WHAT IS REALITY? (Part One)

Philosophy and science have always had a profound love of questioning our view of reality, to such an extent that we could affirm that ontological doubt is part of the essence of what philosophy and science are. Any love of knowledge has to be prepared to assume, as Socrates did, that what we think we know is really fundamentally wrong, and it is only when one is capable of making that assertion that any meaningful philosophy and science can take place.

Stephen Hawking talked about our being at the end of knowing because he predicted that very shortly we would know everything about the physical laws of the Universe and that this would bring about the death of philosophy – although what Hawking did not contemplate was that a complete understanding of the mysteries of the Universe would also bring about the death of science.

Philosophy tries to grasp reality through the discipline of reason, and science takes that reason one step further by conducting physical experiments that can prove what the deductions to their theoretical reasonings have been pointing to. Of course, philosophy and science are different disciplines, but, in a Venn diagram display, they are also subsets that overlap, and they are both enclosed in a larger set – the art of questioning.

To tackle specific questions like how does an earthworm procreate, or what is the molecular composition of water, we would turn to science, while the bigger questions such as what is justice or does God exist, lend themselves to the logical deductions of philosophy – or at least, that is how we have traditionally operated when applying the art of questioning to our world and our existence in that world. Nevertheless, with the development of cosmological exploration combined with the pursuit of understanding the quantum mechanics of the Universe, science has started to delve into the once seemingly impossible areas of knowledge that were once considered the metaphysical realm, reserved for the spiritual contemplation of monks and prophets and were the great mystical factories of religious contemplation and thought about God.

Quantum mechanics is one of the most bizarre and challenging fields of questioning that our minds have ever devised as it is full of seemingly illogical conclusions, such as the idea of nonlocality, or the fact that subatomic particles and wave forms exist in different consecutive states until they are observed, and that they possess awareness and memory. Ironically, it is the almost equally bizarre notions of certain philosophical contemplations that can help us fathom the real scope of the quantum scientists’ invasion of the metaphysical field. In order to unfold the mysteries of the quantum it helps to contemplate them through the prism of certain philosophical ideas that these physics of the invisible are related to.

For example, in quantum wave theory the physicist Bohm describes reality as we perceive it as a mere abstraction of the truly chaotic form of authentic reality. In a sense, the reality we perceive is an illusion that is generated by the limited perception of our senses. And this idea is an echo of what Plato affirmed in his famous cave allegory, in which, Plato argued, the reality we perceive is really but a shadow of the true state of the Universe, created by a light that is invisible to us, a light which is, as in Bohm’s statement, modified by our perception of it.

However, there is a major difference between Plato’s allegory and Bohm’s theory: for Plato the authentic reality is an illumination and a truth that we need to look for, through a contemplation that allows us to see beyond the illusion that we call reality, but Bohm’s quantum reality is in itself a chaotic, formless state which would be fairly meaningless even to any god. It is certainly not a state that any human could wish to fully exist in, because all existence in it would be annihilated. It is only the creation of the albeit, illusionary forms, fashioned by our perception that any meaning and purpose can be infused within the Universe, and in this way we actually have a reversal of Platonic idealism. There are no authentic forms implanted in human minds by the gods, the authenticity is chaos, and the forms of reality we have are our creations, configuring the muddled state of reality and subjecting it to the limits of our organs of perception that need to make sense of the chaos in order to allow us to exist in that disorder.

It is also interesting to look at the quantum view of reality through the prism of Berkeley’s form of idealism, which basically stated that nothing exists until it is perceived. The idea that quantum particles exist in a chaotic state until they are perceived could be seen as a scientific affirmation of Berkeley’s logical deduction. According to quantum physics, observation has a manifesting effect on the quantum field. It is the perception and observation of the quantum that makes the quantum manifest in forms. Reality, as we know it, becomes manifest when it can be revealed by conscious, rational minds through conscious, rational perception.

