Golden Braid

Furbelows and curlicues

Flow tow below bellow follow glow

Hassock haired carded tows to rope gripped snake charming up to the pipe yet unremembered

Undoing unthreaded

Weft bereft

Grip strip and magnify until chrysalis burst

out to new dimensions

(We are the process of weaving existence together)

We think therefore we are

Thinking is plural. It involves subject (thinker) and object (idea). Reality is in the relationship between; it is not concrete or material. “I think, therefore I am” is incomplete. Better would be – I think ABOUT, therefore there is existence.
This isn’t my insight, but variously Einstein’s (relativity), Bion’s (the mind as apparatus to think pre-existing ideas), Whitehead’s (Process and Reality) and Buber’s (Ich Ind Du). If there is a “singularity”, then it is outside the space-time in which we swim and spawn. As we Christians express it – God is “the Word, existing beyond time”. Others say the same thing in different ways (Nirvana ). 

What we experience is dis-integration. Alone we are: alone. Point-less. Together and between us lies the truth. Indeed materiality is chimera: we reflect each other, flowers of the same plant. Reality is in the honouring of the God in You, in I-Thou rather than I-It.

“World is crazier and more of it than we think,

Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion

A tangerine and spit the pips and feel

The drunkenness of things being various.” 

Louis MacNeice

The moment of reality

Reality is bound up with the present. This, according to Zen and as re-expressed by Eckhart Tolle – the Power of Now..

The present, now, is the door to reality and focus on the past and future distracts from the intensity of experience.

But…

How does that square with Alfred North Whitehead’s theory of relativity – where reality is a process and certainly not an instant?

It seems to me that the integration of these two concepts through the interpretation of the present – Now – as momentary rather than instantaneous. By this I mean to include the immediate past and the immediate future into a lengthened and extended instant. I think (though I’m never certain when trying to understand Process and Reality) that this is what Whitehead refers to as prehension.

It seems then that consciousness requires some element of time, that which immediately surrounds the instant in which we exist. It is observation that crystallises out the particular reality which we choose. (Bohr, Born, Schrodinger – the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics). The experience of reality requires the flow of time – to allow the immediate past and future to give context to the instant that is now.

Consciousness can then be described as observation surfing on time, and the fragment of time that surrounds the instant creates the moment in which we exist. Hence – reality as momentum, moment.

“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

 

Duality, Love and Evolution

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.”

Granular time?

Physicists say that matter is granular. Made up of tiny bits. Digital not analogue or seamless. Or so it seems? Though they seem to smash matter into smaller and smaller digital pieces and describe the smallest pieces now with equations imputed from shadows of reactions in tiny amounts of time. There is a unit measure of space – named after Max Planck – below which as Heisenberg has proved – we cannot see or measure. I wonder whether matter might be a little bit slipperier than physicists would have it? Is it possible, just maybe, that it is their search for certainty that is trying to fit it into bits?

And time? What about time. Is there then a granular unit of time. After all – as Alfred North Whitehead showed – Reality is a Process. Time is involved, within, each bubble of reality. Where materiality and spirituality are time in different directions applied to the reality-moment – now. But think about it – reality is, as Whitehead has it in the moment NOW. He points out that quantum mechanics implies that matter is a wave and that waves can only exist with time within them. So that he connects reality through time. Through moments of NOW.  But how long is NOW? Is there a reality quotient, a kind of atom of time that defines what is NOW rather than future potential and past material? I have no sense of Whitehead’s kind of maths or philosophy. Indeed I only have a tenuous grasp of his thesis – and most of that through Rupert Sheldrake’s synopsis in his excellent – The Science Delusion.

But even considering the widely read Buddhist inspired book – The Power of Now – leads you to consider surely – How Long Exactly is NOW. Is there a unit of time that is Now?

Just a thought.

 

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.