – as I understand it their religion has everything revolving around mankind. Really? What is the basis for that belief system. The only rational underpinning that I can perceive would be a belief that man is the only point of consciousness in the universe, which would indeed set this particular species apart. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s insight is that humanity is the current apex of the evolution of consciousness (Phenomenon of Man), but not that humanity is all-in-all – its own context. Is humanism not then simply a kind of collective narcissism?
“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”.
We think in terms of opposing forces, opposites. Duality flows from the fact of boundary created as we separate from the whole of existence – initially physically at birth, and then psychically in infancy. This schism has been expressed in many ways, often as opposing forces.For instance – good / evil ;life / death; aggressive / erotic ; Me / Not Me ; extrovert / introvert. I believe that the point of duality is in our response to it. There is a fundamental difference in outcome between choice between, and integration of – opposites.
Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein conceived of opposing Life and Death instincts. However surely a “Death” instinct is incompatible with evolution, what purpose is served by a “Death” instinct? More natural is Donald Winnicott’s expression of an Aggressive component, born of opposition and an Erotic component, born of complementarity – the birth of these components arising as an infant realises that there is a Me and a Not-Me. Carl Jung conceived of the struggle to integrate opposing forces. Many of us are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality typing that arises from Jung with its 4 dimensions – Extrovert-Introvert; Thinking-Feeling; Sensing-Intuition; and Judging-Perceiving. From the dawn of our species we have observed the difference between Light and Dark and described our nature as Good or Evil. Martin Buber gives us the double-dual-whammy of I-Thou way of being “over against” I-It.
“There is, Buber shows, a radical difference between man’s attitude to other men and his attitude to things. The attitude to other men is a relation between persons, to things it is a connexion with objects. ..These two attitudes represent the basic twofold situation of human life, the former constitutes the world of THOU and the latter the world of IT” Ronald Gregor Smith, translator of Ich Und Du
It appears then that fundamental to our reaction to the fact of our existence; woven into the fabric of our way of thinking and being, is duality – expressed as an opposition of forces.
What then is our response? Is it passive as in choice or balance or active – as in process or integration? Admitting polarity in all things – what should be our reaction. Do we choose – for instance between Good or Evil? Should we seek balance between different drives into a kind of dynamic equilibrium – for instance striving to be at the centre point of extroversion and introversion? Is reality in fact a process budding eternally at the very boundary that arises out of duality – life within Winnicott’s Transitional Space or Whitehead’s point of prehension? Or is it there a further truth behind this duality – the point being what arises out of unification of opposites ? After all paraphrasing Beethoven – there cannot be loud without soft, it is in contrast that music arises.
Perhaps its personal taste. If so then, at least for me, integration of duality is our purpose, and one which is unceasing because there is a counterveiling force of differentiation. There is a flow of existence which is driven by splitting and unification, birth and death. Duality is dynamic not static and the fundamental creative contrast is actually that of differentiation and integration. Freud’s Life/Death instincts replaced by Integration/Differentiation forces. This isn’t an original thought, and it’s not mine. It is inherent in the world-view of eastern tradition (Yin-Yang etc) and possibly our western ancestors (see Wisdom of the Wyrd, Brian Bates). It was one of Carl Jung’s fundamental insights – “Much of Carl Jung’s writings are linked by the theme that mental illness is characterized by disunity of the personality, whilst mental health is manifested by unity” (Jung: Selected Writings, Anthony Storr).
If then we conceive of a schism-powered flow, what is the destination and what is the fundamental motive impulse? Well there you have Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the fundamental duality being spirit and material – an inner and outer. For him underlying existence is the force of Love, which powers evolution. An evolution conceived as complexification through spheres of the physical, chemical, biological to that of ideas – until we become conscious of God that is Love that is all. “There is a duality of material and spiritual, which he calls the “without” and “within”. He traces the development of the “within”, an evolution of consciousness. He names man as a stage in that process associated with the phase-shift from the evolution of biology to the evolution of ideas”.
In Teilhard de Chardin’s words:
“If there were no internal propensity to unite, even at a prodigiously rudimentary level — indeed in the molecule itself — it would be physically impossible for love to appear higher up, with us, in hominized form. . . . Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being.”
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.
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”.