Now, if we switch our point-of-view and instead of looking at quantum science through Idealism we observe Idealism through the filter of quantum mechanics, then we clearly see that without sentient agents to make reality concrete, the real operates in a state of completely purposeless chaos. Making reality concrete or manifest through the structuring that perception gives it is the first step towards making it purposeful.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

THE PURPOSE OF CIVILISATION

Most of us would like to believe that we are civilised and that we belong to an organising system that is so obviously civilised that it is called civilisation. But, how true is this assumption? What makes us so sure our world is a civilised one? Or even, how can we really be certain that we know what civilisation and being civilised really mean? Could it be that we take civilisation for granted?

Being civilised is a certain way of acting. It is often related to polite and/or diplomatic behaviour. It’s opposite is ‘barbaric’, ‘hooligan’, ‘philistine’, or ‘vulgar’ behaviour. Being civilised implies a respect for other human beings and human institutions whereas the ‘barbarians’ will have no respect for others and will invade the space of other individuals and groups in a loud, brash, aggressive manner. Being civilised suggests a degree of cultural refinement and taste, whereas philistine tastes are crude, kitschy popular, or simply non-existent.

If we do live in a civilisation, we also know that a large amount of barbaric, uncivilised behaviour exists alongside us – perhaps we even partake in some of it ourselves. This means that civilisation as we experience it is not perfect, for if it were then surely all members of our civilisation would have to be civilised. But, to what extent can civilisation cohabit with the barbarians without it losing its right to call itself civilisation? In our world, the barbaric, vulgar, and kitschy are predominant components of society while the refined, cultured, and polite behaviour is confined to a very small minority. So, given that reality, can we truly continue to believe that we live in a civilised world?

To properly answer this question, and resolve any false conceptions we might have about ourselves, we need to look at the original purposes and results of our civilisation and then compare what we find with what we were expecting to find. 

So, what is the purpose of civilisation? To answer this, we must look at its origins. We know that civilisation as a phenomenon arose with the development of agriculture – but why? Agriculture created a surplus, and an accumulation of extras has great advantages for those who have them. They can be used in exchange for other things that are lacking, or for things that bring pleasure, or for increasing one’s personal wealth and perhaps even one’s power. In this way, surplus became a very desirable thing, but to have and maintain this precious advantage created an obligation for a stricter and more complex organisation of societies. This organisation was the beginning of what we now call civilisation.

We can see from this that the original purpose of civilisation was to organise production in a way that would guarantee the benefits of surplus acquisition, i.e., the profits generated by excess. For large scale agriculture to be feasible there had to be an appropriately large and seasonally-permanent workforce to farm it, which in turn created a demand for housing facilities where the workforce could sleep, which needed some sort of urban planning and systems of control to ensure that those workers did not threaten the smooth functioning of the system developed by those in charge of the surplus acquisition. From that early organisation came pyramids and writing, but the purpose of the civilisations that created them was not to build great architecture and communicate universally through writing, it was to organise production, accumulate wealth, and ensure that their control of that wealth was perpetual (through the acquisition of more and more power that was symbolised by the pyramids). Likewise, these first civilisations created the conditions for the first, full-scale wars, not because wars were the purpose of civilisation, but rather that war can only really be understood as a means of protecting or developing the profits that the civilisation aims to make for those who are in charge of the power of acquisition. This is what the purpose of civilisation was.

Since the birth of civilisation, there has only ever been this one same purpose for it: the organisation, protection, and development of profits from processes of production.

The irony of this is that this kind of system is not particularly geared towards creating what we would consider civilised behaviour based on respect and refinement. It could be argued that civilised behaviour is a result of civilisation because the complexity of its social organisation requires social civility, but the relationship between civilised behaviour and civilisation is not a purely reciprocal one. One the one hand, civilised behaviour is necessary in order for a complex society to function, but members of a complex society cannot have the same profit-making capabilities that civilisation itself has because the engine of civilisation is designed to move the advantages of acquisitions always in a vertical way, taking away from the workers who produce the surplus for the profit of the elites that control the means of that production. Because of this, there is no reason why those who stand outside of the circle of entitlement have to act in a civilised way.

