Friday, 9 June 2017

NOTHING IS EVERYTHING

The following is the gist of a  topic featured in V.H. Ironside, Behold! I Teach You Superman :

                                                                                   “Nothing can be created out of nothing.” Lucretius

                                                                                    “Everything comes from everything.” Anaxagoras.


The absolute maximum is one and it is all; all things are in it because it is the maximum. Moreover, it is in all things for this reason that the minimum at once coincides with it, since there is nothing that can be placed in opposition to it. By definition the minimum is that which cannot be less than it is; and since that is also true of the maximum, it is evident that the minimum is identified with the maximum.” (On Learned Ignorance).
            Very well argued.
            In fact, it is impossible not to admire this comprehensive, truthful, and indeed accomplished
observation by Nicholas of Cusa. There can be no doubt that the point at which no further information can be added is the maximum and that the concept most completely divested of meaning or content would have to be the minimum. Applied to the ultimate synthesis - nothing can be placed in opposition - both coincide.  At any rate, de Cusa’s legacy has less to do with the extent to which his line of reasoning is truthful or accomplished than with the way in which it points directly to other far-reaching syntheses.
            This is not an essay in theology, but the most irritating form of the tenet that absolute knowledge is essential to metaphysical perfection is that which asserts that total ignorance must be a form of imperfection. One thing is certainly beyond conjecture, if imperfection is nothing less than a measure of the total ignorance contained in a system - and dark matter/energy, according to some estimates, makes up some 95% of the universe[1] - then knowledge, like entropy, must always increase. Once created, it has a momentum of its own. It’s self-perpetuating. 
            A more conventional rendering of this process is known as the second  law of thermodynamics. As  an important feature of the total energy distribution of a closed system, this law is a measure of the disorganization of the universe which, due to irreversible energy transfers, must always increase. It does not state that the distribution of energy as a function of entropy is also a
measure of the amount of information which maintains its momentum by an irreversible process of proliferation, but the end-game, as it happens, is the same for both: energy and information. To illustrate this, suppose that the universe is winding down, to use a peculiarly expressive colloquialism, the eventual outcome being a heat death. Or, as the physicist would put it, a state in which organization is absent and temperature distribution uniform. There is no possibility of repeal, the entropy of a closed system can never decrease. 
            That said, none of this is likely to happen any time soon - and, needless to add, death plays a part. No mere abstract term, but a synonym for the meaning of irreversibility, the word death might as well have arisen in the context of what is here referred to as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, for it dictates that irreversible changes are indeed  irretrievable. The simple truth is, that death determines and moulds all human apprehension. It is something that man perceives and knows by limitation; and in relation to Space, Time is the other limit. Hence, time and death are the two irreversible  limits of the organic cosmos, embodied in a living experience. And the effect of death, though few of us may appreciate the real significance of the fact, is very simply to return the Self to the great Unconscious, to a state of perfect thermal equilibrium, one might say – the only state between chaos and order that is at an absolute optimum. 
            To be perfectly frank though, that’s neither here nor there.  
Clearly, ‘passing beyond the necessities of matter’  is susceptible to various interpretations in
the fields of ontology, epistemology, logic, ethics and moral philosophy. But death, to me,
reflects the  struggle of pneuma and psyche, Soul and Spirit, or of light and darkness if you will, for the possession of man’s self-knowing. Because irreversible processes have a direction in time, a causal system of perceptible laws and purposes is  redundant with the surcease of linear time, and hence,  so is self-knowing. Death, quite unmistakably, is not the end of Being - whose essence is never touched - but the highest symbol for the total triumph of Being over Time, presupposing the idea of a world-order that has acquired perfect mental equilibrium – the closest a living system could get to perfection. 
            Of course, it is worth noticing in this connection that conjectures about the future of man generally reduce his mental evolution to “some sort of digital computing process,”[2] whereas in reality it develops, not in conformity with the static and the Euclidean, but in terms of an intellectual continuity that must necessarily expand until it has absorbed and abolished its own necessity. Nothing less will give us release. Total intellectual absorption thus equates the state of the universe with a relapse into pre-consciousness - with a final something unattainable by thought. The crucial requirement for which would seem to be not so much death per se, as a return from anthropic complexity to a state of perfect symmetry. To an end of all division, all residue of doubt,  sometimes referred to as absolute knowledge, and of  which perfection is seen as the epitome:

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I did not die.[3]





[1] It is estimated that dark energy accounts for about 73.8 per cent of the universe and dark matter 22.2. percent.
[2] P. Davies, The Last Three Minutes. Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London (1994), p. 111
[3] Mary Elizabeth Frye, 1932

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