Best Possible World: Gateway to the Millennium and Eschaton



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Let me attempt to recapitulate yesterday, as well as some earlier material. I think there has been some progress in my assessment of the tenuousness of our scientific grip on reality.
A significant factor is that the materialists have run out of ideas. The more thoughtful and candid amongst them, Jaegwon Kim and David Papineau are conspicuous examples, have admitted as much. They have run out of new arguments without making any significant dent in our natural, non-materialist intuitions concerning the nature of our own minds. The philosophical ball is now officially in the court of the non-materialists. And this is just for starters.
The complexity theorists are also running out of ideas for explaining the emergence of novel properties in complex systems, despite the tremendous advances in our computational ability to model such systems. As if to add insult to this injury, the Artificial Intelligentsia is now picking up the cause of ontology that had been dropped by the philosophers. They are looking at the minimum, irreducible ontologies that must be posited so that we can move ahead with our knowledge enhancing systems. Philosophers ought to be taking notes.
The philosophers who are taking note are the Continental semioticians. The phenomenology minded semioticians are effectively ganging up with our own computational ontologists to roll back the Anglo-American initiative in analytic philosophy that dominated our academies in the last century.
Lacking any analytical alternatives, philosophers are reluctantly being pushed toward logical synthesis and metaphysical emergence on a number of fronts. Notions of vitalism and panpsychism are being reconsidered with what some might consider alarming regularity by our workaday philosophers.
For the modern non-materialists, the metaphysical battle is now theirs to lose. Barring some totally unforeseen change of fortune, the momentum is increasingly and very perceptibly shifting away from materialism. Looking back, with 20/20 hindsight, one can almost pinpoint the turning point as having occurred at mid-century: W. V. Quine (and herein) (1908-2000), 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism' (1953). Did Willard sense the magnitude of what he had wrought. Only privately, if at all. He was no evangelist and surely no eschatologist. All the more for the rest of us!
[1/12 -- Many folks would place the discovery of the Quantum, at the turn of the last century, ahead of any philosophical development in helping to reverse the fortunes of materialism. There is a cottage industry of Quantum Minded physicists, formerly led by David Bohm, and now by Sir Roger Penrose and Henry Stapp. Keith Choquette's Holoweb site provides an excellent synopsis of these developments occurring on the fringes of Physics. His book, The Holonomic Paradigm: Biophysics, Consciousness and Parapsychology (2002), goes into much greater detail. I take exception. Yes, me, with my two master's degrees in Physics, beg to differ with some of the greatest minds in that field.]
This turning point came despite, and, one is tempted to speculate, almost because of a continuing wave of startling advances on the scientific and technological fronts. Only now, at the bi-millennium, is this wave beginning to dissipate. A thoughtful person could have anticipated that science might be working itself out of its own job. Either science would naturally find its own limitations, or the worst nightmares of transhumanism would quickly be descending upon us. Oh, yes, there are plenty of self-styled 'futurists' out there who keep the transhumanist faith, and you are very welcome to do the comparison shopping, but I don't think you have to be a brain surgeon to sense that their faith rings hollow. The human intellect and spirit are restless. If the 'futurists' cannot offer us new nourishment, we will be, and we are, moving on to other pastures, other futures.
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I just got a response from Keith inviting me to peruse his material. Here are some excerpts from his Overview and the succeeding pages:
Ilya Prigogine, the Nobel prize winning chemist, is a colleague of Pribram's and has written on the relevancy of chaos theory to Bohm's physics. In his work on chaos theory, Prigogine described the spontaneous reorganization of far from equilibrium systems. The emergence of correlations far from equilibrium due to fields that were ineffective in a less chaotic system is the same principle that Bohm appeals to as the basis of effects from hidden variables of the holonomic order. Subtle fields impose an unexpected order on chaotic systems through a top down constraint upon the system. Bohm refers to the emergence of correlations between electrons in superconductive material at very low temperatures as one example. Pribram also describes the holoscape as a chaotic system, susceptible to the same sort of top down constraints.
