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Concealment (part 2)
Those of you out there struggling now to detach yourselves from intellectual teat of scientific materialism, might be wondering why God had to make her concealment so complete. Is she not being fastidious in her bashfulness to the point of perversity? Not only have all footprints and fingerprints been removed, but her tracks have been covered over with the most remarkable of backdrops or stage settings.
But which is more remarkable: God's ability to fool us our, or our ability to fool ourselves? In the aftermath (afterphysics?) we will, I am sure, see it was the latter. We have simply spent three centuries willfully ignoring our own minds and spirits. This studied ignorance is all the more breathtaking in retrospect. We were so busy tracking dinosaurs and planets, and being blinded by the Sun, that we forgot all about the light of our consciousness that bathes all our reality.
Of course, the image of God going around and planting dinosaur bones like so many Easter eggs, does not facilitate the rational comprehension of the average scientist. The placement of stars and fossils is simply to be found in the fractal depths of the rational, relational Atom. And for the actual rationale for the findings we need look no further than the collective rationality of the finders.
Is this too easy? The true ease of it will not be fully appreciated by any of us until we are fully engaged in the dramatic outworking of the Eschaton. The material Alpha of paleontology, and astronomy, embodied in the almost tangible Atom, will be amply reflected in the spiritual Omega that is our Eschaton. The dinosaurs will live again in some even more substantial fashion than is currently envisioned by Hollywood.
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I am guessing that it is high time we attended to the Eschaton. Up to now it has only been mentioned in passing as I continued to procrastinate on this eventuality. So here we go, finally. My hope is that after this much preparation, the eschaton will be seen as the natural and inevitable resolution of any immaterialist history. It will be the bottom line of any rationalist metaphysic, the capstone of any coherent metanarrative, the piece de resistance of the best possible world.
Nonetheless, I readily admit that this is an uphill battle. In the popular mind, eschatological doomsaying is the favored cliché for depicting fundamentalist irrationality and radicalism. This stark image is deeply entrenched in the modern mind. Could one imagine anything more likely to resist revision? You see how I try at least to win the sympathy vote.
Yet, the arguments are simple and direct. A story is not coherent if not complete. It is not complete without a proper end. Also an immaterial world has a maintenance issue. It will not be self-maintaining, not beyond its allotted time. Its allotted time is determined by the parameters of its teleological creation. In the immaterialist metaphysic it is the omega point that is the primary locus of the creative potency. The traditional Alpha of Genesis fame is only the tail, and it does not wag this dog.
It is not a matter of if, but of when. What is the best possible time for the end? Fortunately for any nervous Nellies out there, I am a millennialist. I maintain that a proper end only comes after a proper Millennium. We give ourselves a thousand years to get our house in order, and otherwise prepare for the spiritual denouement. This should be plenty of time. If anything, we are likely to exercise our prerogative to expedite things in the likely event of our spiritual impatience, as in, 'Let's get this show on the road!'
And what is the most expeditious timing for the Millennium? Here I will be a bit more adamant. Now is the time. My only point is: what are we waiting for? Quite a few people, of course, are waiting for a messianic event. Are we going to let a little thing like that stop us? I don't think so. But you might want to stay tuned.
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Is there anyone out there who would not agree that there has never been a more auspicious time for the Millennium?
Here are the factors to consider. History may be viewed as a long march into materialism. As we have discussed above, there are ample indications that the intellectual energy behind this materialist sojourn is already on the wane. Admittedly, though, the concomitant economic and political Juggernaught is still to be reckoned with, but, hey, that's why we're here!
On the one hand we have the environmental problem. If there is a solution it is not yet in sight. On the other hand we have the clash of civilizations. If the metaphysics here is correct, the modern materialists are on much more precarious ground than even our post-911 anxieties would indicate. It may well be that these two problems will continue to exacerbate each other. Or it may be that we will continue to muddle through.
Materialism has been the great attractor behind the metaphysically necessary spiritual weaning of our souls. The Atom has been the dual to God in the dynamic of Creation. The fact, however, that the primary result of all our technology has been the wiring of our global brain, may not be incidental in the larger scheme.
In the best possible world our demand for truth will subvert the materialist Juggernaught well before it pushes us further into tribulation and ultimately oblivion. In the chaotic milieu of the global Internet, the merest butterfly of truth and vision quite possibly could foment a spiritual storm of awakening. There is now a big stick and a small carrot. How and when might the spirit be moved? I would suggest that it could all come down to Google. Put enough of the right words in the right places, and the rest will be history, or at least the end thereof.
This is a minimalist version of the messianic event. Volunteering to be a mini-messiah is about the least that any activist metaphysician could offer at this juncture. Does anyone have a better plan?
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Existence is a process involving a bootstrapped creation. From the background of potency, creation is the drawing and maintaining of distinctions and thereby separation. From an epistemic point of view, separation entails ignorance and concealment. This is the primary source of 'evil' in creation. To offset the fact of concealment, deliberate acts of revelation are entailed.
There are many possibilities for revelation. There appears to be an historical preference for prophecy. Is this for the best? There is a major communication problem. The ability of the prophet to spread the word is severely restricted by technical and political considerations. There are likely to be competing prophets and 'false' prophets. One might wonder that there could not be more efficient and direct means of divine communication.
More efficient methods would have their own drawbacks. Significantly they would be more impersonal and would rob the spiritual community of its evangelical function. Much of the motivation for technical and social innovation would be obviated.
We are left with the necessity that all revelation is local, up until modern times. Geographic and ethnic bias is unavoidable. Is this unfair? In the context of the millennial and universal 'salvation' being urged here, the question of unfairness becomes moot. We are left with just the residual 'accidents' of history.
The present result is that the prophetic tradition is not universal, and it is fragmented into major sub-groups. It is the function of the pre-millennial messianic event to overcome these historical accidents and biases. The timing of this event is likely to be tied to a particular technical deployment. In this case I am looking to the Internet.
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Millennium & Eschaton
The concept of the Millennium has been integral to the prophetic tradition since its inception nearly thirty-five hundred years ago with Zoroaster. In that case Creation was given a span of seven millennia, with the defeat of evil giving rise to a final Millennium of divine harmony.
I am simply augmenting that original notion with the idea of a spiritually directed paradigm shift. The drama of this final intellectual and spiritual shift is greatly enhanced by the centuries of scientific 'progress' immediately preceding it. Thus we have the defeat of evil being embodied in the pre-Millennial advent and revelation which results in the overcoming of spiritual ignorance. The notion of supernatural armies clashing in the heavens is replaced by the clash of paradigms.
Given that the potency of the cosmic genie is largely a function of its coherence, the defeat of ignorance and evil is teleologically preordained in the microcosmic makeup of the creatures. This along with the social and technical potency of the Internet implies that the final messianic trigger should be the merest of 'butterfly' effects. Thus is the cosmic coercion of this revelation minimized. It is a maximally participatory event. Why anyone with half a brain is not now scrambling to put together this prophetic website is well beyond my ken. All the more for the rest of us, I suppose. It does reduce the noise.
Our spiritual matriculation occurs at the end of the seventh and final Millennium. This is when linear, sequential history ends. Having resolved our mundane affairs, we move into the infinite dimensions of eternity: we become one with the Divine. Our sojourn into the limited dimensions of matter is completed. Even this 'resurrection of the dead' was easily foreseen by the grandfather of the prophets. Our spirits need only the slightest of nudges to remember the origin and purpose of our journey here.