So, whilst the relationship between civilised behaviour and civilisation is not an accidental one, because civilisation believes it needs a civilised society for it to function, in actual fact this is one of civilisations greatest misapprehensions, because in reality the greater part of society in the civilised world is hardly civilised at all.

The relationship between the terms ‘civilisation’ and ‘civilised’, therefore, demands a leeway. Not all of civilisation can be civilised. The idea of a civilisation with a civilised elite supported by highly refined and cultured slave-servants, is absurd. Civilisation needs to have barbarians working at its base in order to uphold its primary purpose which is the progress and preservation of its profit-making nobility.

Traditionally, civilisation handled this discrepancy through the phenomenon of classes which made a systematic progression from the vulgar to the refined seem logical. This produced an ideal of civilised behaviour that culminated in Europe’s 18th century’s Age of Enlightenment. A refinement that, because of its enlightenment, coincided with an upsurge in democratic values that exploded into the French Revolution and has developed into the western democratic parliamentary models we have today on a global scale.

As a conglomerate of democracies, civilisation has been able to find a way out of the dilemma with the civilised. Once democratic principles had been enforced, civilisation no longer needed to be refined and even the great elites were able to relax and allow themselves to indulge in what had always been considered vulgar behaviour. In a sense, civilisation has become more honest with itself, and its relationship with civilised behaviour has become more contingent by basing it on the basic tenets of civilisation itself, centring correct behaviour around the needs of commerce, of the organisation of acquisitions and exploitations, and of engendering surplus and profit. Civilised behaviour, therefore, could revolve around politeness, but it could just as easily be centred on brutality: civilisation is about obtaining what the elite want, and profits can be obtained either through polite negotiation or through violent extortion and the power of military might. Given the real purpose of civilisation, the images of a democratic plantation owner in Alabama whipping his negro slave, or a refined Nazi officer overlooking a queue of naked Jews on their way to the gas chamber are perfectly legitimate interpretations of ‘civilised’ behaviour given the real purpose of civilisation and its surplus-exploitation roots. Thankfully, however, they are not considered acceptable for the vast majority of human beings. For most of us, what we have just described is the pinnacle of barbarity. But the discrepancy remains: both of these acts were perpetrated within the paradigm of supposedly civilised societies that were part of the overall system of Western Civilisation that we have today, and while that discrepancy between our concept of civilised behaviour and the true purpose of civilisation exists, then the chance that such barbarity will one day return will also exist.

So, what is wrong here? Could it be that the terms ‘civilisation’ and ‘civilised’ mean something else than they really are?

Our history is the history of civilisation, which means the history of the organisation of production on a mass scale and a perpetuation of profit making by certain areas of society as a result of that organisation. As we see, this is an anti-human process that segregates human societies in order to exploit certain sectors, and this means that this civilisation, which is the central pivot of our history, is an anti-human concept. This does not mean, however, that another kind of system designed to organise societies in a way in which the welfare, dignity, and fulfilment of all of humanity will be taken into consideration is not possible.

We have heard them talk about the End of History, now it is time to contemplate the possibility of an End of Civilisation.            

ESSE EST PERCIPI

The continuing complacency by world governments to apply the systemic changes needed to combat climate change is making the idea of a mass extinction on this planet in the foreseeable future, more and more feasible, and the predicted year of total climate collapse grows ever nearer. The greatest concern is that this unfolding scenario is still only considered a marginal problem, perhaps because the forecast of the tipping point that situates it some 30 to 60 years from now[i], still seems far away and, probably the major reason for our lethargic reaction, is that there is still a lot of money to be made in fossil fuels for those who have got so, so rich by exploiting them.

