Sacred Fire

What if parity between the cosmos and our physical perceptions of healing already existed due to such perceptions having the capacity to be in harmony with the cosmos itself. Ancient traditions refer to a sacred fire. What is it or could it be comparable to in modern physics and metaphysical philosophy?

These are the kinds of questions I hope those who visit my newer site Healing Generation will begin to formulate.  The answers – the direction and momentum – will unfold, but not before the uncertainty of letting go of old ideas reaches a fever pitch!

I am not longer making new entries on this blog — it is a finished work of curiosity.  I hope you will glean something from it as it is a healing story, the end of which is writing itself now in my revealed life.  No longer Cherokee Paul but Michelle Kathryn McGee, cosmic muckraker!

Even more important to be patient with yourself than with others.  If each of us is in charge of our own patience, we all have all the time we need! Anyway, don’t be afraid to start at the beginning of what you think you know — and at the beginning of this blog.


A joke, seriously

The philosophy underlying modern theoretical physics robs most of us of our connection with a universe that is coherent.

Sometimes jokes are better than serious dialogue….

“A man tries on a made-to-order suit and says to the tailor, “I need this sleeve taken in!  It’s two inches too long!”

The tailor says, “No, just bend your elbow like this.  See, it pulls up the sleeve.”

The man says, “Well, okay, but now look at the collar!  When I bend my elbow, the collar goes halfway up  the back of my head.”

The tailor says, “So? Raise your head up and back.  Perfect.”

The man says, “But now the left shoulder is three inches lower than the right one!”

The tailor says, “No problem.  Bend at the waist way over to the left and it evens out.”

The man leaves the store wearing the suit, his right elbow crooked and sticking out, his head up and back, all the while leaning down to the left.  The only way he can walk is with a herky-jerky, spastic gait.

Just then, two passersby notice him.

Says the first: “Look at that poor crippled guy,  My heart goes out to him.”

Says the second: “Yeah, but his tailor must be a genius!  That suit fits him perfectly!”

— from Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar… (2007) by Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein

Yes, I am suggesting that modern theoretical physics’ is nothing if not a bunch of badly fitted suits contorting an otherwise coherent universe.

So which category are you in? Do you feel sorry for the physicists trying to understand a vexing universe or do you have awe for them for doing such a great job of making a vexing universe look good?

Truthiness and fictionality

Truth is a complex idea, and Stephen Colbert’s truthiness construct reveals just how painfully funny it is that truth must be taken so seriously.  To simply write about such an idea leaves something to be desired.  Paradoxes are nutritious but lack in flavor.  Bland, boring, cream-of-gray-matter stuff.  A room-full of PhD’s or a clever columnist surely could (and regularly do) whip the idea of truth into a fluffy meringue — enough to elevate the blood sugar but not to sustain a person.

Embody truthiness in a complex character like Colbert though, add a dash of political analysis and a smidgen of satire, and what emerges is a piquant recipe for human insight.  Add a first course of Jon Stewart, and you have a well-rounded, satisfying meal.

I am here to point out that the other side of truthiness, for those who relish (pun intended) not only its nuances but its irony, is fictionality, by which I mean:

It is possible at times for fiction to better represent reality than that which is writ large as real.

Colbert won’t talk about fictionality, but it is easy for those of us who suspect him of as much to revel in.   His duplicitous discourse challenges not only the interpretation of the pseudo-reality he creates, but the one presented by the Media he imitates — that which is writ large.  Historical fiction and conspiracy fiction like The DaVinci Code are more specialized examples of fictionality at work.

Scientists (writ large) like to think of themselves as playing by a special set of rules, guided by the special pretenses of the scientific method and rational analysis.   Once you are in the club, the rules say you can leap bias in a single bound and are capable of superhuman feats of paradigm shifting.  A lot of grandstanding with little grounds for being exempt from criticism as far as I am concerned.  In this regard, hardly different from the politicians, corporate wonks, and “real people” Colbert pokes fun at.

All people, advanced scientific degrees or not, have the ability to understand the logic, reasoning and inspiration behind insights, scientific or otherwise.  Whether they exercise the ability or not is another issue.   The nuances are part of the fun for those who do.  Those talented purists who hold the Truth-is-a-lock-and-________ (God, logic, science, FSM)-holds-the-key ideal no doubt find such ideas distasteful to think about.  Yet truthiness and fictionality must not be relegated to the empty halls of thought.  They should be elevated to food for the soul.  Truth and Fiction are just bland ideals without truthiness and fictionality to spice up the rations we get.

Bon appetite!