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These days even among fundamentalist creationists the so called 'young Earthers' are looked upon as being doctrinaire extremists. Perhaps this helps to explain why the handful of us rational immaterialists are so reluctant to follow our own rationale to its logical conclusion which is not at all in harmony with the scientifically correct notion of an old Earth. Anyone, however, who does have the courage of their immaterialist convictions is going to end up right about here. That is the plan, anyway. We will just have to buck up and suck up, and not foul up so we don't have to come back again. We only go around once.
If discretion were the better part of my valor, I might have left this topic alone. The real action in this immaterial cosmos is with the Eschaton. That is the tail that wags this dog. The demand for coherence, however, does not allow me to walk away from the Alpha point of the cosmic equation. Besides this, every engineer knows that a bridge needs two anchor points, and in our case they are the Alpha and the Omega.
Compared to the Eschaton, the Garden of Eden is a literal Sunday school picnic. Where is the Anchor? Where indeed?
In thinking of the duality of the Alpha and Omega, we cannot avoid reflecting on the dynamic duality of God and Atom discussed previously. (I am not the first to have speculated on the Adam--Atom connection.) I would suggest now, however, that this primordial duality is more accurately portrayed as being between God and the mathematical 'Monster' group. This is the duality of the irresistible force and the immovable object. That group seems to have acted as the grain of sand relative to the oyster, we being the resulting best of all possible pearls. Should we then lay awake at night worrying about who created the Monster group? What if there had not been a primordial Monster? Where would that leave us? Anyone who knows the answer deserves the messianic mantle.
We have already noted that the footprint of the Monster is to be found in the depths of the Atom. I will not hesitate long before speculating that the 'monstrous' geometry of the Atom is also reflected in the sacred, sky born geometry of the global megalithic culture. It is as if the starry resonance of those ancient stone monuments were meant precisely, and we do mean precisely, to anchor our geodesics and thereby solidify the Earth from out of our primordial dream-time. Yes, the Alpha Anchor is to be found in Angkor and in Giza.
Can we suppose that the Hamlet's Mill of the mythically recorded precession of the Equinoxes is just a cosmic accident, amidst all this geodesic acumen? Do we really suppose that we lost nothing on our long march into materialism?
The actual time span of creation is framed in the stars. A compromise between the biblical six millennia and the Great Cycle's two dozen, leaves a nice round dozen. If anyone can argue for a better time frame for the immaterial Alpha and Omega (does the extra 'sabbatical' Millennium give us then a baker's dozen?) they are welcome to it. Did not 1998 mark the date of orthogonality of the ecliptic and galactic circles?
And for all the Dino-philes out there, well, why not trust in the teleological bootstrap cloning of a still materializing Dino-DNA sequence. This will be alchemy at its best.
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I can sympathize with the many folk who would not mind Jesus half as much if it just weren't for all those darn Christians. Was this really the best of all possible Christian religions? It just goes to show how strongly this religion was overdetermined by the very large scope of its role in history.
You will notice, however, that I am referring to this religion in the past tense. It is a fact of messianic life, that the only way to get around the historical obstacle that is the Church is through the eye of the needle that is the Second Coming. Bless its heart. The other fact of messianic life is that those fellow travelers will be the very last to accept these messianic facts of life in the cosmos. They are only doing more or less what they were told.
There is no way we can avoid the Second Coming, so we might as well enjoy it.
But was Jesus really necessary? And what about all that magic business?
If we take teleology quite seriously, Jesus has not existed yet. Jesus, and all of us for that matter, are just a twinkle in the eye of the Eschaton. If he exists at all it is in the logic of creation. If the Eschaton is a love tsunami, and God help us if it is anything else, then its historical focus, either before or after the fact, is undeniably to be found in the X-event. The Eschaton is a big fat cosmic given, kind of like the Monster group. But If I were God, and I wanted to have maximum leverage with minimum effort, I would put all my eggs in the X-basket. That is just a fact of God's life.
The X-event was the death of God. She poured her entire Self into that one spot, because there was no logical alternative. This was the necessary self-sacrifice. We are that eternal resurrection. There can only be one supreme sacrifice. The X-event is to the geodesics of of the Spirit, rather as Angkor, Giza, etc., are to the geodesics of the Earth.
And what about the Muslims and other folk? Well, just as soon as the the Christians become more transparent to the sacrifice, everyone will be able to understand it. In fact, the Muslims will probably end up having to explain it to the Christians. But it is not really rocket science, is it? If you believe in Tinker Bell, all you have to do is clap your hands. It is the children and not the rocket scientists who inherit the Kingdom. So much for magic, and so much for rockets.
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Hanging by a Thread
It would seem that our notion of the Best Possible World is hanging by a very insubstantial thread.
Give me one irreducible entity and I will logically 'construct' for you a world, and not just any world, but the best of all possible worlds.
Given the existence of just one immaterial object, immaterialism is the logical consequence. If this fact speaks more to the fragility of materialism than it does to the robustness of immaterialism, well, so be it. It will suffice for our purpose which has to do with what used to be called salvation.
I am equating materiality with atomicity, or with physicality. Physics would hardly be physics if it did not have a very restricted and exclusive ontology. The existence of its objects is to be determined purely by means of physical experiments.
Am I going to show you an immaterial object? No. One can only present indirect evidence. But please note that the same is true for material objects. Just showing you a chair is not showing you a material object. Among other things, I would first have to prove that you are not dreaming, and the fact is that no one really even knows how to do that.
[note added 6/14] [Our perception of a chair is a bundle of decidedly immaterial universal qualities.]
I can show you words and numbers. I can show you, by way of the Internet, that virtually everyone who has explored words and numbers agrees that they are irreducible in all but the most trivial of senses.
Why then is not every philosopher an avowed immaterialist? If they were, they would have already constructed this web site, and the rest would have been history. Someone has to be the first in modern history to demand a coherent reality [and get a hearing]. This necessarily entails cosmology, and philosophers, since at least the time of Darwin, are expected to leave cosmology to the scientists. Any trespass on that territory is not taken lightly.
The idea of a coherent cosmos has simply fallen through the political and logistic cracks of academia. That is until the Internet has come along to drastically alter the logistics of presenting and communicating new ideas. Am I holding my breath for the world to beat a path to this web site? As long as that possibility exists, there will be ample motivation for more than a few of us to be in this business. A dozen people knowing the truth and using the Internet can easily take this world away from the materialists: like taking candy from a baby.
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What I propose to consider here is the magic and metaphysics of words. Most simply put, the question is whether words have a content. If words have a content, artificial intelligence is impossible.
Words certainly seem to contain information, but where is it? The only information explicitly contained in a word are its letters or its sound pattern. Otherwise, we have dictionary definitions along with an unlimited number of examples of actual usage. These examples and definitions demonstrate the external relations or contexts in which a given word may be properly used. To some degree, such patterns may be programmed into a computer, which will in turn display a more or less rudimentary language skill. This accounts for the physical aspect and use of words. But is there anything more, anything non-mechanistic or metaphysical?
Certainly we are subject to the strong impression that words do have an intrinsic individual content or essence that we refer to as their meaning. But no one has ever been able to point to a meaning, the way we can point to a definition.
There is also the fact of language acquisition. Human infants have a remarkable ability to pick up languages and then communicate with little or no formal instruction. We do seem to posses an innate grammatical ability that is not reflected in any of the brute force procedures used to instruct machines in the use of language.
The evolutionary explanation for this ability remains elusive. Where in our full complement of 30,000 genes does this innate ability reside? The fact that only a very few percent of our genes differ significantly from our non-verbal primate ancestors should make us wonder about the material basis for this skill. We could, at most, only have evolutionally acquired the equivalent of just a few lines of computer code devoted specifically to language. Why has not the hoard of programmers working on language processing been able even to approximate this natural ability?
