This is a work in progress: Comments and suggestions are welcome.
Throughout the scientific age, much of humanity has turned it’s back on anything related to magick and mysticism, including of course, religion. I do not contend that there was no good reason for this volte-face, for religion and mysticism had, throughout the course of centuries, kept the general population in a state of superstitious subservience and ignorance. Against this backdrop, the age of scientific enlightenment came as an enormous blessing to us all. The dissemination of its consequent technologies lifted us from the poverty of an agrarian existence and generated wealth undreamed of by previous generations. Given this historical experience, one might well ask why on earth would anyone wish to return to the darker days of ignorance…why do some persons still cling to superstition?
The answers to this question actually arise from the success of science and the spectacular successes it has scored in physics, biology and cognitive psychology. Let us begin with physics…
The holy grail of physics is colloquially known as the TOE, or Theory of Everything (otherwise called GUT, or Grand Unified Theorem). The goal of this is to devise a theory that simplifies the causative forces that drive all physical processes to a single set of self contained (self referential?) equations. In the decades since Einstein, physicists have laboured hard at this task, with little apparent success except for an intellectual construct called Superstring Theory.
Into the Looking Glass of Superstring Theory
One version of Superstring Theory (taken very seriously by physicists) suggests that if we ASSUME that particles exist then these same particles give rise to the forces of which they are made…which in turn give rise to the existence of the particles…
. I suggest that for this theory to hold water, the equations on which it is based must exist without time as a factor. For in no other way could we remove the causality problem of effect preceding cause. Considering that relativity and cosmology teach us that time unfolded from the first infinitesimal instant of the Big Bang, it would seem that the physics of creation and causality is in some degree of inconsistency and disarray (and I mean no disrespect to the wonderful science of physics by saying this).
Something from Nothing
My next point of contention with physics is the phenomenon of the spontaneous creation of particle pairs in vacuum. Apparently, the deep vacuum of space has energy and quantum physics predicts and models this phenomenon. Let me again approach this as a layman (which I am).
Physicists detect fluctuations in energy in vacuum, in three dimensional space where no gas clouds or other particles exist. These are explained by the spontaneous generation of particle / anti particle pairs that quickly cancel each other out and vanish with a small release of energy. Forget for a moment the obvious problem of continuously adding to the energy of the universe – I’m pretty sure there is an answer for that (and physicists are damned smart people). My problem is that:
· If the particles appear within empty space, from whence does their energy derive? If it is within the universe, then we have a universe of infinite potential energy, and I don’t think that’s permitted by physics.
· If the source of these particles is outside the universe then we must contemplate that our whole universe is permeated at every point by a membrane that separates our time and space – from what?
I do not dispute the reality of the observed phenomena, but, as we shall see, I do have my own ideas on the underlying structures of the universe that cause them.
Time and No Time
Many of the phenomena of the physical world occur at the level of extremely damned small, and at the very smallest level, they tend to be quantum phenomena, described in the fantastically successful theories of quantum physics. SO what are these phenomena and why do I have a problem with time in this context?
Take the emission of light as an example. Light exists (in one sense) as discrete packets of energy, fired from atoms as they change their energy state from high to low. What this means is that if an electron ‘circling’ a nucleus drops from a high energy state to a low (and ‘falls in’ closer to the nucleus), it emits a photon of energy – light is one form of such energy.
The problem is that there is no time interval for the transition – a quantum transition seems to occur in zero time (and again, I cordially invite any physicist to correct me). So once again, we operate in a domain without time – why? Is there a trend here in the various discoveries and models of physics? A trend that indicates a timeless reality underlying the universe as we currently perceive it?
Another interesting aspect of time is that it is not constant for each object in the universe – everything exists in its own independent time as a function of its velocity and the effects of gravity. This phenomenon is generally called Time Dilation. Imagine you are on a star ship, travelling at close to the speed of light. This exquisite (and verified ) theory tells us that if you measured a year on board your ship, possibly thousands of years would have passed on Earth when you returned. So far so good – as you go faster and faster, your time reference changes and time dilates for you and those on the ship.