[...] Much as Copernicus taught us that the earth is not the center of the world, the holonomic paradigm indicates that the world manifest to our senses and our instruments is not the whole world but only a corner of a vast reality beyond what has been imagined.
[...] Based upon that assumption and the data of recent studies, Puthoff has gone on to describe basic properties of matter such as mass, inertia and gravity in relation to this zero-point field. Others have suggested that the hidden energy of the vacuum develops a pronounced coherence in living organisms and bears upon life processes in important ways, even as the basis of consciousness.
[...] Consciousness is a fundamental part of reality in Walker's theory. There can be nothing physical according to Walker, without consciousness to complement the physical potentialities and bring them to actual physical states. Does this mean that there was no physical reality until the evolution of conscious observers? Not according to Walker, because consciousness was always present in the world, right from the big bang
[...] Consciousness does not emerge from the physical forces recognized in the standard model. Rather consciousness is a hidden variable necessary to accommodate the data of physics....
[...] Pribram argued for a pluralistic monism in which "informational structure" remains neutral to the apparent distinction between mind and matter. He goes on to note that the implicate order Bohm described introduces such information structure in the hidden variables of the implicate order, beyond the material system.
[...] Yet when one looks back to the dawn of the scientific age and the presentation of Newtonian physics, it is easy to understand how the enthusiasm of the scholars of that time fueled new hope that everything about the physical world would be comprehensible to human reason. The age of enlightenment ensued and the match between a rational world and the rational observation of it seemed perfect. Einstein once said "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible". The holonomic paradigm suggests that what can be comprehended is really just a small corner of a vast reality reaching beyond the stars, forever hidden behind the veil.
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Keith,
Please excuse this open response. I will post your reply only if you desire.
Why the pessimism? I agree that reality vastly transcends the built-in limitations of any purely objective science. But this deeper, implicate order to which you and many others expectantly refer: what is its nature? Is it not much closer to the nature of mind than of matter? You say that the implicate order is responsible for the self-organizing potential of matter. Is it not likely or conceivable that much or even most of our own mental processes are embedded in the implicate order, beyond the structures of space and time? Is not such a collective mental field necessary to explain the data of parapsychology, not to mention psychology and biology?
The fact that we cannot drag our scientific instruments into this domain, is hardly cause for despondence. Our most powerful instrument of discernment is already ensconced in the heart of that noumenal world. For what more could we ask? Is it not the birthright of everyone of us to have a ringside seat under the noumenal Big Top?
I need not point out to you, of all people, that our puny little egos are not the biggest show in the cosmic mind field. Surely the spontaneous organizing potential of the implicate order has realized mental powers that transcend our own. In fact, it may well be that our present egos relate to the cosmic mind rather as the mental power of an individual neuron relates to you and me. Is this cause for pessimism? Only if we can't figure out how to put our heads together. Does not the Internet serve as a prime accelerant in this inevitable process of global coherence? Here we are reasoning together about from whence we have come and whither we shall go. Our intellectual weblogs may or may not converge. Those that do converge and cohere are likely to set the pace and tone for what is to come.
Only a minimal faith in the universal power of reason, as amply demonstrated in mathematics and other fields, is necessary for all of us to win the cosmic mind game. For what other reason could we have possibly come this far from out of the primordial chaos?
If that is not good enough, we can always cheat. A little clairvoyance can go a long way in the teleological field of the implicate order. If we are not chips off the old block that is the cosmic mind, then someone is trying hard to fool us. All we have to do is collectively remember from whence we came.
Am I being too optimistic?
Dan