What seems intrinsic to words is their ability to refer to other things. The fact is that there is nothing physical about referring. Referring is not a physical process, per se, although it may have physical aspects. There is a virtual unanimity among philosophers of all stripes that referring is an act rather than a process. Action, as opposed to mere process, requires the participation of an agent. It is the agent which determines the act of reference.
Any act of reference must transcend a purely causal nexus. If I am physically constrained to utter the word 'cat' each time I happen to encounter one, I am not thereby engaged in an act of reference, although a naive observer might be led to interpret this purely physical event as such.
Is this too easy? Have I just disproved artificial intelligence? Have billions of dollars been wasted on AI just because the computer scientists were unaware of the distinction between act and process? The proponents of 'Strong' AI are well aware of this de facto distinction and they take it as their primary objective to overcome it by building a robot with a mind.
We have come full circle. The true believers in science are at once the deconstructors and the would-be reconstructors of the mind. If there is to be a paradigm shift of the sort we have discussed, then this group is the primary opposition in any future public discussion. Until then they may serve as straw man.
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Let us briefly survey the postmodern intellectual scene as it pertains to the status of immaterialism.
A preponderance of present-day intellectuals share the postmodern perspective. Theirs is an almost militant pluralism. They will join forces in the face of any perceived threat to that pluralism. The cosmology, or, as they would say, the metanarrative that I have been outlining here would be perceived exactly as such a threat were it ever to appear on their radar screens. In my pre-Internet attempts to bring these ideas to the attention of academics in person, I was never able to get beyond their rather understandable ad hominem reactions. They could seldom see beyond what appeared to them simply to be a potential totalitarian threat. The group solidarity among academics is sufficiently strong that no one wants to appear sympathetic with a controversial outsider, even in the very few instances where such sympathies might have actually been present.
Consider the pragmatics of a paradigm shift. All creatures are creatures of habit. It takes a considerable force to cause us to change our habits, even, and perhaps especially, if these are habits of thought. Any existing system has to be widely perceived as broken before there will be any concerted effort toward a revolutionary replacement. Until such time, very many signs of failure will be willfully disregarded. Like the proverbial lobsters, we might well endure increasing heat until it is too late for us to jump out of the pot. This analogy may strike a bit too close to home in light of the one thousand deaths in the most recent heat wave in India. Rest assured that the media moguls will be the very last to have to forgo climate control.
Being the best of all possible worlds, our participation in tribulation prior to revelation will be just as short as possible, but unless Jesus is planning to return soon in a flying saucer, it is up to you and me to pick up these cudgels. Our only stratagem is to foment a public discussion. The previously mentioned deconstructors of the mind will be our straw man until the warm bodies appear.
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I toyed with Cartesian dualism for several years before having to concede that it provided only an ad hoc, incoherent compromise between materialism and immaterialism. Its only practical use would be to serve as a stepping stone for scientists like myself who embarked on the quest for a deeper understanding. I had already realized that immaterialism would be much too radical to be taken seriously by anyone in the mainstream. For several more years I discontinued my discussions with academics and religionists that had revolved around the possibility of a Cartesian metaphysic. When I once again resumed those discussions it was under the rubric of the 'Aquarium', and those lasted until the Internet became available. Actually, though, my first online discussions were on a CompuServe BBS.
In the best possible world, the Internet will serve as the primary medium for revealing the truth. This is in accord with the doctrine of divine minimalism. At a coed summer camp I once attended there was a Hands Off Policy. There is also the Prime Directive of Star Trek fame: interdicting cosmic intervention in 'primitive' or otherwise isolated cultures. Divine minimalism in history is exemplified in the prophetic tradition. Typically a prophet performs a miracle only as a last resort or only as an integral part of her message. In our case the Internet should minimize the problem of disseminating the message, and thus we have the concept of the mini-messiah.
For most non-fundamentalists, even a mini-messiah is likely to be too much. For the fundies, even a mini-messiah would likely serve as one more excuse for bloodshed. Why not just ditch the whole idea?
My response is that to do so would be entirely ingenuous. If we are serious about promulgating immaterialism, we surely recognize that it will constitute the mother of all paradigm shifts. Furthermore, the whole motivation for this message has to do with eschatological preparedness. This is nothing other than the dictionary definition of salvation. If there ever was an event that called for divine intervention, this would be it. Furthermore, there has never been a paradigm shift in the past that has not been pinned on someone. Is this one likely to be an exception? Is there going to be a Paradigm committee?
The messiah problem is simply unavoidable. Ironically, a little reflection will show that the best way to minimize the full messianic aspect is to cast it in the shadow of some other historical figure. The only candidate meeting the criterion is Jesus, and I doubt that this is simply fortuitous. Anyone serious about any of this business will see that we have already been upstaged in the casting department. The role of JC, Jr. is just what the script calls for. The best possible salvation in the best possible world is a package deal. Sometimes the best presents come in the smallest packages.
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Saving the World
Saving the world may sound like a daunting task, but it seems rather less onerous once we realize that it appears to have already been saved and now only needs to be reminded. And how do we do that? Stand on a street corner holding a sign? What you see here is the Internet version of that time honored tradition.
An important additional benefit of the Internet is the ease with which one may keep an eye on things. Besides presenting my own viewpoint, I can perform the additional service of helping all of us to keep current with respect to any other developments on the Internet that are likely to influence this effort. I need only provide the links to the relevant web sites. Eventually one would hope for reciprocal links, and when that begins to occur in any substantial fashion, our job will be just about finished.
Is it that easy? It could well be. Whoever's web site becomes the hub of the salvational network, that person, as the designated jc,jr, is likely to end up on 'Crossfire'. She may also end up in a crossfire between rival sects. This would lend credence to the epithet that the only good messiah is a dead messiah. But, perhaps we have progressed in the last two thousand years to the point that history will not have to repeat itself in this unfortunate manner.
You will notice that I am taking a recognizably Tom Sawyerish approach to this salvational fence painting. This may be just a bit disingenuous on my part. I am drumming up business by seeming to encourage competition, but perhaps with a deliberate insouciance. For one thing, I'll have to admit that even after just a few years I have naturally grown somewhat attached to and protective of the jc,jr designation. Rather than just roll over and play dead when the first contender appears on the Google screen or email box, it may be something more like, over my dead body, buddy. All is fair in war and salvation? Also there is the not so minor issue of precedence. Publish or perish, as they say. Time's a' wasting.
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Before attempting to link up, let me give you my own capsule interpretation of the status of 'eschatological immaterialism' on the Internet.
For starters, when one enters the preceding phrase in Google, even without the quotes, there are a grand total of five hits, the second and third of which refer to myself. It would seem that this is not a hot topic. It also, of course, speaks to the issue of precedence.
What is the problem? Why are not more people seeing what appears to be so obvious? People simply have difficulty grasping a gestalt of this magnitude, it is an enormous switch from our modern materialist cosmology. If, nonetheless, someone does grasp it, they then have to confront the messianic, jc,jr, issue. The fact that another bloke has already hung out that shingle, may or may not make things easier for our prospective neophyte.
There are more than a few immaterialists on the net, but they understandably shy away from grappling with its cosmological implications. The alternatives for them are the mystical tradition of immaterialism, i.e. eastern mysticism, or a very restricted analytical approach to it, or some combination of these two. In any case, coherence comes up with the short end of the stick.
