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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
I found a Tree of Knowledge of sorts and have been visiting it daily.
For the last few months I have been spending most of my time in nature. On a journey several weeks ago I came across one particular tree. The tree was big and old and, at first glance, looked dead through and through. Its bark-less form protruded from the ground like a thick rope all frayed at the top. Upon closer inspection I found that the rope effect came from it being made of four trunks grown together.
Leafless branches, pointy and black with age, flanked its trunk like an armory. One branch of significant size had broken off and fallen to the ground. Otherwise the ominous tree stood, content in its frightening display.
I made my way through the fallen portion to investigate the far side of the tree. From there I could see how it had remained standing. One of the four trunks that made up its magnificent meta-trunk was still alive! Bark covered it, and a set of pale roots each the size of a person’s forearm extended into the ground behind. When I stared up through the forest understory I could just see the branches that held its leaves.
Trees, intimate in their connection to the earth, make timeless metaphors for knowledge. Knowledge arises from what is hidden (the roots) and branches out in search of energy (the leaves). In the right habitat, one will grow and even seed further knowledge. Trees are common to religious stories and other wisdom traditions. The serpent slithered from a tree in the Garden of Eden. Siddhartha sat beneath a Bodhi tree where he was visited by his inner demons. The tenets of mystical Judaism are constructed as a tree. The tree in the movie Avatar represents our modern fascination with the knowledge of communities and connectedness.
I offer the gnarly tree as a Tree of Nothingness. Not Sartre style nothingness. Cosmological nothingness, by which I mean everything other than something that can be directly sensed.
Since the discovery of dark energy, Newton’s contribution to understanding nothingness… dead. Relativity’s contribution… dead. Quantum theory’s contribution… dead. Three dead branches. Dark energy, a mystery even among physicists, is a challenge to re-conceive nothingness. It is the live part of the Tree of Nothingness that continues to grow, in spite of the weight of dead ideas around it.
But there is another metaphor, this time historical, that injects itself conveniently into the geometry of the Tree of Nothingness. Dolpopa, writing in the 14th century, refers to his divergence from the existing Buddhist doctrine as his “fourth council.” (Only three such councils had, or have ever since, been widely recognized.) In short his doctrine distinguishes emptiness as being not a singular state but a metaphysically rich one. Buddhists have long focused on the notion of empty-of-self as the ultimate state due to it being the source of Buddha-nature, but Dolpopa noticed that plenty of nothingness exists outside of Buddha-nature itself, and he called it empty-of-other. He too had discovered dark energy.
I burned what I could from the branch that had fallen from the Tree of Nothingness. The fire was the hottest fire I think I have ever felt.
Over the last few weeks I have been participating in an active NPR-based blogging forum known as 13.7 Cosmos and Culture. Very fun. Have not been sure where it would lead but enjoy having scientists to “talk” to.
Scientists willing to talk to me are in short supply. Dr. Dinsch is the exception of course, but he’s a research physician, which doesn’t count (jk… Roger’s the best!).
The posts on 13.7 – and it seems most of the comments too – are made by forward-thinking scientists. I have added comments here and there, but basically kept a low profile. At this point its readers, like most scientists, are unlikely to see my saga as anything but melodrama.
One post I have been following is Marcelo Gleiser’s “To Unify Or Not Unify: That Is (Not) The Question” (June 24, 2010). A comment posted Sunday really hit home. Steve O observed that “even if you can prove an inability to measure our way to a complete understanding, maybe some clever chap will make a lucky guess!”
That is exactly the way I see myself in relation to redefining physical theory. Cleverness, the most respected trait in Tibetan culture by the way, is one I have heard myself described as more than once. Chonyi said as much the first time I met him to discuss apprenticing in his restaurant.
And how lucky am I to have had access to perhaps the most distinct tools in all of history for making a lucky guess – 350-year-old carvings from an obscure group of Buddhist gnostics. Plus translated-into-English scripts from cosmologically-minded doctrine that preceded that by another 250 years (The Buddha from Dolpo, text and translations by Cyrus Stearns 1999). That plus having a brother who was immersed in physics and yet compelled to question its central tenants.
I have not presented my “lucky guess” formally here yet — I hope I have demonstrated some small bit of cleverness. Continued concentrated effort is needed to work out what appears to be the final piece of the puzzle: gravity. I have all of the edge pieces of the puzzle in place, have even filled in most of the picture, and what remains is a hole where gravity should be. Actually I know gravity manifests as part of the VEHICLE continuum, I just have not settled on what its complement (opposite end of the continuum) is and why.
First a bit of practical business to share, then on to the missing clothes metaphor. I did not mention in my last post – it was still stinging a bit – but I have been asked to not return to the Chenpo Terma for the time being. So I won’t, or rather, can’t. I know its location on a map and have been there, but traveling to the Himalayan plateau is not a trivial matter to be attempted alone and the locals will have been warned not to help me.
I have asked Chonyi to appeal again to the Sangha-dhatu council of elders to change their minds, but I know the difficulties I face gaining their trust again. The earthquake, and my tendency to push them to go public, have led to understandable resentment, trepidation, and the like.
Add to that the fact that the relic was in my possession when it was confiscated and me being a fugitive from the international relic police (yes Interpol)… neither has bought me points with the council.
What the relic police would do if they caught me remains a bit of a mystery, but I do not want to find out. That is what the bad guys are betting on too. Plus they know I would not keep my mouth shut about my suspicions, which would probably get me charged with slander (and what I’m writing here, if I weren’t using pseudonyms, would be called libel). Whatever to build some kind of case against me. How far Bernie Ghes would go to keep the relic from me (and any positive attention from the relic or my brother) is hard to imagine, but he is not one to do dirty-work himself. The real question is, How far would do-gooders and career criminals hired by a self-important academician go to keep the relic out of my hands?