For those of us with humanistic sensibilities, however, this steady and persistent procession towards our total extinction is maddening for the madness it is. For a humanist, despite the seemingly mass-suicidal death-wish, humanity is something which is inherently beautiful and profoundly meaningful in the Universe. But what is it that will really be lost if a mass extinction of all biological life forms should occur on this planet, as may very well have taken place on our neighbouring planet Mars?

To get our mind around the tremendous consequences of such a loss, we merely need to contemplate reality in an idealistic fashion as Berkeley did with the concept of esse est percipi (aut percipere), Being is to be perceived (or to perceive).

In this idea, Being and Perception are mutually dependent if we consider existence from a qualitative point of view. A Universe of mostly empty space, with an occasional ball of hot gas or frozen rock, is, qualitatively void of Being because there is no consciousness of it, and it itself is not conscious of its own existence. In short, without any passive or active consciousness of it, a thing does not qualitatively exist. To be, a thing needs to be perceived, and to be perceived, a thing needs to be.

This kind of metaphysical thinking may seem trivial at first, but if we associate all percipi with organisms threatened with extinction (i.e., all life on Earth in the age of the Climate Emergency), then it becomes clear that the extinction of life on Earth could very well mean the extinction of everything. With the end of biological entities capable of consciousness, the entire Universe, in a qualitative way, will cease to exist as well. The result would be a state of absolute non-Being, an absolute void of perception is tantamount to an absolute void, in which there is nothing to perceive anything and because of that nothing can be perceived.

Esse est percipi should now therefore be taken as a moral statement, demanding an ethical response to preserve and develop consciousness, and this demand for consciousness is one that must affect the whole of humanity as the perceived and perceivers par excellence.      


[i] ‘Collapse of Civilisation is the Most Likely Outcome’: Top Climate Scientists – Resilience

The Übermensch and Purpose

The Übermensch and Purpose

“What is great about human beings is that they are a bridge and not a purpose: what is lovable about human beings is that they are a crossing over and a going under.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA

Nietzsche saw human beings as a bridge between the animal and the Übermensch (the superhuman), this superhuman being the next evolutionary step beyond humanity. For him this evolution was necessary to pull humanity forward again, away from a tendency to slip back down to the animal.

Our interpretation of the human condition is a little different to Nietzsche’s. For us, the evolutionary leap is already inherent in the nature of our species as homo sapiens sapiens, but that the sapiens quality of humanity has been retarded by the anti-human historical processes imposed on humanity by civilisations dominated by the power of wealth. Humanity, from our assessment, is more alike a road or a river that we are not allowed to travel very far along because the path has been diverted and drawn back in a circling way. Because of this we seem to be unable to make real progress and our distant past seems closer than any dawning great new future and subsequently, this constant coming back (which is real way that humanity moves, rather than Nietzsche’s crossing over) results in our losing touch with human purpose and become easily lost in nihilisms engendered by prophets and economists.

“I love the one who lives, in order to know, and who wants to know, so that one say the Übermensch may live.”

Here we have a definition of Nietzsche’s purposiveness. Nietzsche loves the one who lives in order to know because that is the most authentically sapiens quality (and anti-animal quality) of our humanity, and it reiterates Nietzsche’s idea of spiritual progress, that through exerting our will to know we transcend our animal state and become the superhuman, or transhuman, authentically sapiens species.

For us, this knowing has to be exercised in all fields of existence and Being, fulfilling itself through a knowing, sapiens relationship with the Universe. A relationship creating an authentic and spiritual relationship of absolute Being.   For a more detailed explanation of Authentic Purpose and Being see the related article: AUTHENTIC PURPOSIVENESS: THE THING – THE WORD – BEING | pauladkin (wordpress.com)

AUTHENTIC PURPOSIVENESS: THE THING – THE WORD – BEING

For humanity to evolve in a positive and authentically human way we must be able to affirm a common purposiveness for all. In order to do that, we need to answer the big question: “Why are we here?”, with the emphasis on the WE.