There are a couple of problems, of course. The faster you travel, the shorter the ship gets (to those looking from the outside), the more massive (heavier) the ship (and you) become and the more energy it takes to drive and accelerate the ship. The limit is that at light speed your ship would reach infinite mass and require infinite energy to drive it – voila! Physical limitation.
However, light photons are said to have energy. They are also said to have zero mass! According to Einstein, e=mc2. So a photon which has energy should surely have an equivalent mass. What’s going on here? Once again, as we approach a limit, in this case light-speed, we find inconsistencies in theory. But the problem goes deeper than this…and forgive me if this is not easy…but it’s not easy.
When we measure light, we can measure it in one of two ways – as particles (photons) or as waves. What this means is that light is like a schizophrenic statistic – what you see depends on how you look at it. I’m not going to describe these experiments here (I’ll provide references as this article unfolds). I am though, going to give you one of the chief results:
· If we fire a stream of light photons at a surface with two slits in it, each photon goes through both slits simultaneously.
Wow! Can we accept this? A particle that should have infinite mass, travelling at the speed of light can be shown to be in two places at the same time! On that note, let us leave the domain of physics for now, and move on to biology.
The Science of Life
Have you ever considered the fundamental difference between things living and things dead? Sure, living things eat (always), reproduce (usually), excrete (always), and so on and so on. But these are things that living things do, not what living things are.
Let’s have an example. Take a ‘simple’ organism, such as a microbe, or a virus. Imagine for a moment that we are able to build a replica, stage by stage, constructing each gene, each chromosome, step by step. What would we have/ A living entity or a beautifully constructed imitation? Experience so far suggests the latter.
‘But we have genetic engineering!’ I hear you protest. So we do. And we are very good at manipulating things already alive. We can splice a fish gene into a strawberry and breed a frost resistant strain; or splice a jellyfish gene into a mouse and breed luminescent mice (how my cats would love that!). But can we actually make something living from inert tissue? The answer is a resounding no.
Here’s an excerpt from a man who knows – a highly distinguished professor of microbiology:
You are absolutely right. No one has the vaguest notion what separates one collection of molecules from that same collection of molecules in a "living" creature. We can winkle the same reactions out of both sets of molecules, but the one is definitely "alive" and the other is "dead" - and no one knows why. It is a great mystery.
Whether it is possible to construct a virus (a true virus in every sense of the word) starting with chemicals in various bottles, I cannot say. I have never heard of anyone having done it. I would think that if someone did achieve it, then it would be big news around the world. Since that has not happened I presume that no one has done it. But biochemists are regularly doing things with DNA that come awfully close to the virus scenario; inserting DNA into cells and getting it to do all sorts of interesting things.
So we haven’t a clue what life is. So how on earth can science make claims (and with such clamour!) that life arises spontaneously from complex molecules. This is extremely unscientific and no different to the myriad religious claims for life’s origins. It also explains why science is so desperate to find life on any other planet – to strengthen a very weak case for life arising spontaneously. It seems to me that for all the successes and wonders of the biological sciences, we have run into a brick wall here. So let’s assume this problem solved and move on to our next great mystery. Once we have the humble microbe swimming about in the nutrient soup of early earth, evolution takes care of the rest – or does it? Not really, I’m afraid. The next problem we will broach is that of human consciousness, the quest for artificial intelligence and the huge gulf between them.
The Quest for Ultimate Truth
What is consciousness? Is it the ability to think logically? Is it self awareness? And, the acid test: Can it be programmed into a computer? There are two main schools of thought on this last question:
· The Strong AI (Artificial Intelligence) school, that claims that the human mind is just a computer that will eventually be imitated by a computer i.e. by a machine whose internal ‘thought’ processes are purely logical.
· The Weak AI school (to which I subscribe) which proposes that computers cannot match the human mind in its cognitive, intuitive processes even in principle.
So what is the fundamental difference between a computer (even a monster computer with as many logic switches and interconnections and the brain has neurons) and a human mind/brain set.
The first relevant fact is that computers work purely on logic, even those with pattern matching programs. Logic is a branch of mathematics. But mathematicians have long known that no set of rules in mathematics can ever be complete. They therefore deduce that humans are able to deduce truths beyond the capacity of logical systems EVER to express.