So why do I care if I ever hold or view these terma again? Why not move on? Obviously they have cultural value, but UNESCO should be able to advocate for that if provided enough information.
So here’s the thing. I have experienced first hand the power of these terma. Not raw physical power like a sword, but gnostic power. Under their influence I saw with a clarity rarely achieved, even when I find myself by the remotest stream on the clearest day. Such assertions cannot be quantified, much less believed, given modern fascination with all things testable. I realize I may just be being sentimental too because I had insightful moments with them in mind (something my brother never seemed willing to admit about his own experiences with the relic). I do not know for sure which interpretation is accurate, but I know I want to have the chance to find out what my experience means. And others should have the chance to experience it.
One such insightful moment happened as follows. The day after a friend and I literally cracked open the relic to reveal its three puzzle-like layers, I sat turning it over again and again in my hands, linking and unlinking the pieces in their various combinations. What I saw was this: when a holistic truth or unified physical reality is manifest through three interconnected continua, meta-theories tend to form around subsets of two continua with the third being neutralized, or made a null set, in order to analyze the other two in relation to each other. At the time I was thinking specifically of physics theories, but the wider relevance is also apparent to me.
So by way of example, let’s take Newtonian physics, special relativity, and quantum mechanics – three physics meta-theories. Assume three continua are at work, let’s call them MODE, VEHICLE, and PARTICLE, and ascribe one continua as missing from each meta-theory’s symbolism. For the sake of (a non-coincidental) argument, say Newtonian physics is missing MODE, special relativity is missing VEHICLE, and quantum mechanics is missing PARTICLE. If we make a single diagram in which each of the three continua are represented not only by an interrelated symbol but by color coding, then vary the background color so that it corresponds for a time to each continuum’s color, you get an animation like the one above. A visual representation of how the same underlying reality looks different but connects back to the whole if we define the continua as interrelated (one symbol) but distinct (variable color). I chose the carvings on the relic to create my representation.
Overlapping meta-theories is a non-controversial observation. When interpreted this way it can be seen as evidence that interrelated and likely hidden continua are at work behind reality (and I don’t mean hidden dimensions! you don’t want to get me started on that!). Important conceptual hurdle to get over, but just the beginning of what would end up being an intellectual obstacle course. Clearly, the correct complement of continua have to be identified and defined in an interrelated way. Not a small task given that each continua falls into the hidden/missing/background role naturally when relying on known types of analysis.
It should not be surprising at all that modern science cannot get its meta-theories to mesh together. Each is based on an assumption where one essential continuum is demoted to the role of backdrop. Symbolic languages are adopted for the resulting meta-theories and, most importantly, links to the temporarily nullified continua are lost.
Each meta-theory is like a stage production, with its own characters, story and backdrop. That is the science we have come to know and love, and now, after the fact, we expect to be able to build holistic models of it? Call it the Ghost of Reductionism, or Human Longing for Predictability, or the commercial value of Paradigms-R-Us. Consumers and the majority of professionals in science and culture long ago severed their ties with reality and associated holistic truths when they accepted the model of interpreting the scenes and stories played out in each human field of investigation as more than what they are: non-real parallel universes of thought.
We are a society of clothes-less emperors. All missing the clothes of reality, with no one to challenge us. I am here to advocate for the advantages to donning colorful, real accouterments once again.
Since there is stripping going on, try to relish the thought of taking away the backdrops and removing the symbolic languages from existing theories, if just for a moment. What we are left with is not only the potential connectedness of meta-theories but, with all these hidden continua to uncover, a likely critical role for nothingness itself. Maybe we are getting somewhere after all.
I heard from Chonyi a few days ago. He had good news. The Chenpo Terma site we explored in April just one day before the earthquake is intact for now. The entry to the underground portrait room had been blocked, but a few dedicated and brave individuals, working slowly and in secret as usual, cleared away the collapsed rock and were able to enter once again. They even returned with the naljorpa who lives nearby to renew the blessings and protections on the site.
This development was so great, but it meant I had to soul-search all over again. I have been paralyzed, not knowing what to do, or not do. The location and the secrets behind it and the relic too have been hidden for over three hundred and fifty years. Events (like the earthquake) and some people’s bad intentions keep conspiring to keep them hidden. Am I just an overreaching American, a Scooby-Doo style meddler? People, nice people, are telling me I should let this lie, that I am making things worse – for myself and for their efforts to protect what is precious to them.
Then I turned on Coldplay. Listened to the song “Fix You.” “Lights will guide you home,” he crooned. And yes, tears did stream down my face.
I keep talking about physicists perpetuating dark, insidious theories about reality. Keep the lights out… just question the darkness! I preach. But we are all susceptible to its most basic form. Everyone experiences fear, some groups just build on it with fancy names and elaborate theories is all. Others of us conspire with it to hide a tough reality we are reluctant to face. My Tibetan friends have made a lifetime of commitments over generations to hide the Chenpo Terma, and they are afraid to let go.
Light is bound to reach us in the darkness. When we wait for it rather than reflexively turning on the self-conscious light of limited understanding, perhaps more so even, it may pain us, it may surprise us, but it will slowly warm and enliven us again. Our first thought in this new state should be, If there is a god, it is a Cosmic God.
Personally, my second thought was, Repeat to yourself, mantra-style, The paradox of revealing nothingness. The paradox of revealing nothingness. The paradox of revealing nothingness.
Preferable to The paradox of preaching hypocrisy, which is what I was toying with these last few days.
Ours is a paradox, in which nothingness may be revealed and somethingness is certainly hidden. I can only promise for now that the motive remains.