[1/12]
I am taking exception to the Quantum Mind brigade. I have several times favorably mentioned my own experience with what I call 'quantum dualism' (also here and here, etc. I just realized, though, that 'quantum' appears in none of my page titles. This oversight will have to be corrected.). I recognize that the main intent of the Quantum Mind people is precisely to avoid Cartesian dualism, and one can only applaud their efforts to this end. But, as with Bohm, we are left with the explicate and the implicate orders, reminiscent of Kant's phenomenal and noumenal domains. These domains cannot be treated as ontological equals, despite Descartes' supposition that we could have the equal reality of both mind and matter. The nascent scientific enterprise was quite happy to grab and run with their half of the ontological loaf. Only in the last half of the last century did that establishment dare attempt to complete their ontological heist.


That is water over the historical dam. The Quantum brigade is resorting to a partial roll-back of the materialist juggernaut, rather in the spirit of postmodern pluralism, i.e. let sleeping dogs lie. It is my intent to demonstrate that any such partial measure is too little and too late. We cannot now turn the clock back toward dualism and pluralism. There is a global need and desire for coherence on all levels.
But, I will hardly have to lift a finger. I have only to point to the slippery slope. Give the psyche an inch and it will take a mile. If there is an ontological domain for the human psyche in the implicate or noumenal realm that has little or no regard for the limitations of space and time, then surely there is room for supra-human intelligence in that same realm.
We then have a stark choice to make. What shall we take to be the primary ordering principle for the cosmos? Will it be the space-time manifold, or will it be the mind. Kant and Bohm and many others, including other physicists, have realized that space-time could only play a derivative role. There had to be a 'pre-geometric' or noumenal order. Surely the mind, conscious and unconscious, human and supra-human, is a part of this order. We then need only choose between pessimism and optimism. The pessimist supposes, with Kant, that the noumenal order is a primordial chaos, almost totally opaque even to the supra-human mind.
The optimist finds this notion of cosmic incoherence hard to swallow, especially after three centuries of progress in the mind's penetration of nature. There is an ordering principle, alright. Darwinism is surely not sufficient. The is also an Anthropic principle at work. Then there is the 'unreasonable effectiveness' of mathematics within physics and beyond. Does the mean that the supra-human intelligence is limited to mathematics? Is there not always a close correlation between mathematical and musical aesthetics? Witness the creations of Mozart.
Science has led us to see virtually to the end of nature. We now confront the noumenon. It is either an alien domain or it is our one true source and home. Our ecos, our logos, our telos. Is not pessimism just born of the desire to avoid our inevitable time of reckoning with our own destiny?


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Topical Index
1/8/03

Messianism



My last major excursion into the issue of messianism was last August. Then, as now there was a bit of a provocation: failed communication. [To set the record straight there has been a subsequent communication in the latter instance]. When communication fails, one is not generally afforded an explanation. One can only surmise. I claim, in no casual manner, to be a reasonable person. When I get into trouble in communicating I can only surmise that it is due to the fact that I intentionally carry or push reason to its limits. It is my nature to be persistent, and I simply persist with reason beyond what most others might consider to be reasonable, politic, or even just polite.
Am I then a trouble maker? Perhaps, in the sense that moderation in all things is often held out as the prescription for avoiding trouble. Can one be too reasonable or too rational? I would say that it depends on the context. I think it is fair to say that our world is in as precarious a situation today as at anytime in its history, and there is the live prospect that things could get much worse before they get better.
Is there a better way? If there is, we will discover it only by reasoning together. And there is the catch: human reason has been much maligned, now as much as ever.
Human reason has been caught between a rock and a hard place. For the last several centuries, the power of human reason has been demonstrated mainly in the domain of science. Science, however, has been unable to discover the source of human reason, beyond speculating that it exists merely as an outdated(?) survival mechanism. The defenders of reason are left defenseless against modern and postmodern cynicism concerning any and all human motivation. Cynicism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as the technology spawned by science, lacking more inspired or humane application, is diverted wherever possible to its basest and most dangerous uses.
Down through the ages, when faced with seemingly insurmountable problems of their own, people have appealed to higher sources. This has been seen in both the prophetic and mystical traditions. Is that happening today? The aggressive and nihilistic materialism that lies just below the surface of modernism has seemingly created its own evil twin in the upwelling of reactionary, fanatical fundamentalism now seen around the world. The voices of reason on the spiritual and theological side of the modern world have been virtually silenced by the centuries of systematic brow-beating that they have endured at the hands of the secular intellectual establishment. There is no sign of a reasoned institutional response to the rising chorus of secular cynicism and sectarian fanaticism. These, indeed, are the rock and hard place between which human reason is now skewered.
I see one hope for reason. That is right here on the Internet. Only here might it be possible for individual voices of vision and reason to coalesce into a force to be reckoned with by all the other forces of unreason. Coherence is the name of this game. It will be up to us to come up with the vision of light and reason that can overcome the tide of darkness.
We can put this much trust in our reason only if we can believe that it has a source beyond the material dimensions of the scientific cosmos. Together, we can and must reach for that higher source. Thus this effort necessarily transcends material survival, as it takes on the character of a quest for our own salvation.
We who expect to find a coherence in accord with a higher source of reason can only do so effectively in the context of a salvific cosmology. The mystical and prophetic traditions, wherever they eschew pessimism, open themselves to a messianic drama from within history. Can we ignore that history, that metanarrative of all the human traditions?
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Here's the next list: messianism & (Moshe) Idel (192 hits).
MESSIANIC MYSTICS -- Moshe Idel (Yale Univ. Press 1998):
From Booklist:

A running controversy with fellow Judaic scholar Gershom Scholem drives Idel's wide-ranging argument about the relationship between messianism and mysticism. Scholem sees the two as incompatible, but Idel offers substantial evidence that they can coexist and, for a number of important thinkers, have coexisted. Idel is particularly interested in opening investigation of cabala (esoteric Judaism) to a rainbow of messianic models. One effect of that interest is the shifting of messianic ideas from a distant, apocalyptic future to a transformative present. Moreover, discussion of tikkun (cosmic repair) as completion of the deity is relevant not only to Jewish messianism, Idel notes, but also to a range of mystical traditions in Judaism, Christianity, and Buddhism. The conception of every moment as a gate that may admit messianic transformation of the world imparts a seriousness to everyday action that belies popular perception of mysticism as otherworldly. Idel's treatment of a most intriguing subject will stretch nonspecialist readers but richly reward them, and his thorough documentation points out excellent avenues for further exploration.


'From Celebrities to Zionists, Kabbalah an Endless Source of Solace' -- New York Times/March 20, 1999 , by Edward Rothstein
In a major new book, Messianic Mystics, Idel expands a project he began more than a decade ago, questioning his mentor's views on almost every major issue. The arguments are complex, but they have important implications for understanding Jewish history and popular religious belief.
The notion of messianism is central to these disagreements. For Scholem, the Kabbalah after the 13th century developed a new system for making sense of the trials and exiles that scar Jewish history.
Just as the human body was created in God's image, these mystics believed, so every human act had its counterpart in the divine realm; earthly history was but a reflection of the history of the Godhead; both realms were riven by alienation and exile.
A cabalist, by properly performing ritual, could begin to heal not just the mundane universe but the spiritual one as well. This mythology, a version of which is incorporated into contemporary pop Kabbalah, made Jewish history and personal experience part of a grand theological drama of exile and restoration.
But what happens, Scholem asks, if a savior, a Messiah, promises to complete this process of repair and reparation, bringing the drama to an end? Scholem argued that such a figure would be revolutionary, not evolutionary. A Messiah would shatter the tradition (as indeed, the figure of Jesus did when his disciples founded Christianity). Scholem called messianism a "theory of catastrophe."
In a magisterial essay, "Redemption Through Sin," Scholem described such a catastrophe in the 17th century, when a mentally unbalanced man, Sabbatai Zevi, declared himself the Messiah. Sabbatai engaged in bizarre and provocative acts, even instituting a new blessing praising "that which is forbidden."
[...] But eventually, Scholem suggests, it caused a widespread crisis that undermined the foundation of Jewish faith. Only the spirit of national and spiritual yearning remained, a yearning that led to the Enlightenment and eventually to Zionism.
[...] Scholem sees messianism as dangerous and catastrophic; Idel sees it as a part of ordinary mystical expectations. Scholem says the sense of exile was central to much cabalistic thought; Idel, rejecting traditional views of Jewish history, disagrees.
Scholem stresses the importance of ideas; Idel emphasizes the nature of experience and the mystic's drive toward union with God. Idel values variety and diversity over unity and coherence. (He even wonders if he is being too post-modern.)
One might hope that somewhere between these two scholars there may lie some truth.
And where, you might ask, do reason and mysticism come together?

