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OUR CURIOUS WORLD OF MIRROR IMAGES
Reflections on how Symmetry Frames our Universe, Empowers the Creative Process and Provides Context to Shape our Lives
By TITUS JOSEPH
Balboa PressCopyright © 2013 Titus Joseph
All rights reserved.
THE ARCHE: WESTERN HISTORY ON METAPHYSICS
Science rocks! It leads the way in the path of knowledge due to its many successes. Yet, even for the sciences the fundamental theories have proven to lead to very strange places. So, what of the rest of us searching for a foundation of truth? Many have discovered their own truth in astrology, numerology, the occult, or through faith in some type of spirituality. These alternative and universal types of beliefs have existed since the beginning of human history, and have enabled many different types of peoples, around the world, to feel as though their consciousness reaches beyond the physical limits of the immediate senses. These so-called "mystical beliefs" exists to provide a foundation in the form of an underlying truth in all reality.
The search for the underlying truth to reality is the holy grail of philosophy, referred to as the philosopher's stone. It is the long sought after elixir of life. It is also the overriding goal of empirical science to determine one grand unified theory that accounts for everything in reality.
The spiritually inclined have actively turned their attention to a higher domain or for many people, an underlying principle, in the pursuit for meaningful answers to master life's travails. This principle can be viewed as supreme, and when personified, viewed as a supreme being.
Consider that if we have something so ineffable as consciousness and intelligence in our finite seemingly meaningless lives, why not then propose of more consciousness at higher cosmic scales? The question is what would consciousness be like at cosmic scales? Well, consider that the galaxies of the cosmos are interconnected forming the cosmic web—the highest known structure in the cosmos. Inflationary theory demonstrates that the cosmic web originates from infinitesimal quantum fluctuations at the beginning of the universe.
... in a quantum world, nothing is ever perfectly uniform because of the jitteriness inherent to the uncertainty principle ... such nonuniformity can be stretched from the microworld ... providing the seeds for the formation of large astrophysical bodies like galaxies ... (Greene 2006, 307).
This observation by one of the world's leading authorities on cosmology gives assent to the ancient proverb, "As above, so below." Dr. Greene demonstrates that the highest visible structure of the universe is a direct extrapolation of the infinitesimal jitteriness that is the inherent nature of the quantum realm. This means that we can stretch our understanding of reality from the tiniest scales to the highest scales. Taking this observation to a natural conclusion, I see no real differences between scientific theories, as represented by Western science and justified as legitimate, and the ideas of a supreme principle that we, as conscious beings, embrace. The idea of a supreme principle that is alive and conscious does not seem alien to me, because we are alive, conscious, and intelligent, and presumably, derived from this same principle.
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The idea of the first principle is called the arche. This term is the root of the word "archetype" or "archeology." It refers to the beginning, the original source, the first cause or principle. The search for the arche is traced back to the philosophers who existed before Socrates, they are known collectively as the Pre-Socratic philosophers.
In the Western world, we look to the Pre-Socratic philosophers as the originators of applied critical thinking and metaphysical reasoning. It would be Eurocentric and naive to believe that they were the only source of original metaphysical wisdom. The burning of the ancient royal library in Alexandria, Egypt, is an extraordinary example of knowledge from the ancient world that may be lost forever. Nevertheless, we have a clear understanding that these early philosophers reflected the innate desire for sentient beings (humanity) to explain their own existence, the context of our existence, and to explain the nature of the world in which we exist. They attempted to satisfy their innate curiosity and intelligence with reasoned insight into the source of their existence, and by extension, ours.
We have fragments of essentially secondhand reports from other philosophers nearer their time, who, one can imagine, may have interpreted the ideas attributed to their predecessors according, in some measure, to their own needs. This does not necessarily mean that the original meaning is obscured but as an example, we may not be fully aware of certain culturally relevant elements of the original meanings. Academicians warn that we cannot be certain that the ideas attributed to the original authors reflect their full intent and meaning. With this in mind, please consider the following Pre-Socratic philosophers' insights into metaphysics.
The beginning of Western philosophy and science is customarily attributed to Thales of Miletus, who reportedly predicted a solar eclipse around 585 B.C. Can you imagine how this successful prediction could elevate the status of philosophy in their society? Reports from Aristotle and other philosophers show that Thales proposed that water was the arche.