This is a question that contains a heavy theological load, as it has historically been the role of religions to try and answer it, so in order to pull it away from religious associations we could firstly open up the subject ‘we’ to include all conscious and rational forms of life that could exist and so rephrase the ‘big’ question in a more scientifically sounding manner: “Why is their intelligent life in the Universe?”

Not that we expect science to be able to give a definite answer to this question, in fact we presume it can’t, but we do think if it is armed with philosophical, logical speculation, it could fashion a new, metaphysical scenario to build a positive narrative of purpose from. From contemporary cosmological speculation science points to a quantum-mechanics kind of metaphysics that approaches the evolution of the Universe as a wilful process, not necessarily planned as such, but moving towards a logical evolution that gravitates toward purposefulness.   

Before science will be able to definitely prove any reason for intelligence, however, philosophy is needed to open a path for that speculative investigation and pave the way forward and attack the big question from a slightly different angle – not of ‘why’ directly but primarily ‘how’ and then ‘what for’. So, firstly, How is the existence of rational beings in the Universe possible? And secondly, What could the purpose of intelligent life be in the Universe?

The answer to the first question rests in the idea of evolution and that has to be examined scientifically. The religious idea of a Creator that opened its mind and let in light and a paradise world came into being populated by all the animals and plants and human beings we know of today has no scientific basis. The evolution of the Universe from pure energy into complex material forms with consciousness capable of practising art and science and developing technologies capable of shaping the world to satisfy their own needs is the end-result of a painstakingly slow development from absolute simplicity to incredible complexity. We are beings that know we are here because of that gradual, cause and effect development into complexity. One could say we are a result of a seemingly perpetual process of incremental intricacy, and, as far as we know, the human brain is the most naturally complex material phenomenon in this Universe. An intricate organ that is constantly producing more and more complexity. Knowing this, we can now ask ‘why?’. What is this complexity we possess for? Why would such a process of creating such complexity exist in our Universe at all?

To answer this we need to think of what the most basic purpose of the Universe itself could be, the answer to which lies in what it is.

The Universe is everything, and by being everything it is the antithesis of nothing. In theological and philosophical terms, the Universe is Being, and that which is not in the Universe is non-Being. The pre-Socratic Parmenides argued that the totality of the Universe was something complete and perfect, an idea reflected in monotheistic concepts of God, but science tells us that this is not so. The Universe has evolved from very chaotic conditions and continues to evolve – Being is a developing, qualitative thing. The Being of a Universe simply made up of nothing more than cold space, hot balls of gas and spinning rocks, is not a very interesting thing to know about, especially as there is nothing in such a Universe to know about it. To be but not be known even by yourself, is the most pointless kind of existence. From this image of pointlessness, however, we can derive a concept of ultimate purposiveness and affirm that the ultimate goal of Being is for its existence to know and be known.

So, in order for this more purposeful form of an aware-Being to come about, then the Universe needs to create the possibility of that awareness. This must happen via the creation of the possibility of it being named. Let’s call this naming process The Word. The Thing, thereby, which is the original, pre-sapiens state of Being, must allow a naming to happen by creating circumstances that permit The Word to be brought into Being and by so doing allowing the Thing-itself to be known, interpreted through and preserved by The Word.

This is the purpose of Being, a purpose which is necessarily engendered by its lack. Without The Word the Universe (Being) is qualitatively deficient and is closer to non-Being than Being itself.  

Through The Word the Thing becomes the Universe as a Being imbued with qualities and purpose becomes rooted in the interaction between the Universe and the conscious, rational, evolving intelligences that cohabit, discover and define it.

In order to arrive where we are now, with someone thinking the Universe in words that are communicated to other organisms capable of understanding those words, the Universe has to have been imbued with the purpose of qualitative Being. A purposeful will which has been able to create conditions allowing sapiens organisms with brains that are complex enough to create language, to evolve in it, name it, and construct communicable explanations for it that will uncover the secrets of it and allow for the development of technologies that will develop the understanding of the Universe further, with the goal of achieving total comprehension with the Universe in the distant future. For this reason, using theological terms, humanity is sacred in the Universe.