[1/15]
The following is an edited excerpt of a recent communication.


[------],
Yes, there is a whole new world opening up. It is a world that appears to be more amenable to what you frequently refer to as a 'top-down constraint'.
There are, of course, the 'holonomic constraints' of classical physics which, in a purely formal, or 'nomological' manner, recognize macroscopic, i.e. mechanical causation.
Both of us (many of us!) are looking for less mechanical types of causation that would be open to psychological and parapsychological application. And, almost certainly, the quantum, implicate, noumenal and/or pre-geometric realms are less resistant to mental causation than is the classical domain. And, furthermore, from a non-dualist perspective, we would expect any sort of implicate order to have a strongly mental component.
Jack [Sarfatti] and Henry Stapp both see 'qubits' as having a mental nature. Jack uses the hidden variable interpretation of Bohm, while Henry follows von Neumann and Wigner in focusing on the dynamics of the 'collapse'. (I am already rusty regarding Jack's ontology. I will need to consult his new books @ http://www.1stbooks.com.)
Any move toward making physics more hospitable to our minds will, of course, make it more hospitable to all minds. There is likely to be some natural, spontaneous self-organizing, on the part of the cosmic mentalities, into a structure that might have some attributes relevant to theology.
Given some probability of a theo-physiscs, I am naturally inclined to take my questions and concerns right to the top. People engaged in the more traditional brand of physics, even possibly including Jack, see this as a shameless cheat. It is more akin to speculative philosophy (dare we mention it!) than physics.
The bottom line is that I try to take the perspective of the Big Gal upstairs. Unless I were totally incompetent as a creator, there would be certain optimizing strategies that I would endeavor to employ, especially including a maximal participation in the Creation on the part of the creatures, along with certain security measures, of course: viz. Ron P. (I'm embarrassed to admit that I have just run across the notion of 'tikkun' ("Repair of the World") which is the cabbalistic take on Wheeler's 'participatory universe'.)
Jack was my original metaphysical mentor via his first version of Space-Time & Beyond (1975). Now that Jack has returned to physical sanity, he rues his contribution to a generation of metaphysical delinquents, including yours truly.
But, glancing at his recent missive copied to you, there may be some hope of a latter-day collaboration between sanity and insanity.
[...]
Dan
--------------------------------------------------
And yet another missive:
Jack, [ also see http://www.1stbooks.com (Sarfatti)]
Sure, I can meet you in DC. If you would like Ron's participation, you had best make a personal entreaty.
By the way, I have a bit of a Sufi connection, myself. My sometime guru's guru is a Sufi elder who officiates at the dome of the rock. There might be some strategic value there: Location, location, location.
>>I now think I understand both consciousness and gravity and how they connect as physical processes. How they connect is how the UFOs fly. Remember for me physical and material not equivalent. Mentality is also physical. It's Wheeler's IT - BIT distinction. There is a physics of information and meaning that is not purely subjective. Our inner experiences are physical phenomena in the broader sense. I could be wrong, but let's see how my concepts and equations hold up in the normal science process. I will be presenting at APS meetings now.<<
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