Aristotle thought that Thales' reasoning involves a conceptualization of the Earth resting in water. We understand that about 70 percent of the Earth's surface is covered by water. Thales may have conceived of the ground and rocks, the land, as a mass not just resting in water, but also in some way derived from the water, as though it emerges from the depths. This interpretation of Thales' reasoning can be extended to the Earth nested in the cosmic ocean.
In another fragment, Aristotle points to the understanding that Thales had recognized the crucial role that water plays in nourishing life, that the seed of life is always moist. Thales apparently developed the implications of his observations of the workings of reality to the level of proclaiming that all things originate from water.
Thales' idea of water as the arche is very intriguing, as you will see later when I develop the concept of positional symmetry (requisite mirror image). His attempt to explain the world around him may seem very simplistic to us today, but again we should keep in mind that the surviving texts are only fragments.
It is believed that Anaximander was likely a student of Thales and author of a book on philosophy that remains obscured in history. He was apparently a man of many intellectual pursuits including history, cosmology, meteorology; he is noted as being the first man to draw a map of the world. It would seem that during his lifetime, Anaximander was one of the world's most interesting men. His main contribution to Pre-Socratic philosophy lies in that his proposal for the arche was not some type of substance but a transcendent principle. Anaximander proposed a concept for the arche that translates to mean, 'the indefinite.' He called this concept the apeiron. Simplicius, a 6th century philosopher, provides us some important clues to the nature of the apeiron in this reference to Anaximander,
... he was the first to introduce this name for the first principle [indefinite] ... out of which come to be all the heavens and the worlds in them. The things that are perish into the things out if which they come to be, ... in accordance with the ordering of time.
The apeiron is some type of temporal entity that not only contains all things but is also the source of all things and there is a type of dynamic recycling mechanism implicit in its overall design.
The word 'indefinite' is a descriptive term implying not just a sense of agelessness but also a sense of infinite spatial parameters. According to Aristotle, "... it seems to be the first principle of the rest, and to contain all things and steer all things ... it is deathless and indestructible ..."
We are able to mine additional features of Anaximander's conceptualization of the apeiron through a fragment attributed to Pseudo-Plutarch, Miscellanies 179.2 = 12A10. This fragment shows that the apeiron is not just able to bring objects into being but it alludes to a process of separation of defined opposites, "... hot and cold was separated off at the coming to be of this cosmos." Anaximander's apeiron is therefore conceived as some infinite thing that is indefinite in nature, from which all other things originate. The heavens and the worlds come from it; there is a natural recycling process inherent in its functioning, and there appears to be a type of dynamic opposite poles involved in its formation.
Parmenides was a philosopher who spoke as a true poet. He was apparently an idealist, which is someone who holds to the view that ultimately, reality is in the mind. There is no mind-independent external world. Parmenides was acutely interested in the nature of 'being,' so as an idealist, he defined reality as originating from cognition, or the ability of the mind to conceptualize thoughts in the form of ideas. He therefore established a definition that associates the 'being' or 'existence' of things with mental cognition, "thinking and the thought that it is are the same."
Parmenides' conception of being implies that reality (external and internal) and the conception of reality (internal, but based in perceptions of what appears to be an external world) are one in the same. For Parmenides, the ability to conceptualize an idea means that it is possible and, therefore, it can be real. But does the phenomenon of hallucinations and other deceptions of the mind accurately reflect reality? An individual's subjective experience, albeit in the form of hallucinations, are very real to that individual. Objective reality and subjective reality are often incongruent.
Perhaps Parmenides was proposing that the human capacity to conceive thoughts creates an illusion, the nature of which is identical in its nature to reality, irrespective of whether it is an accurate reflection of objective reality or not.
When we perceive some type of objective reality, for example, the football game that played out over the weekend, and are able to empirically verify that this object (the game) is real — there were 4.5 million viewers, the question remains: is my perception of this reality and reality itself the same? I believe that Parmenides is saying that they are the same in that when we think of or visualize an object, the internal experience that is our mind's cognition, is consciousness and consciousness is reality. Human cognition is of a nature that is indistinguishable from reality itself, or perhaps it cannot be separated from reality.
We know that reality transcends beyond the immediate space. The football game occurred 635 miles away. The players attest that they were all present and lived through the experience that some witnessed live, and others on screen.
This implies that there must be a level of consciousness in which subjective reality and objective reality are congruent. That human intuition maps reality and cannot be separated from reality. That is a wonderful thought. The natural fruition of that type of insight links external reality to internal reality and, thereby, bridges the divide on many levels, including the chasm between science and spirituality.
