Tuesday, 7 February 2017


The following is the gist of a topic currently featured in the 21st  revised edition of V.H. Ironside, Behold! I Teach You Superman (see below):

                               “In the original unity of the first thing lies the secondary cause of all things, and the germ of their inevitable annihilation.”

                  Thus Edgar Allan Poe.
            Equally emphatic is the contemporary physicist: “The same grand unified theories that provide a mechanism for matter to come into existence also hold the seeds of its demise.”[1] And to presume otherwise is instantly to abandon any prospect of the rational understanding of what is meant by cosmic evolution. What happens next, though, is a matter of considerable disagreement. It is
difficult to imagine that a lone ‘irrelative’ atom, a single quantum of energy in its purest and most concentrated form, should have sprung fully formed from the stupendous brow of God. A difficulty which is illuminating in itself as it demonstrates the extent to which, in the Big Bang, matter and mind were fused into one. “If the universe is a universe of thought,” wrote the astrophysicist James Jeans, “then its creation must have been an act of thought.”
            Thought becomes deed, deed becomes word, building to a tremendous climax. The Big Bang is the climax also of the conceptual principle. The more so, since for my own part I am rather concerned to argue that the notion of a ‘beginning’ is a perceived truth and not a fact; not residing in any special mechanism of nature, in other words, but in a moment which
resolves itself into one of conceptual distinction. The most crucial facet of which is the way the observer seems to play a pivotal part in determining the nature of reality at the cerebral or - in what is known as the measurement paradox - quantum level.  On this I have no contemporary comment, except of course that physics has long since come to terms with the fact that because such initial conditions as the Big Bang would, from  the classical point of view, always require antecedent conditions to back them up, first principles may never in truth be reached. It is a decisive moment, for if macroscopic objects do have associated waves, then the moment we collapse the wavefunction of the universe, the concomitant reality is bound to reflect  the anthropomorphism of the observer.  As James Jeans succinctly pointed out, “reality is no longer  the object of the subject-object relation, but the relation itself”. It is, as things now stand, the product of ‘many minds’. Some sense of which is best conveyed, perhaps,  by the so-called many universes (or alternative histories) theory according to which such quantum superpositions play a leading role in the great conceptual struggle between order and chaos. In effect, I believe that one consequence of this is the inescapable necessity that, whatever judgement may be formed with subsequent respects, there is no need for a prime over an ‘uncaused’ cause, or some such act of self-revelation. Things are not linear as they would be in time, and to assume that the past can be described in terms of initial conditions alone is a conceptual fallacy.            
Because of the inherent uncertainty regarding subnuclear  activities, Heisenberg  supposed that the past as well as the future were unknowable until determined by observation. And I can see when it comes to suggesting that the conditions we observe today are both, the effect as well as the cause of the past, it seems to be purging the cause to infinity.  But contemporary physics, after a flurry of mathematical manipulation, appears all but committed to the idea that the ‘universe’ has no pre-set objective, but is determined only by the instructions of its ultimate condition – the one we happen to be in now – or its cognitive tendency. ‘Cognitive tendency’ bears some elaboration, but it is precisely because the objective is created only by the nature of the questions asked that its evolution rests upon manifest necessity, rather than having an ‘initial’ epistemological basis in history. Moreover, when the Cambridge mathematician Roger Penrose first demonstrated that the universe began as a ‘singularity’ - a state of infinitely curved space in which the laws of relativity had broken down - he clearly meant a beginning conceived and formulated as an abstract, multidimensional configuration of the mind - or its sum-over-histories, if you prefer – in which material concepts and systems do no longer figure or count.
            Nor need we solve innumerable differential equations. The best advice that cosmologists have
today, suggests that the fundamental diversification of the entire inflationary process is a necessary corollary of its ever increasing dimensions. A living web of causal interdependence, it creates its own etiology as well as its own explanation. And no one put this aspect of its succession more succinctly than Edgar Allan Poe who, in 1848, clearly anticipated the cosmological scenario of the Big Bang:
“Multiplicity out of unity - diversity out of sameness - heterogeneity out of homogeneity - complexity out of simplicity - in a word, the utmost multiplicity of relation out of the emphatically irrelative One” (Eureka!).
            This language is not, one may suppose, the orthodox interpretation of astrophysics on this topic. But it requires no great insight into the formal terminology of the theoretical physicist to perceive that he is not only cognate with this philosophy, but heading for a potentially anthropomorphous transition. The question of where mind ends and matter begins has been eternally argued over by epistemologists and will never be solved, 
admittedly. Yet, at the same time the idea that forms must be ‘material’ is so firmly fixed in human consciousness, that the notion of a conceptual function representing not the actual specific state of matter but rather the likelihood of its being in this state or another, is being thoroughly ignored. Indeed, to me it seems highly improbable that science will ever be able to formulate a theory of knowledge in a perfectly consistent and logically adequate way, when the toleration of dissimilar or conflicting views is no longer an alternative to the truth but a condition under which ‘the truth’ operates. And if the assignment of scientific provenance is rarely an easy matter, the simple conclusion is nevertheless that every new ‘discovery’ emphasizes the extent of our inherent ignorance of the fact that we are the causes of ourselves, chief of the fundamental forces known to man. That we discover very little. For what actually happens here is that, as mass can be created from energy, matter can be created from knowledge. That is, from the desire for order in all aspects of its own intellectual evolution. Thus, there is no escaping the conclusion: if reality at the quantum level is categorically indeterminate, matter is mind that has arrived at self-expression in intelligible structures, and these structures are cognizant and evolving...

[1] Paul Davies/John Gribbin, The Matter Myth. Viking (1991), p 253

VH Ironside is the author of  the fabled  Willers of the Will, first published in 1996, now out of print!

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