It is within this continually evolving development that our authentic purposiveness lies, and authentic human fulfilment can only be genuinely found through the pursuit of this development unto a complete awareness of Being. If our consciousness and language make us sacred, we have a sacred duty to develop our common intelligence (the accumulation of all human intelligence) to the fullest. 

Transcending the Ephemeral

Only once we have properly grasped something can we begin to judge it. Likewise, only when we understand something can we know if it is beautiful.

So, beauty can only be found by trying to grasp the things before us, but also, approaching this idea from the opposite direction, we can say that understanding phenomena helps us to preserve the beauty of it.

Understanding is a method for transcending the essential ephemerality of existence.

The Aesthetics of the Universe

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The Universe is creative, capable of engendering novelty and incredible complexity as well as beautiful simplicity and harmony. In fact, when we examine the cosmos it is easy to make an analogy of its mechanics with the creative process of art: there is trial and error, perhaps even deliberation and accidental inspiration; there are moments when it destroys its own work, rubs it out and starts again; new options can emerge and it will follow them.

All art is in the Universe, and the Universe is in all art. It starts off as a Jackson Pollock and evolves into Da Vinci and then goes back to Pollock.

To be a good cosmologist, one has to study the aesthetics of the Universe.

5 WAYS TO CHANGE THE WORLD …

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Surely, we all want a better world, and that better world is possible if we …

1) Believe that a perfect world (Utopia) is attainable, and that, subsequently, the eradication of wars, poverty, disease, crime and social injustices is possible. Believe that we can create better living standards in clean environments and that work will be a labour of love for all.

2) Understand that this Utopia can only be possible if it is constructed for the enjoyment of all of humanity, and that nation-state borders are an impediment to the construction of this better world. A constitution already exists for humanity, it’s called the International Bill of Human Rights Insist that this universal constitution be taken seriously. 

3) Understand that the alternative to Utopia is Dystopia and that this Dystopia is the current direction we are headed. In Dystopia, wars are a constant reality; poverty is rife, as is disease; criminal organisations control and govern us; the environment is dirty and noxious; and labour is an alienating reality for the worker and a daily purgatory. Understand that the creation of Dystopia has to be resisted at all costs.

4) Understand that technology is the main tool that will make the utopia or the Dystopia a reality. Understand that our creation and use of technologies must therefore be bravely orientated towards Utopian purposes.

5) Understand how our current system, which is geared towards acquisitions and the protection of acquisitions, is prejudicial for Utopia and a motivator of Dystopian scenarios. Understand that this system needs to be dismantled in order for the possibility of Utopia to bloom.  Help provoke this dismantling of the system by believing in (1).

IF WE ARE ALONE …

X-FILES-i-want-to

We are either alone in the Universe, or we’re not alone. Until formal contact with an extra-terrestrial life-form is established we can only affirm that: Intelligent life exists beyond the planet Earth or it doesn’t.

Nevertheless, we can statistically try and calculate what the possibilities of life existing beyond Earth are, and yet … does it matter? Well, if a positive, progressive energy can be generated by the conclusion, then yes, it does matter.

*

This week, the media have been latching on to a recently published article from Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute that argues the case that statistically we are most probably alone in the Universe.[1]

The article in question, by Sandberg, Drexler and Ord, called “Dissolving the Fermi Paradox” adds very little to arguments already put forward by Ward and Brownlee in their Rare Earth Hypothesis formulated nearly twenty years ago. Despite this fact, the media have picked up on the FHI paper as if it were a totally new discovery, proving that we must be very much alone.

New or not, the Rare Earth Hypotheses argues that the astrophysical, geological, chemical and biological combinations needed to create the cocktail for the evolution of intelligent life is so complex and needs to be so precise that our own existence is a freak stroke of luck, and that the accident we are is so special and fluky that it is very doubtful that is has been repeated anywhere in our Universe.