Consider this: Most of us tend to think of mathematics as the science of certainty – and that all things are susceptible to mathematical analysis and therefore to answers of ‘yes’, or ‘no’. That this is not the case has been proven – mathematically. A great Czech mathematician, Kurt Gödel, proved that ALL branches of mathematics are incomplete and that some propositions (think equations) inside any school cannot be proven without Stepping Outside that branch and expanding it. However, in this now enlarged branch of mathematics there would be new propositions that could not be proved without Stepping Outside again – and so ad infinitum.
What this means is that logical thought can never, ever penetrate ultimate truth. Remember, we are talking about logical deduction here, using the language and tools of mathematics.
Let me give you a very simple (but tricky) example of a famous imaginary dialogue with a computer that illustrates the limitations of thought based on logic alone:
Human: “Computer, if you are designed on the basis of this program,” (Flourishes printout of the computer’s program), “you will never say that this statement is true …tell me….is my statement true ?”
You see, the human knows that the computer can never say the statement is true . If it does say the statement’s true then the statement is false. If the statement is false, then by saying it’s true , the computer is making an untrue statement. Thus, the human knows a true fact that the computer cannot utter. It took me quite a while to understand this, so don’t worry if it seems elusive – it’s worth the effort.
I’d like to quote the renowned polymath Roger Penrose on this:
"The very fact that the mind leads us to truths that are not computable convinces me that a computer can never duplicate the mind"
Let’s move on now, to the complimentary (not competing or contradictory) observations and methods of magick and mysticism.
Magick – A Neglected Branch of Science
Before the current scientific age, humans had limited means to penetrate the mysteries of the universe, much less to change their environment in the multifarious ways we do today. Nevertheless, the need to do so was just as great. So our forebears did what they could:
· Formulated a model of the universe based on observation of physical and mental phenomena.
· Experimented on and explored the universe with the power of the mind – directly. This is the basis for magick.
The model to which I refer is The Tree of Life, a composite glyph deriving from Qabbalah. This model attempts to create a framework within which every facet of the universe will fit into a set of interlocking relationships. It would be unwise for me to attempt a detailed explanation of this model here, but I will give the briefest outline possible. Readers who wish a detailed exposition have a world of books at their disposal, but email me if you want a recommendation. For those who would like to be both entertained and informed, try my book, The Aquarius Key, A Novel of the Occult, within which there are
The Tree of Life – A Universal Model
As you see in the figure below, The Tree is made from ten emanations (Sephiroth). The uppermost (Kether) represents the point source of creation – by meditation and intuition, ancient Qabalists attributed all of creation to a single point source from which all else arises. This we now know to be true physically, through our understanding of the Big Bang event.
But Keter is more than this; Keter implies that the original unity from which we all derive exists not just physically in one point in space time, but universally through all time and space. Keter also exists microcosmically in every human being and every physical and mental and spiritual phenomenon whatsoever. Now given the synthesis of so many things inside one single construct, one might think that we are constructing an Gordian knot for ourselves, a tangled puzzle intractable to analysis. But this is not the case, and here is the key point:
If we approach the concept of Keter with our minds unhindered by thought, then we directly access its reality and power on whatsoever level we may choose. This is the opposite of reductionist science inasmuch that we both penetrate the mystery and observe it from a distance simultaneously. In thoughtless meditational states and in the throws of controlled magical ritual, we access reality on an altogether different level, and I think that that level is a level of reality that lies beyond mathematical logic, beyond the confines of four dimensional space-time, a domain from which life itself emanates and leeches into our commonplace world.
[Note: Keter is the first of ten Sephiroth. I may add further notes on the nature of the Tree of Life here from time to time as this essay develops.]
Behind the Veil
We have now discussed briefly the limitations faced by reductionist science as it asymptotically approaches the ultimate mysteries of life, consciousness and the fundamental nature of space-time. We have also, all too briefly, indicated that humans have the capacity to penetrate these mysteries with a tool designed exactly for that purpose – the awesome powers of the human mind.
To be continued...