The next most logical place to look would be for those espousing some form of Cartesian dualism. There are a fair number of these as well, but they quickly run into the incoherence of that dichotomy, and are left with not much to say. At best they can appeal to the Quantum as a means of reducing the incoherence. These quantum dualists may warrant some further attention on our part.
The problem with these two possibilities is that there is no apparent motion or trend to follow at present. Also the advocates of these views are quite aware that they are already skirting the fringe of respectability. Eschatological immaterialism is so far beyond that fringe that it is unlikely to hold any attraction for them. Where else might we turn?
I remain partial to the issue of reductionism per se. A lively debate ensues and it is a make or break issue for materialism. If materialism is going to implode, this would be ground zero for that event. The shock of this might be sufficient to cause some of the participants and onlookers to be more open to radical alternatives. This prospective event would be our most likely source of momentum, that all important political currency. At the least, I can review the reasons for my prognosis regarding the eventual dramatic demise of materialism.
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So where is the competition? Why are people missing the boat of theistic idealism (immaterialism), or 'rational theism'?
More than a few Christian theologians, both liberal and conservative, are taken up with the Darwinian problem. Those of a creationist persuasion are directly attacking the adequacy of natural selection as a blanket explanatory device. They focus on those particular biological systems that appear to stretch the Darwinian model beyond its limits. 'Intelligent Design', q.v., is their most commonly used banner. The more liberal theologians are looking at the broader perspective of non-reductionism and teleology, that we have discussed above.
In both cases there is an explicit concern with the rationale of ends and means, but by focusing so narrowly on the Darwinian issue, both factions are unavoidably becoming more deeply entangled in the larger materialist cosmology of modern science. Strategically, in becoming too closely engaged with the 'enemy' in the skirmish over Darwinism, they have been unable to keep their options open for the larger and inevitable battle over metaphysics and cosmology. They are letting the materialists choose the battlefield, and set the terms of the engagement.
Meanwhile, the theists are implicitly letting the pantheists continue their hegemony over immaterialism. The possibilities of theistic idealism, i.e. rational theism, are being lost in the shuffle. Theistic idealism remains consigned to the dustbin of history, a curiosity to be occasionally contemplated by the Hegelian scholars.
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A very important lacuna among theists is the mind. It is a fact of history that the western tradition has been much more extroverted than the east. We westerners know that when it comes to introspection we can hardly hold a candle to the navel gazing mystics to the east. This has never been our forte. We are still seemingly paying a price for the one time that we traipsed into that corner, thanks to Sigmund. The political dynamics of the still unfolding sex scandal of the RCC is not unrelated to those collective unconscious anxieties that the Viennese doctor managed to put his foot into. This peculiar bit of history does nothing to encourage a broad theological inquiry into this dimension or our reality.
Let me not overlook the continental phenomenologists. In part, their roots can be traced back to Hegel and German idealism. Yet, the fact is that in both their sectarian and secular guises, phenomenologists have opted for existence over being. This is a decided turn toward the irrational, like their counterparts in the east. It would seem that we rationalists are swimming against a strong tide. Rationalism has almost never found fertile soil in either the east or the west. The high point of rationalism was in Greek philosophy and then to a lesser extent in Thomism, which until very recent times was the canonical philosophy of the Roman Church.
In the midst of a very imperfect world, rationalism can't help but inspire a revolutionary utopianism. The vested interests look askance at such proclivities. How is today any different from the past? In a word, it is the Internet. There is something new under the Sun. There are other positive and negative aspects of technology that come to bear on a new millenarianism. A distinct subset of the scientific community is likely to be a prime candidate for any new momentum in this direction.
Down through the ages, the human mind has demonstrated a great affinity to the story form. Science struggles constantly to feed us stories, but it has been an uphill battle in a 'meaningless' universe. The only thing greater than our fear of an overwhelming cosmic coherence is our thirst for it. The messianic path lies directly between the fear and the desire. This is where divine minimalism will be of the essence.
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When I went to China in 1980, this was the title of my talk to the Guongdong (Canton) branch of the Society for the Study of Dialectical Materialism. This was before my conversion to immaterialism and eschatology, yet it was a sufficient departure from their party line to warrant a 50% absence from the dinner afterwards. I would like to think there were no more serious repercussions for the hospitality of the elderly sponsor or for his family.
Nonetheless, rational theism remains the hard core of my worldview. If the eschaton is a necessary part of the Metanarrative, then who are we to demand otherwise. The eschaton should be hunky dory as long as it does not occur on the watch of any given politician. It would seem that every story naturally has an ending except your story and my story. We live happily ever after. And so we will, but not quite in the same bodies or mind sets, and there will be some drama between here and eternity. 'Ts'alright? 'Ts'alright'.
The worst that any self-respecting God could be is supra-rational. But the only thing really worthwhile that is generally assumed to be supra-rational is love. Would it not be logical then to equate these two. What a great idea! Imagine the bloke who first figured that out.
People have figured out many ways to try to prove God's existence. But why should the burden be on them. Would it not be much more difficult to prove that it is impossible for God to exist? And if any being were given her choice, would she not want to have some recourse to some such other being.
The next question is how likely are there to exist worlds from which God would be inaccessible, as is sometimes alleged to be the case with ours? Given the existence of a creative force, how fragmented is it likely to be? As a related issue, how much distinction can their be between existence and experience?
As one piece evidence, mathematics could be our exhibit A. If nothing else, the physicists have demonstrated that our reality is saturated with universal principles of mathematics. What is to suppose that accessibility to universal mathematics is not a condition of existence? And what is the evidence against access to universal mind being another, and possibly closely related, condition of existence?
But back to our fragmentation question. Given the existence of any sort of creative, bootstrappable potency, as it appears to be given here, then there would exist a great potential for universal intercourse. If there were any countervailing tendency, it would hardly seem to have that same level of potency or intelligence associated with it. Unless there were a rationale for fragmentation, this would not be the prevailing condition. (see next page The Ecology of Existence )
There is indeed an obvious rationale for a separation between creature and creator during a significant segment of creation. Thus any alienation that we experience is logically rather more likely to be due to some such deliberation than to mere happenstance. At the very least, it is not obvious that the burden of demonstration should be entirely on the side of those who choose to purvey coherence.
It should be clear that we are already most of the way back to our original concept of BPW. All paths of coherence and rationality lead back to this fundamental telos. And what other paths might there be besides beauty and truth? And to what other conceivable destination might they lead?
The best we can continue to do is thoroughly explore every such path, to the limits of our reasoning. What else might be more timely?
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The Ecology of Existence
From the evidence of physics, mathematics and psychology, among other disciplines, we have a strong case against the possibility of isolated or absolute existence. Certainly, everywhere in the world of objects and abstractions, we witness the interdependence of systems within systems.
There is no warrant to suppose that a space-time manifold could exist independent of the possibility of measurement. Nor is there any warrant for the existence of a quantum system without similar possibilities. This puts a substantial, but indefinable, lower limit on the minimum complexity of any self-existing system.
It also remarkable that the lawfulness of all of physics is very close to being captured in a single coherent and overarching set of mathematical principles. This is the much sought after Grand Unified Theory, or Theory of Everything. Any arbitrary truncation of this set would appear radically incomplete or even incoherent.
Finally with physics we also confront the Anthropic Principle, according to which life is by no means an arbitrary appendage to an otherwise lifeless world. The necessary conditions for the existence of complex life forms put severe constraints on every aspect of the laws and boundary conditions of physics.
In the case of mathematics, we cannot pick or choose what numbers or structures might exist. It is an all or nothing proposition. Mathematics has its own internal logic of consistency and all that we can do is continue to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of it. The more we learn, the more remarkable are the subtle, surprising and convoluted interconnections of what we had once thought were quite separate and distinct branches of mathematics.