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No light, no light in science

It’s not a stretch to say that science today is too often delivered with religious fervor by a blessed few. And just like religions, it doesn’t always work for everyone, or in the way it was intended.

The journey of the free mind in a world of such connections is surreal to say the least.

Sometimes a cabal is a good thing.

Cabals are groups based on secrets. They’re usually small.  More may make merrier, but more does not make for better secret keeping.  Controlling ideas of the big brother variety or protective notions of the political or superhero variety fuel some real-life as well as fictional cabals.   Radical ideas like the Dead Poet’s Society or esoteric interpretations of existing thought such as mystical Judaism fuel others.  Thus cabals are often formed by people who find themselves in positions of power but are concerned others may misinterpret their ideals.  But they may also be formed by ordinary folk who fear or worry for the destructive or transformative power of their cabal’s ideals.  The powerless and fearless simply conglomerate and rebel, for better or worse.

But keeping secrets is slippery ethical territory.   At least when interpreted from the outside.  Obfuscation presents a sort of ethical hurricane where the weather in the eye – that is, the internal conviction of the cabal-ers – is necessarily fine.  Anyone who encounters the cabal’s lies, cover-ups, protection, and the like has to wrestle more or less knowingly with the mysterious turmoil in its wake.

Perhaps even more interesting than the ethics of cabals (if that’s possible) is the metaphysics of obfuscation.  On the most basic level, how can we expect to define a standard for reality or (worse) attribute causative powers to observation knowing that some information is hidden on purpose?  Or more subtly, there’s the question of the nature of the reality of what is possible.  Cabals are self-appointed protectors of the possible.  How can they harness it in this way if the possible does not have a metaphysical status?  Primitivism grants such a status.

Cabal-ers always believe themselves to be cabal-ing for good reason.  If it’s a selfless one at least to some degree, the ethical scales could easily tip in their favor.  The metaphysically real possibilities they protect are safe within their confines.

But what about when a cabal comes under pressure to un-cabal, to reveal.  Like a dormant seed exposed to moisture and heat, the possible moves beyond the confines of its protective husk to interact with the rest of its surroundings.   Does the plant that results enhance the surrounding ecosystem, or disrupt it harmfully?  Of course it depends.  Real or not, ethical or not, sometimes a cabal is a good thing.

I love a good myth. 

Creation myths are not unique to religions.  Physics has one too.   Big bang theory.

Jews and Christians imagine a God who takes time to rest.  A mathematically useful model of the physical universe that grants space-time a mother would seem reasonable enough.  Sure she’d be deemed violent and only grow more distant over time, but she’d be ours.

I would think physicists would want to avoid myths, creation-related or otherwise, all together.  Why bother with tall tales?  They not only encroach on religion’s main job but seem contradictory to the scientific method they hold sacred.

The thing is, for physicists (and the tiny alien mathematicians sequestered inside them – another interesting myth I’ve heard :) to reconcile all of the metaphysical matters they unearth, an origin must be defined.  It’s not their fault the universe started with a violent outburst!  The job of documenting its aftermath is a dicey one but worth the risks of MAKING SHIT UP, because that’s the only way we can have a world in which longer acting deodorants are possible and robot dogs turn accurate flips.

Science is a method, but also a promise.

My problem with the big bang theory is not the creation part or even the no-way-to-know-its-not-a-myth part.  My problem is that the agreed upon mass-energy model it spurs is in the style of Genesis rather than natural selection.   Whether a big bang did or did not happen, in all likelihood the assumptions about how it relates to the nature of mass and energy are quite wrong.  The real myth is that scientists’ assumptions are inherently correct and unchangeable.

Conceptual veils

Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote, “I would not give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for simplicity on the other side of complexity.”   Does complexity both come from and lead to simplicity?   Isn’t it a relative scale like light to heavy?

A catalytic chemical reaction is a fine example of what he means, I think.  The before and after states are simple equilibria.   Complexity arises from a third molecule that has the capacity to temporarily couple and transform one simple state into another.  Complexity is the relationship of the three. It does not eliminate the essential roles of the two simpler states.

When we look at questions about complex systems we should similarly expect to find relative simplicities on either side of a complex intermediary.   Consider the question, How and why do living things reproduce?

  • Simplicity 1 :  molecules that are chemically compatible tend toward intimacy
  • Complexity arises:  the double helix of DNA
  • Simplicity 2 :  replication creates self-sustaining patterns

Before the double helix was understood, a veil hung over our understanding of the depth of the fundamental relationship between structure and reproduction.  The double helix itself was a mystery but so too were the pervasiveness of simplicity 2 and the importance of simplicity 1.  Watson and Crick and associates got at the complexity by first understanding the simplicities better than anyone else.