Spirituality, as I understand it, refers to a way of thinking, the purpose of which is to develop the mind to the point that it is in tune with the fundamental nature of reality. The mind's internal subjective experience and objective reality become congruent. If that was true, and given Parmenides' premise, then the mind should be capable of controlling reality simply by the power of the human will to conceptualize new thoughts. Clearly we are able to create and change reality using practical means. An idea or concept can become real in the same way that an architect's drawings become a home that people live in.
Since we are clearly able to change reality through our thoughts, then with development and growth in this capacity, perhaps we may learn to change reality through more fundamental means based in the intimate connection between objective reality and the subjective mind. This may seem impossible to us, but this is an implicit understanding in the stories of spiritually evolved men and women, interwoven in the cultural fabric of our world's societies. In the Western world, Jesus, for example, according to this tradition, could speak and his words were somehow empowered in their own agency to manifest in reality. This type of event, if real, is a miracle.
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Parmenides' main contribution to Pre-Socratic philosophy was his truly profound arche called the "it is—and that it is not possible for it not to be" and the "it is not—and that is necessary for it not to be." His model is in my opinion, one of the most intriguing of the cosmological models postulated by the philosophers of his time. Simply put it is the, "it is,' and the "it is not." Simplicius again comes to the rescue telling us the story about a lost way called the "it is."
On this way there are signs exceedingly many – that being ungenerated ... imperishable, whole ... all together one, continuous ... it is or it is not ... mighty Necessity holds it in the bonds of a limit, which pens it in all round ... it meets with its limits uniformly.
Parmenides' model is described as whole, it is one, but it also includes a dichotomy in "thinking" in the form of the "it is" and the "it is not." The "it is" has a qualification that refines our understanding of its properties, i.e., it is not possible for it not to be. The "it is" goes on and on forever. The "it is not" alternatively, has the power to take existing things out of existence but, due to the previous qualification it cannot take the "it is" out of existence. The "it is not" is qualified as being necessary. This model, the "it is" and the "it is not," has form because "it meets with its limits uniformly."
Parmenides recognizes the antinomy, which he regards as the "two forms" saying, "... for they made up their minds to name two forms, of which it is not right to name one ... and they distinguished things opposite in body ..." He therefore recognizes the problem of duality and he takes considerable efforts to steer us toward one side of the dichotomy. "That it is ... is the path of persuasion ... the other ... this I point out to you to be a path completely unlearnable."
Parmenides' metaphysics attributes an indefinite quality to his model. The "it is" is described as being ungenerated, imperishable, holistic and continuous. It is therefore compatible to Anaximander's model called the Indefinite. In my mind, there is no great intellectual leap in concluding that Parmenides' "it is" and Anaximander's 'Indefinite,' are different ways of looking at the same fundamental reality. Both men are utilizing their own unique words referring to the same concept.
Parmenides' description of the "it is" suggests a continuum that has no beginning and it can never cease from being. This is understandably, by interpretation, the continuum of space and time that we refer to today as the cosmos.
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Interestingly, the scientific consensus differs significantly from Parmenides' assertion that the universe, being ungenerated, had no beginning. The universe apparently had a beginning with the big bang. The big bang theory has been confirmed through many different observations. Consider the argument developed by Dr. Mark Whittle, astronomy professor at the University of Virginia. Professor Whittle argues that distant galaxies nearer to the big bang appear younger, so the universe is clearly aging. He points out that stars and galaxies are always younger than about 14 billion years, and that the red shift of light attributed to the expansion of the universe, when extrapolated backwards, shows that the expansion began about 14 billion years ago.
The amazing agreement between theory and observations has galvanized the astronomical community and might be compared to Newton's theory of gravity and Darwin's theory of evolution (Whittle 2008, 133).
The big bang is confirmed and accepted science, but the big bang scenario begs the question, if the universe had a beginning then was not that moment at the beginning a moment in time? After all, if the bang occurred "now," then there must have been time and space to allow it to happen, in the now. What existed before the bang and what initiated it?
Dr. Stephen Hawking's response to this paradox is to say, that line of inquiry is undefined, and to think about questions like that leads to essentially undefined territory. This type of answer forces the inquirer to return back into the defined territory of the existing universe, suggesting that inquiry into the nature of the universe is confined to what I will call, solipsistic limits.
Excerpted from OUR CURIOUS WORLD OF MIRROR IMAGES by TITUS JOSEPH. Copyright © 2013 Titus Joseph. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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