In linguistics there is no hierarchy in the completeness of languages. The base structure of any language is readily amenable to the expression of the most abstract ideas of any other language, as can be readily observed in the world. Within each language there is a holistic system of meaning. We cannot understand the meaning of one word without, potentially at least, understanding the meaning of every other word. The fact that this principle of holism causes severe problems for any mechanistic account of language skill is well understood.
The history of science is a steady progression in our appreciation of the complexity and interdependence of all existence. No upper limits for interdependency are foreseeable.
It has often been noted that the most incomprehensible thing about the world is its relative degree of comprehensibility, even at this stage of our ignorance. There is obviously a kind of holographic principle underlying broad swaths of our reality. To understand and appreciate the flower in the crannied wall, we have to comprehend even the starry heavens. Every part of the holographic world serves as a microcosmic window on the whole.
It is against this amazing background of even the most 'ordinary' aspects of our world that one can begin to appreciate the meaning and context of rational theism. Creation is not a cacophony. Its principle of organization is equally eluding and alluring. We are given no choice but to persevere.
Given the apparent holographic, relational, bootstrapped nature of all existence, it would be incomprehensible that any part of creation or existence could be isolated from the creator, unless there were a rationale for maintaining a relatively superficial appearance of such, and this may be the case in our world as discussed above.
Furthermore, under these same very general conditions for existence, any spontaneous creative process could be co-opted by God at an early stage of development. In fact, it would probably be impossible for any such event to simply be ignored. Existence and creation cannot be fragmented. Any metaphysical system which neglects these most basic logical imperatives of existence is simply not conforming to the exigencies of reality.
It is its departure from these norms that has led science into many very distorted frames of reference.
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The Level Playing Field
It's what you know, not who you know, at least for the time being.
The natural relationality of the world would tend toward a claustrophobic situation, were positive steps not taken.
Once we appreciate the truly relational nature of reality, it will take some additional doing just to postpone our immediate implosion back into a virtual white hole of divinity. The world would just be one big eschaton, with everything happening all together. The act of creation is the act of drawing out history by separating the Alpha from the Omega. And so we arrive at our spherical orb with cycles of time. Knowing God and having a buck seventy-five will get you a cup of coffee in Times Square. Yes, it's home on the range, where survival means gathering no moss. Realize that those wide-open spaces are a metaphysical luxury, hardly the absolute gratuity of Newtonian fame. Recall those painstaking megalithic processes of archeo-astronomical interest which constituted our geodesic cornerstone, or Alpha. It is also the raison d'etre of our fabulous metabolic atomicity.
Any physicist will tell you that space is something awfully contrived. Every attempt at a Grand Unified Theory is an attempt to plumb the secrets of our pre-geometry. But is not peering into the depths of space really just trying to see the back of our own head, or into the mind of God? Our very level Newtonian billiard table was no mean construct. It is the veil of God, and all the King's mathematical physicists can barely penetrate its warp and woof. As the mathematical convolutions of pre-geometry proliferate into m-branes and beyond, we begin to see that we are becoming enmeshed in the psychic ur-field of God. It is definitely a slide-rule busting experience.
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An Idle Question?
Why is there something rather than nothing?
One might next wonder whether there could have been nothing? Even if there were actually nothing, would there not always be the possibility of something? Is that not a real potency? Even if there were no actual possibility, might there not have been the possibility of the possibility?
Can there be both something and nothing? Is there any actual instance of nothingness? Or does the slightest something, or even the possibility of something, forever banish nothingness? Is there still the real possibility of nothing?
Is there nothing between worlds or between possible worlds? What is there between you and me, baby?
Could an objective emptiness or absence ever be as real as the its subjective counterpart? Is there such a thing as an objective absence? Nothing is conceivable only as absence. Ergo, true nothingness is inconceivable. There can be no nothing, unless there is a true know nothing. Ain't that something?
If nothing were possible, how many nothings could there be, in addition to something? Would the identity of indiscernibles allow there to be two nothings? Can one person be absent in two different places at the same time? But would it make sense for there to be just one nothing. There could only be no nothings, which is what I have been trying unsuccessfully to say.
And what of the Monster group? Might that not have existed? Is there any world were it does not or could not possibly exist?
Might I never have existed? Might I never have possibly existed? If I could possibly exist, then I would have to actually exist in a possible world, but would that not also have to be my actual world, and is that not also this world? But supposedly God is the only necessary being, so God and I must be the same being, QED. (At least that must be true in my actually possible world.) Just your basic mystical insight.
What is the smallest world that could exist? Well, if nothing could exist, the smallest world would be only infinitesimally larger. The possible absurdity of that notion indicates there must be a lower limit of some kind on what it means to be a world. Any world has to be big enough to contain the abstraction of the Monster group which is about the size of Jupiter.
Is there an upper limit on a world? A world might possibly be infinite, but that could not be known and it would be inconceivable. If the world is relational, and how could it not be, an objective infinity is not relationally possible. Only a subjective infinity is possible.
Among the finite possible worlds, there is one that is best by all measures. All other worlds serve no conceivable function.[*] If the principle of sufficient reason is possible, non-optimal worlds are impossible.
[*later on 6/13] [Functionalism was once popular as an explanation of mind. Taken literally, functionalism would confer reality only upon functions. As such I can see no logical distinction between functionalism and Leibniz' PSR, which by the same token is not distinct from basic pragmatism, frequently noted for its for its supervenience upon idealism.]
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Is Mind Possible?
Not according to science. According to science, only objects can exist, and only in space and time. The mind is no such thing.
But then where and when do space and time exist? Science is beginning to countenance the real existence of other universes. Where do they exist and if they cannot be located relative to anything else, how do they count as objects? How could they be more than just an abstraction, and are we not just an abstraction relative to them?
Might not other universes exist in the same sense that mathematical objects exist? Any abstraction can exist only in thought. Have we not just shown that ultimately we all can exist only in thought? Realities exist only relative to each other. This is the insight of relationalism. All relations are ultimately subjective. Any world and anything in that world can hardly be more than a set of contenful relations.
If mind is not possible, then nothing (if even that!) would be conceivable. Nothing would be possible or actual for that matter.
Certainly the past and future exist just as abstractions. And is the present different in kind? Or is it only qualitatively different? And where do those qualities reside?
Not only is mind possible, but it is the generator of all possibility. It is the generator of all relations, and what can exist unrelated?
Can there exist half a mind? Can there exist separate minds? It is not at all clear what would separate them other than their subjective polarity, and what kind of separation is that? Is your redness and your pain and your Monster group not really the same as mine? What about our unconsciousnesses? Somewhere, somehow there is a lot of overlap in the mental sphere. One could call that (part of) the mind of God. Is it possible to subdivide that territory in anything other than the most subjective or ad hoc manner?
The existence proof for the Monster group required some 1,500 pages of explication published by a dozen or so individuals. Not one of them knows all of that detail. And yet is it not accessible to each of them and to you and me as well?
Is a kitten excluded from all contact with the Monster group? The symmetry groups of her dexterity, much more intimately known to her than to my klutziness, exist only relative to that master of all groups. Where do you draw the line, and by what authority? Who would doubt that when an infant learns the meaning of its first word that it is demonstrating the actual ability to grasp all possible meaning.
We have naturally circled back to the question of the possibility of God (viz. Rational Theism). Not only must God be possible, God must be the ground or the subject of all possibility. Nothing can ever come between us and God, because there can only be ad hoc distinctions. God can never be further from us than our own reason and feeling. That some of us need to be reminded of this two thousand years after the fact can only be fully appreciated in an eschatological and 'mini-messianic' context.