Yet, should we now assume this hypothesis as definitive? And if we do accept it, can this ‘we are alone’ perspective be beneficial for humanity in any way?

*

There is an X-Files episode (Redux, the first episode of season 5) in which the hero, Fox Mulder, is in a motel room watching a video of symposium featuring astrophysicist Carl Sagan amongst other, in which the question of the existence of life beyond Earth is being discussed. The actual symposium was held in 1975 and was joint sponsored by NASA and the Boston University.

In this conference, it was argued, in a proclamation by Richard Berendzen, that “the amount of stars in our galaxy alone is so staggeringly large, to the order of 1011 or more; the probability of stars having planetary systems is so high, perhaps half; the probability of those planetary systems might be comparable with our own and that the stars have some kind of ecosphere … suitable for life and it’s not too hot, not too cold … it begins to lead to the sorts of conclusions … that life must exist in the Universe and it must exist quite abundantly.”

Carl Sagan then affirmed that the most optimistic estimates about the number of civilisations there would be in the galaxy is in the order of a million.

Once it had been established unanimously that civilisations had to exist in the Universe, all of the speakers at the symposium expressed the view that contact with an advanced civilisation would have to be positive and enlightening for humanity. With the exception of the scientist and Nobel Prize Winner, George Wald. Wald began his speech with a positive affirmation of life in the Universe, like the others, but ended with a very sobering reflection. The tone of his voice suddenly drops into a melancholy register and he confesses that: “I can conceive of no nightmare as terrifying as establishing such communication with a so-called superior … advanced technology in outer space.” For Wald, such an encounter would be: “The degradation of the human enterprise.” He then went on to describe this enterprise: “One of the greatest of human enterprises is our understanding; something that men have sweated out to the greater dignity and worth of man, and to see the thought that we might attach us by some umbilical cord to some more advanced civilisation, science and technology in outer space, doesn’t thrill me, but just the opposite.”

What Wald is warning us of here, is that an encounter with a superior civilisation would rob ourselves of our purposiveness. And what is implicit in this argument is that humanity could have no meaningful place in any world populated by superior beings, because all our understanding would suddenly be rendered obsolete; and, as such, the human race would itself suddenly become obsolete.

What Wald is describing here, is our reason for being, which is encapsulated in our understanding.  

 

Reflecting on this point, and on our own civilisation at this point in time, we have to conclude that our own lives are very much alienated from this meaningfulness which is our understanding of things, and this displays the tremendous decadence of our system.

But what Wald’s observation also tells us is this: That if we are not alone, it is best to believe that we are alone.

*

If we are alone it imbues humanity with a tremendous responsibility – the obligation to be sapiens; to understand; to develop the human enterprise toward the fulfilment of knowing; to enjoy the meaningful pursuit of becoming knowledgeable; and, through this understanding, participate in the very Being of the Universe.

The Universe can only really exist in a qualitative way, if there is a conscious entity within that Universe that understands that It does exist. The homo sapiens is the species that knows and reflects on that knowledge. Whether or not we are the only species that knows in this Universe, believing that we are fills us with a powerful, driving purposiveness.

Embedded in this purposiveness is a duty to prolong existence in time and increase the quality of that existence, through progress.

And, in order to do that, we have to overcome the deep, nihilistic decadence that infects our civilisation today.

But again, we run into another paradox, because the human enterprise of understanding necessitates the exploration of the possibility of discovering other intelligent life-forms, even though there is a possibility that we may encounter civilisations so superior to ours that our meaningfulness in the Universe will be totally diminished.

However, perhaps this paradox is false. When we do have the technological capabilities to encounter other civilisations the dilemma would no longer have relevance for we ourselves would be advanced enough to communicate on a partnership level with the other civilisation. Likewise, if Ufologists are right, and we are being visited by extra-terrestrial civilisations already, these civilisations are wise enough to disguise their presence from us, precisely in order not to destroy our purposiveness.