Science doesn’t deal well with deep mysteries.  Concepts are developed that allow for the discussion of observations and measurements despite no known causative agent or mechanism.  These concepts are, by definition, inferior.  In the case of reproduction, the pre-mechanistic scientific concept was “heritability.”  Scientists accepted that it was just a matter of time before a mechanism was discovered.  They kept doing their best thinking but left room for more.   The double helix came into focus and the veil lifted.

In theoretical physics, the most fundamental complex system is characterized by the question, How and why does something that behaves in predictable, stable ways exist? The answer, by default, has been terribly muddled.   All we have to deal with are concepts!   No one, despite what convoluted discussions and calculations imply, has seen an atom.   The onslaught of non-real concepts has made us forget that there is no reason to reject a real causative mechanism for material complexity, one that results in “simple” explanations of other emergent phenomena.   Quantum mechanics, Newtonian physics and special relativity create so many conceptual cross-currents that any simplicity 1 and simplicity 2 are hopelessly lost like a boat in a storm.

Consider this possibility –

  • Simplicity 1:  Nothingness can be somethingness
  • Complexity arises: Cosmological coherence with capacity for both redundancy and novelty
  • Simplicity 2: Autocatalytic, scaling phenomena lead to predictability and stability from atomic scale up

What the hell is cosmological coherence?  I have an idea, but until people acknowledge that existing concepts are worth sacrificing, it will fall on deaf ears.  I do have hope that helping define the simplicities might set the search on the right track.  (Thus the preoccupation with nothingness.)

A cosmological mechanism as organized as DNA – but without the organic requirements – is almost certainly at play.   If only we can lift the conceptual veils.

Now you see it – now you don’t

While I trod my riparian route today my inner musings took a strange turn.  I was thinking about the universe and magic.  (The strange turn came later.)  It seems to me that we all arrive ready for a magic show.   From my earliest memories, I can remember welcoming the feeling of being amazed.  We want to not believe our eyes.

Then reason enters the picture, and the intellect starts to reflexively conclude “this must be a trick” when magic happens.  Considering that stage, street, and other forms of illusional magic are timeless arts drawing audiences of all ages even since the Age of Reason there must be an explanation.  It seems our innate capacity for awe literally overwhelms the rational function of our minds when the tricks are good enough, seemless enough, slight enough.  The same goes for optical illusions.  Like magic they create an inescapable and sometimes troubling experience that says at its most fundamental any understanding of experience is bound to be circular.  We realize we are easily deceived – benignly, beautifully, perplexingly so.

“The universe is quite the trickster,” I continued playfully.  Its magic is meta-magic though.  Instead of speaking to the personal it speaks to the whole.  If the cosmos practiced slight-of-hand (and I’m here to suggest that it does) how would we know given that personal experience is our primary guide?  Would that make God a magician?  I’m pretty sure none of the traditional religions would be interested in reconciling such a seemingly trivial view.   Still I got excited at how a slight-of-hand metaphor is the perfect way to explain my unique view on how dark energy comes into play in the universe.

“But wait!”  I couldn’t believe where my path had taken me. Quantum theory already re-introduced the trickster god.  The 20th century science pantheon of mathematically-indocrinated theorealities would not be complete without a god who ruled quantum indeterminacy, Heisenburg’s uncertainty theory, and the Copenhagen interpretation.   The forest transformed from inviting sanctuary to foreboding trap.

My own repose was doubly vexed.   I know the pitfalls of quantum theory, but in wanting to present the cosmos’s slight-of-hand there was quantum theory’s legacy pointing the way.   I realized the source of the irony several hours later.  The trickster and the magician are related and even blend together under dualistic thinking.  But Ancients understood the difference.  I had ignored it – briefly.  The distinction is that the trickster works from the insecurity created by illusion; the magician builds on the awe.

Quantum theory has primed us to see the universe as more than it seems.   I will give it that.  But I hope we are still capable of seeing that the cosmos is more than the work of a trickster.  More than mere now you see it now you don’t imperceptible tricks suggested by quantum mechanics, the cosmos streams from imperceptible slight-of-hand where a broken string becomes whole again and one ball becomes dozens.  Where coins disappear from a hand only to reappear behind an ear.  Where no laws of nature are violated, only made irrelevant by the possibilities beyond perception.

Let me be specific.  What makes the boats in the painting above?  The blend of bridge and clouds.  Unbelievable, yes.  But real, yes, at least in the perception created by the artist.

What makes matter?  The blend of dark energy and radiation.  Unbelievable, yes.  But real, it is possible.  A coherent cosmos is one where nothing is more magical than what is real.