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From the perspective of materialism the most mysterious thing about the world is its comprehensibility. Darwinism and complexity theory are among the explanations offered.
Inherent in matter, we are told, is the ability to self-organize. What is the source of this ability, we might wonder? The only available (non) answer is that if this were not the case we would not be here to wonder. But can the materialists expect us not to keep wondering, nonetheless?
There is only one other possible explanation. Matter is not the basis of existence. Materialism is incorrect in its fundamental premise.
Although materialists no longer rule the intellectual roost, they maintain the wherewithal to ensure that postmodernism remains anti-foundationalist. If there is a source of order in the world, it remains well hidden, by all objective standards.
If matter is not basic, then what is? The basis for existence is the process of relating.
The best understood example of a purely relational system is mathematics. And does math not epitomize insubstantiality? Yes, except for the fact that mathematics appears to be the foundation for physics. It is the modern mathematization of physics in particular that most often prompts the remarks about the mysterious understandability of the world.
So, where's the beef? Where's the substance, if it is not in the matter? The substance is in the coherence. This is the whole story of this website in six words. Coherence is what holds the world together, and what makes it go around. It is what drives the story of history.
Coherence exists only in relation to a subjective pole. The coherence of the world exists in relation to an absolute subjective singularity. That is the only logical alternative to the fundamental incoherence of materialism. Logically there can only be a unique singularity, of which we creatures are the multiple reflections. The physical atom is another reflection thereof.
The atoms, while they are current, provide a centrifugal balance to the centripetal subject. They do this under the aegis of the Monster group, which is the locus of the mathematical coherence of the physical phenomena, and is the shadow of the subjective pole. In the eschaton, the centrifugal force is overcome.
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I am not the only one to have been intrigued by Spencer-Brown's Laws of Form appearing in 1969. Basing his entire system on the 'mark of distinction' has also a metaphysical appeal. It calls to mind our attempt to characterize creation as the process of dividing the primordial, singular unity.
The Kabbalah speaks of the Zim-zum, sometimes pictured as a lightning bolt, as the '(self-)contraction' of God to leave a space for creation to manifest. In this shadow ignorance is latent and knowledge becomes manifest.
In Revelation there are the apocalyptic ten thunders that also play a central role in Joyce's Finnegans Wake. The recursion that is doubly implicit in Joyce's title is explicit in the Laws of Form. This speaks in part to the duality of the Alpha and Omega that is witnessed within history as the syzygy reenacted at the X-event, sometimes referred to as the (little?) death, or passion of God.
In those thunders, are we not hearing the primordial creative word, or was it the primal scream, of God piercing the cosmic silence. It is the beginning of revelation and concealment. We also hear the Ur-language which may well have arisen out of a primal Aaaarrgghhhh of totipotent meaning, the stem cell of language, by degrees of distinction, down to the disquisitions of our analytic philosophers today. Heading into the eschaton, this historical process is reversed and accelerated via the Internet, of course. In place of the original Aaaarrgghhhh, we have the final Metanarrative.
All we need now is to understand the connection between the Zim-zum and the Monster group and we will be in business....Aaaarrgghhhh!!
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The Relational Self
To exist is to relate, lest we forget. Those five words need to be taken with the previously mentioned six, concerning coherence, as the basis of reality. There is no escaping the resulting personalism. Somehow the pantheists miss the nodal structure of the world. But it is not nodes all the way down.
No, no, no. There is the even more fundamental dialectical dynamic, alluded to earlier. There is Buber's I & Thou dynamic. There is also God & Atom/Adam. And how do we characterize this ultimate relational, personal dynamic? How else but as love? Imagine the poor bloke who first comprehended that!
This is the only coherent alternative to atoms swerving in the dark. If the postmodernists ever tire of incoherence, watch out! The sky will soon be falling, like on the church of the nativity, or did that just happen? Did you see that apocalypse? Who, me? Was that 11:11 or TX11? Do we care?
Coherence is the substance. The self is the glue ball, and love is the glue. Have you got a better idea? Is this insufficiently precise to predict the tides? Maybe, but if the tide don't float your boat, the eschaton surely will. Not a threat, just a promise.
As in the monadology, every node is a microcosmic hologram. The cosmos is the holograph. The preordained harmony is the agape betwixt the Alpha and Omega as produced in the X-event, not far from the above mentioned church.
What more can I say? What more is there to say? Why don't we let it be? When will we let it be? We will let it be on Internet time.
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Pantheism has served as a bit of a strawperson in these pages, but I think it is big enough to be able to take it. It takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'. The worst that can be said of the pantheists is that they don't make very good scientists. And how bad is that? I was a transcendental pantheist, and not too bad a scientist at an early age. Now I'm a theist and a much worse scientist, so there you go. Did anyone say that I could be disarming? I'm a disarmamentarian ('disarmament Arian'!? I don't think so, but thanks for the thought, Bill!) .
Let's face it, those pantheists are not real strong on rationalism, nor on the Metanarrative. They are the darlings of the postmodernists because they can be soooo pluralistic. They are a necessary antidote to the fundamentalist excesses inherent in theism. And similarly they have withstood the materialism that necessarily inhered to the incarnation. The Atom/Adam cut no ice with them. And when it comes to the second coming, won't the last be the first?
And remember there is no substance. Love is just the vacuum energy of the Sunyata, the great void. There is no-self relative to the dissolution of the vacuum energy that is the cosmic agape of the omega. Christians have trouble grasping these intangibles, bless their hearts. And who doesn't?
The Alpha is a bit more of a problem for pantheism. The megalithic Angkor sailed right by them. If one lives in Giza, it is more difficult to ignore these omphala. But aren't the pantheists supposed to be navel gazers? Maybe in the next life.
I'll bet you didn't know that my guru's guru is an Imam at the Dome of the Rock. Neither did I until a few weeks ago. You never know what those Quakers will get into.
If the modern materialist establishment needed a thorn in its side, as surely it does, could we have invented a better one than this? Will they not also try the souls of the postmodern pluralists? Those apocalypse freaks seem a bit impatient with my Metanarrative, bless their hearts. What will happen when they discover the Internet?
There are aspects of christianity that are too subtle, even for the Christians. It gets very fuzzy. Islam managed to cut out a lot of the fuzz, but it also managed to throw out the baby with the bath. Without McCluhan how could they have known that the message was in the medium?
They did not quite understand then that the last would be the first, but they are about to witness that in themselves, along with all the rest of us.
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Very early in these pages I bet my 'kingdom' on the fact of emergence. It is an issue that will continue to warrant much attention.
What is the issue? On one account it is whether the world can be explained purely in terms of physics. Right there we have a problem. If physics is unable to reduce itself, how can it be in a position to bring about the reduction of any other disciplines. Even if we had in our grasp the so-called 'Grand Unified Theory' of physics, the question of the closure of physics would be far from being answered. For example, after almost a century, fundamental aspects of quantum theory remain unresolved, quite independent of the existence of any GUT. Solid state physics is showing no signs of running out of new phenomena to study, and our understanding of many of the older phenomena remains purely phenomenological. The ultimate targets for reduction are biology and psychology. Biology continues as a robust, self-contained discipline. Biophysics remains a minor sub-discipline.
On the other hand, no one can point to any vital force that emerges only in living systems. What we do have is a rapidly expanding sense of the functional intricacy of all living systems. No one ever expects to be able to look at the laws of physics and be able to predict life as we know it. The question is then whether this gap is purely epistemic, or if it contains an ontology of actually emergent entities.