[1] SEE: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/27/aliens-exist-survival-universe-jim-alkhalili

https://metro.co.uk/2018/06/25/probably-intelligent-life-universe-depressing-study-finds-7657344/

 

 

 

Dreams, Time, Death and Life

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TIME AND DREAMS

In María Zambrano’s essay on Dreams and Time[1], she argues that time in dreams is an ambiguous element because it doesn’t really exist, and that the time we experience in our waking lives is a creation of consciousness – an integral aspect of thinking. From this she comes to a very interesting conclusion, that time is a liberating force for consciousness.

Within this thought lies a profoundly humanistic proposal: the consciousness we are endowed with as human beings is a liberating force in itself, but only when that same consciousness is able to process time.

Of course, we are so immersed in time that this seems like a tautological statement: how can we not be in time? And isn’t time an oppressive rather than liberating force? Haven’t we heard so many artists and poets complain about the tyranny of time on our lives; the great dictator over existence, from which it is impossible to ever free ourselves. Yet, Zambrano’s point is that we do escape time. In fact, we escape it every time we dream, and that happens daily. Yet where we are truly free is not in the time-liberating dream, but in the time-controlled waking world.

Freedom lies in the power to decide and that is what is denied us in our dreams. The dream world is imposed on us, we have no choice unto where it will take us; we cannot make real decisions there. It is a prison-world, in which the mind seems to play cruel games on the ego-subject that slips into it. Decisions are not made, and problems are never properly resolved in dreams. Things just occur randomly, in a world with an absurd logic in which the subject experiencing the dream is essentially powerless.

Freedom lies in an ability to make decisions and all oppression resides in the power that can nullify any expression of such decisions or squash any acts of realization that may be regarded consequential of those decisions. To exist only in the dream world, would literally mean to be trapped in a nightmare.

But more importantly, the essence of being human, which lies in our conscious, sapiens mind, is also wrapped up in this freedom to make decisions, and time is therefore an integral element in that freedom. A: I am human because I can decide; B: I can decide because I am in time; C: I am human because I am in time.

Zambrano’s argument, however, is that we are both in time and out of time: in time when awake, and out of time whenever we dream. But we would take this one step further, we are also in time while we are alive, and out of time when we die.

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LIFE AND DEATH

Let’s assume that life after death exists: what then is it? If our individual consciousness can exist after our corporeal state has perished, where would that consciousness be?

In trying to imagine such a state, the best approximation we can make is to imagine death as something like an existence in the timeless space of dreams. “To die; perchance to dream” – or more precisely, not to dream but to live in the dream: perhaps in death we dream of being alive; of being in time.

But this idea of the dream-state of consciousness in death applied to Zambrano’s reflection on the totalitarian experience of consciousness within the timeless, turns all religious optimisms on their head. Death is not a release from the nightmare of life, but an immersion into the nightmare itself. The idea of reincarnation is therefore not a Buddhist notion of spiritual learning and evolution into the state that no longer needs to be reincarnated, but a yearning from the prison of death to return to the freedom of life.

The essence of modern religions, lies in the hope they offer of the after-life and their narratives that mitigate our fear of death. For the religious, death is a liberation from an imperfect, inharmonious world of constant suffering – but it is in fact quite the opposite of liberation. A consciousness in death would be drowning in the freedom-less dimension beyond time-space, in which every subject exists in an ambiguous reality, with no decision-making power and no control of the reality they float around in at all.

But what the religious lose here is humanity’s gain. Hope lies here, in this dimension of reality. Plato’s cave may lack the light of God, but it has the time-space that allows those within it to feel the power of freedom. A liberating force which has always been mitigated and undermined by all world religions and the civilisations and cultures that those same religions have architectured around their anti-human narratives directing all hope unto death.

Our greatest hope in death can only be that it is not a permanent condition: that from the time-less space of the dream of death we will reincarnate again back into time and the freedom of the deliberating, decision-making endowed consciousness.

 

[1] María Zambrano, EL SUEÑO CREADOR, Turner, Madrid,1986