Transcendence; A New Reality
Transcendence; A New Reality
By Norman Hirst
Just think! The protocols for inquiry followed by western philosophy, and science to this day were established by Greek philosophers 25 centuries ago. Those protocols achieved an amazing record of accomplishment. All of our technology today is the result of philosophical inquiries leading to science and then science leading to engineering. But during the 20th century unsolvable problems appeared. It began with paradox in the foundations of logic and mathematics. Then quantum physics and relativity rejected our inherited notions of physical reality. Social problems became intractable including the development of technologies exceeding human intelligence to manage them. A case in point, nuclear weapons.
Quantum physics challenges our notions of physical reality. Consider two objects separated in space. Let’s say they are several miles apart. Will they affect one another? Common sense says no. Quantum physics says possibly. Assume the two particles are electrons and both have been in the same atomic orbit. No two electrons in the same orbit can be identical. Thus they adopt different spins. Imagine them as being like spinning tops with one going clockwise and the other going counterclockwise. Having established this relationship, they are said to be entangled. The mind-boggling requirement of quantum physics is that they will remain entangled no matter where they are. They can be miles apart and if one is forced to reverse its spin they will both reverse simultaneously.
Einstein thought quantum physics was seriously flawed. Thus he seized upon this absurd impossible prediction of quantum theory as proof that the theory was incomplete. Then entanglement was produced in the laboratory. Quantum mathematics works. In terms of reliable predictions it is the most thoroughly tested theory in history. Yet, the underlying reality remains unknown. There are connections that our understanding of individuality and space deny. What is quantum physics trying to tell us?
A New Basis for Inquiry:
For 2500 years scientific protocols have been based on what is known as “substance metaphysics.” In philosophy, metaphysics refers to that discipline exploring the most basic assumptions one can make about reality, the assumptions that will be foundational for what one expects to find. The protocol based on “substance metaphysics” investigates how matter works. Find the most basic particles and see how they go together to form what is experienced. Searching for the most basic particles led to subatomic physics – and quantum theory.
Substance metaphysics might be called the majority report. Fortunately for 25 centuries there has been a minority report known as “process metaphysics” which has been developing in parallel over these centuries. Though it is largely unknown except for philosophers and some scientists, the process view is now well developed. This minority report, today, is often referred to as the philosophy of organisms. Thus reality can be viewed as being divided into mechanics and organisms, i.e., nonliving and living. Reality as it has been known works fine for mechanisms, i.e., causally determined processes. However, organisms require an altogether different protocol to understand their reality.
Awareness of how different organisms are from mechanics has led to great effort to understand life. There are now disciplines such as mapping the genome, chaos theory and system theory. Unfortunately they fail to make the requisite change in metaphysics. I don’t believe they can provide the needed scientific theory. At the same time there are empirical investigations revealing what the required theory needs to explain. Consider the work of Dr. Mae Wan Ho, a leading biophysicist in Milton Keynes, England. Using instruments with polarized light for viewing inside an organism as it lives, she has revealed properties of living organisms that have never before been known. According to Dr. Ho a human being is made up of 70 trillion cells functioning in a pure democracy. It is like a super jazz band constantly playing each individual’s theme in 72 octaves. There are no bosses, no controllers and no fixed states. Bosses, controllers and fixed states are required for nonliving systems. In a living system, every cell functions to maintain coherence with all other cells and enjoys a maximum of freedom in the way it maintains coherence. This diversity of freedom is essential to any living entity and it’s ability to adapt for survival. The greatest value occurs when entities of the most highly individualized nature are united and harmonized into a single coherent whole. This has profound implications for society and for our lives in how we set policy, do research, think about social issues and global communications just to name a few ways.
Discovering the New Reality:
Mechanical reality is made of objects that have to be acted upon. Living reality is made of self-motivated actors. Living entities function and develop by their own internal laws. They are autonomic. Mechanisms function by laws built in by their designers. They are allonomic. In addition living entities are self-knowing or autognomic. Self-knowing violates the laws of logic that have held since Aristotle, laws that do not allow paradox or inconsistency. However, the self-knowing process of living entities can cause paradox and inconsistency. This is not a problem for new logics now being discovered. We could say, as no surprise to anyone, that people are illogical. They are inconsistent and paradoxical. The surprise is, for life to occur and be sustained, it must be inconsistent and paradoxical.. Now you and I, and particularly our leaders, need to learn how to think with this protocol of living processes.
To begin learning to think about process new habits are required. As you go about your life, and hear policy and study events happening in our world, begin looking for:
- Relatedness rather then discrete individuality
- Wholeness rather than separateness
- Self development rather than fixed nature
- Innovation rather than uniformity
- Fluidity rather than stability
- Activity rather than passivity
Organisms as Jazz Bands:
The idea that humans function like jazz bands seemed absurd to me. I have been well steeped in systems. I earned my living programming computers for half a century. Surely there has to be inputs, hierarchy, controls, algorithms and predefined states. But, as Einstein is alleged to have said, “If at first the new idea is not absurd then there is no hope for it”. Then I remembered watching a jazz band performance. I was amazed to see various musicians pop up to play solos for no reason that I could see except they must have felt like it. The solos included riffs that I am sure had never been heard before. Not even by the soloist! Yet they all went on happily playing together. During the trumpet solo I saw other musicians smiling in appreciation as they sensed what the trumpeter was trying to do. When it was successfully resolved they looked as if they might stand up and applaud. I thought I was watching a miracle I didn’t understand. So I asked Skye. From her musical training she explained to me all the background musical structures that were operative. The musicians knew them in their souls and perhaps even consciously.
Now I know! Life is about miracles. Life is creative. It doesn’t work with controls. It works with values. In a world of mechanisms values become impossible to know and understand. We talk about values, but maybe in reality they are just Sunday school virtues. No, they are not Sunday school virtues. In life values are quite real and operational. The principles of value provide guidance to higher values and transcendence. I am overjoyed contemplating the new reality. The transition to the new reality may be difficult, but it is leading to life lived on a higher plane than has ever been known.
Perhaps this is what quantum physics is trying to tell us!