As I explained earlier, this is not an idle question. At the very least, it could be that emergence is explainable in terms of something like 'morphic resonance.' This would constitute a non-local connecting principle whose main effect is to facilitate evolution. Just in itself such an effect would upset our current understanding of physics, and would probably force us to confront the problem of teleology, and that should be sufficient to open up the rest of the metaphysical issues being dealt with here. Once these issues become resurrected they are very unlikely to go away again.
But we have only considered physics and biology. The problem of emergence is much more flagrant in the realm of psychology. We can study the neural correlates of our minds until the cows come home, but all the correlations in the world will not explain the existence of what is at least a very fortuitous dual aspect of matter. Furthermore it does not directly address the issue of whether a mind could also exist in an uncorrelated state.
Putting together these most obvious facts of physics, biology and psychology, the case for emergence should be open and shut. The fact that it is not, simply reflects the social conservatism around having to confront the issues of ultimate concern that we are delving into here at this isolated outpost of cosmic rationality.
It is not for nothing that people are reluctant to rock the intellectual boat that is modernism. I strongly suspect that thoughtful people can sense, even if subliminally, that there is something out there of biblical proportions.
There is already a small army of Intelligent Designers who are nipping at the heels of the Darwinists within the narrow confines of biochemistry. Their narrowly sectarian interests seem to inhibit their straying into these deeper and swifter metaphysical currents. But there are many fish in the ocean.
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My metaphysics is relational, as any idealist metaphysics should be. But how does one know that relations are real and not just figments of the mind?
My best answer is that relations have as much rationale to exist as anything else, and probably more. The only thing counting against them is their intangibility in the regard of the materialists.
If numbers can exist then certainly relations can. Where would physics be without its mathematical superstructure? What would it be without its virtual interactions, and what are those if not relational?
Is the past real? If it is, it is only in relation to some actual present.
Very few are the materialists or physicalists who would wish to deny causality, as David Hume famously did in the eighteenth century. Yet what is causality if it is not relational? True that causes are generally taken to be physical, but they do not consist of particles or fields per se, but rather a particular relation between different sets of circumstances or events. The collision of an asteroid with the earth caused the dinosaurs to become extinct, within the sub-narrative of naturalism. The two events are thusly related, and so they both become part of a larger causal/relational system.
If science is teaching us anything about the world it is the almost unlimited functional intricacy and interdependency of its parts, particularly as studied in the life sciences. Ecological science is specifically devoted to studying such relational systems. You can remove an entity from its ecological niche, but your understanding of it will be severely impoverished without understanding its relational context.
Come to think of it, there is no such thing as an isolated fact. Facts come in open collections. There is always the possibility that some new fact will totally change our understanding of all the others. A set of words can be put together as gibberish, or as the Gettysburg Address.
The isolated object, fact or word mean virtually nothing without regard to its relations. Put more strongly, unitary existence is virtually inconceivable.
In such manner does our increasing knowledge of the world logically confront us with a relational metaphysic. The singular and necessary existence of the Best Possible World is only at a slight remove from these considerations.
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If existence is based on relatedness, then it is a matter of degree. The degree of existence, however, is not something that can be directly observed. The Washington Monument exerts no more gravitation than its equivalent mass at the center of the earth. A rock on the surface of Mars is apparently just as solid as the one in your back yard.
Obviously the world would not work if solidity were a function or relatedness. Among other things, the earth would collapse, which could be most embarrassing. Physics works because it is so totally insinuated into our lives. And it is so insinuated just because it does its work. Is this circular? You bet'chya'. Creation is definitely a very participatory, bootstrap process.
As long as astronomers are able to keep pushing the telescopic limits, they will not run into any cosmic or logical brick walls. The sky will not literally fall on their heads. However, they will gradually come to appreciate that the starry heavens function as a logically necessary backdrop to our earthly pageant. A backdrop whose artistic potential is being increasingly realized! Is this being anthropocentric? Of course! More accurately it is being philocentric, if I may drop another bon mot.
Existence implies relatedness. Relatedness implies coherence, or comprehensibility. These invoke the operation of a principle of sufficient reason. In like manner, the PSR implies the BPW hypothesis as Gottfried was able to deduce several centuries ago. Trust me, Leibniz was no dummy. If he were alive today, I would be standing on line to polish his shoes. Thanks to the Darwinian Distraction, we can put away the polish, but not the bohunks, please.
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The poor reader may be getting a bit dizzy from going around in these circles. That is unfortunate, but I'm not quite sure what to do about it.
I am not writing a thesis. I am keeping a wary eye out for the web crawling indexers. That is a necessary fact of life in the Internet lane. I am casting a loopy net into this vast ocean. Snaring a few pairs of eyes is the name of the game. Like those fair maidens of yore, I just keep on spinning. When my own Googling becomes recursive, I will know that the end is in sight.
This Metanarrative is being laid out in circular and holographic fashion. Like JC1, one has to keep the Alpha and Omega in one's grasp at all times. Even if my circles don't, your circles will hopefully expand as you hop and skip around in this labyrinth. The occasional recap is about all that I can offer for the foreseeable future.
Even the occasional recap is problematic. Just one more circle. The tide that runs out toward the shoals of a totally fragmented knowledge is strong. I swim against that tide. Each of these A/O loops has to be able to function as an independent lifesaver. I will likely get only one chance with the saving fish, the leviathan indeed.
The coherence theory of truth is being put into practice here as nowhere else. My work will be finished when and only when another site takes on a more substantial coherence. It might even be a spin-off. It will not be difficult to apprehend. It is nice to have such a simple, even measurable and pleasurable task. We should all get paid to think expansively. Trust me, we will!
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Immaterialism is the intellectual and psychological challenge that stands between us and complete understanding.
Down thru the ages, immaterialism and idealism have always been prevalent in philosophy and religion. That is true today. Even in modern philosophy, they continue to bubble up in various guises from just beneath the surface.
The successes of science have managed to keep a heavy lid on idealist speculation, especially in the last century. Postmodernism has raised the lid for metaphysical discourse amongst the intelligentsia, but this tolerance emphatically does not extend to questions concerning God and Cosmos.
The inhibitions and prohibitions on cosmological speculation are both intellectual and political. For the last three centuries, in case you missed it, there has been at least a cold war between religion and science. Just in the last two decades, it has become tolerable, if not quite respectable, for an academic to speculate about metaphysics as long as the God question is kept firmly in check. Anything more would be to provide an academic arena for the feared and reviled Creationists, for instance, and would seem too much like a unilateral disarmament after all these centuries of struggle. The mood is to just let the 'Cretans' find their own soap boxes. The emotional heat of battle is certainly not conducive to either side calmly considering the alternatives. Evidently that is our job.
On the intellectual side, Darwin and the Big Bang present a formidable obstacle to alternative cosmologies. Immaterialism is the only way to meet this obstacle without making it a direct confrontation on the materialists' own territory. We should wonder why the theists cannot find their way to the high road of idealism. Again, history provides a partial answer. Theists have grown much too comfortable with duality, and particularly with the duality of body and soul. Immaterialism carries the strong odor of pantheism and mysticism. They would much rather continue with the familiar skirmishes, than have to take on a whole new battlefield. Never underestimate the power of habit, especially in matters of the mind. None of us is immune to habit, but some of us feel more strongly the fascination of the uncharted.
Now you ought to have a better idea of from whence we come as we launch into these uncharted waters.
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Immaterialism (pt. 2)
Ever since I first speculated on such matters, I liked to think of myself as a transcendental pantheist, with a definite attraction to the saga of Jesus. It was only rather late in the game that I had to conclude there must be more than an aesthetic connection.
Transcendentalism remained but poetry to the prose of my earnest engagement with physics. But physics never yielded to my need for a true depth of understanding of the world. A random encounter with the notion of the Anthropic principle reawakened my desire for wholeness. For almost five years I struggled to find wholeness within a quantum dualism of mind and matter. But that slim thread or loophole never seemed sufficiently robust to explain all that needed explaining. Even quantum dualism was still verging on the incoherence of Cartesianism.
Once one has opened the door to the possibility of mind on a cosmic scale, all the qualities are drained out of matter, and one is left with the purely mathematical abstractions of physics. The only hurdle to cosmic coherence was the obvious stratagem of subsuming those abstractions to the mental realm. It was still a big leap, and there were more than a few 'sleepless nights'. I continued to be haunted by dinosaurs among other things. Barney may have saved me. Yes, almost.
I realized that my leap from science to immaterialism was a luxury that my fellow scientists could ill-afford. I never seriously considered it to be an intellectual possibility until the advent of the Internet. But by that time I was already well launched into the Aquarium stratagem, which lasted nearly ten years. Now here I am praying to Google for the deliverance of this story.
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There are those who would equate modernism with rationalism, and so in advocating any sort of alternative to modernism, rationality and reason are given a correspondingly low priority.
Part of the rationale for this irrationality is the scientific view that mind is an accident of nature and it is what sets humans apart from nature. In order to get along in the world we must de-emphasize that which sets us apart from it. The way to survive is to go back to nature and/or back to our various traditions. Deep ecology, fundamentalism and postmodernism are the disparate responses.
Historically, rationalism has been based in theism. If reasoning is more than an accident of nature, then it must be based on the existence of a cosmic intelligence. In practice, however, the religious establishments have never been comfortable with the political possibility of free thought. Better to emphasize the authoritarian side of theism in prophecy and revelation, than open the gates to mass enlightenment or God knows what!
The printing press did open the doors of the intellect to the masses, nonetheless. But just in the nick of time, along came science to provide a tremendous outlet for a sustained but restricted intellectual endeavor. The standoff between religion and science was a way for the various authorities to keep the mass mind safely divided. The ultimately abortive outburst of dialectical materialism was the exception that proved the rule.
Now with the advent of the Internet, will the authorities find another stratagem to keep human reason in check? In the real-time global cacophony of the Internet, if there is a cosmic rationale, someone is bound to stumble upon it, and it is liable to make waves that no filter can stop. I guess we'll just have to stay tuned.
If there is a cosmic mind hiding somewhere behind nature and physics, the human mind will eventually reconnect with it, come hell or high water. With all the means now at our disposal, can we still believe that the time of concealment is not drawing to a close?
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A Metaphysical Introduction
Metaphysics was scorned by the analytical tradition for most of the last century. Only in the last decade or two has the academic rediscovery of consciousness forced the philosophers to reopen a metaphysical debate with regard to the venerable mind-body problem. In keeping with their analytical scruples, a narrow focus and the endless parsing of phrases is the order of the day for the Anglo-American philosophers. This is simply what it means to them to be professional. What you see on these pages would never pass muster. Sorry 'bout that!
The Continental philosophers never quite gave up on the mind. Phenomenology remains a wellspring, but much more fashionable of late has been the deconstructionist mentality of postmodernism. A mind set that seems to translate into English more readily than does phenomenology. In short, Metanarrative is scorned on both sides of the Atlantic.
By the same token is coherence scorned. The only good truth is a deconstructed analytical truth, e.g. spilling quantities of ink over the meaning of 'the cat is on the mat'. The fact that these scruples only lead up a blind alley is of precious little concern to the avid professionals.
What you see here is way, way out in left field. Just so as not to mislead you. I am obviously not trying to appeal to professionals. Only if an earnest band of amateurs can bring these matters to a broader public, might the professionals stoop to consider them. They are no longer equipped to deal with coherence, other than in trying to grind it down. We can only hope that they may be so provoked.
The surest sign of the coherence of the world is its increasingly notorious ability to resist analysis. Please keep in mind that veritable mountains of correlations in neuroscience or biochemistry provide not the slightest evidence for reductionism, per se. They only demonstrates that the coherence of nature logically necessitates the existence of irreducible entities, as the Greek philosophers readily deduced millennia ago. Nature exists not by induction on atoms, but rather atoms exist by deduction from nature. If you can appreciate this simple gestalt switch, you will be on the threshold of immaterialism.
Each individual mind is a locus of more or less coherence. Our seemingly unlimited capacity for communication indicates that mental coherence is a readily shared phenomenon. Is there a gene for coherence? Let me know when you find it! More likely there is a genius for coherence (as in Genie?!). The mountains of coherence and correlations within and between mind and nature can only point to a Source. Does not the anthropically biased mathematical superstructure of Physics point to a similar, or perhaps identical Source?
Are not all of us apprehensive about the ramifications of a reengagement with any such entity? Is not the metaphysics of the Source much too hot to handle? Much too dangerous? Well, let's just say, don't mess with the Source.
(see the Commentary below)
An annotated contents (old)
0. Introduction, & (part 2), Recap, (brief list of explanatory links)
The Topical Index proper comes after the following chronological section. Notice also that there are summary pdf files in section 0.2. These also may serve as introductory material.
What follows here are the more recent pages listed chronologically. These pages take the form of a weblog.
0.1 On the Web (a continuing weblog) (in chron. order: 7/10 - 8/8/2002):
Immaterialism, Mind, Postmodernism, Eschatology, A Hard Core of Truth Seekers?, Funda-Mental, & (part 2), Quine's Holism, Jerry Fodor & Co., 'Naturalism in Question', A de facto Dualism, Mind-Body & God, Theistic Idealism, Charles S. Peirce, C. S. Lewis, Bomb + Internet >= better than a Saucer?!, Idealist Cosmology, Holographic Universe, Teilhard's Omega, Tipler's Omega, Blood in the Water?, From Intangibles to Memes,
(9/7/02 to 12/21/02):
The Observation Factor, & (part 2), Materialism, Coherence II, Dan Hutto, Mind-Body Debate, Huw Price, Atomism & Transhumanism, Representation, etc., Who's Keeping Score?, Coherence Theory, Aristotle Gets Real, Representation, Reduction, etc., Nature & Plato, etc., Rationalism vs. Naturalism and other Orthodoxies, What Is There?, Coherence, How to See, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Direct Realism, Do Ideas Count?, A Semiotic Answer?, El Camino Real, Gospel of the Real, East is East & West is West, Creation & Maya, The Epistemic-Ontic Divide.
(1/8/03 through 2005):
On the Side of Reason, Messianism, The Force is with Us, Unreasonable Coherence, Creation vs. Evolution, Omega, Numbers, Symmetry, Bootstrap, Mandelbrot Mystery, Tar Baby, Cosmic Dialectics, Recap, Crisis, All or Nothing, Triumph of Science?, Angelic Doctor, Solving the World's Problems, Agoraphilia, End Times & Apokatastasis, More of the Same, The Heart of the Matter, The Mandelbrot Revisited, Foreseeing the Second Coming, End Game?, Atoms [<<< Latest page goes here!]
0.2 [4/7/05] I'm still working on The Second Coming: for all us Dummies: (formats: PDF, MHT, PPT, RTF). And I may be working on this for some time, yet. The most current version will usually be the PDF version. If we can make this material sufficiently user friendly, then who is to say that we cannot save the world from materialism? [a] Comments on Dummies.