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MIND, MATTER, MATHEMATICS,

&
MORTALITY

MEDITATIONS ON A MOMENTOUS METAPHYSICAL THEORY

Dr. N!N S. AMEN-RA, Dr.PH, MA


MIND, MATTER, MATHEMATICS,
&
MORTALITY
MEDITATIONS ON A MOMENTOUS METAPHYSICAL THEORY

MIND

MATTER M4 MATH

MORT

Dr. N!N S. AMEN-RA, Dr.PH, MA


AMENTA PRESS
! MMXI
Damascus, Maryland USA

www.AmentaPress.com
AmentaPr@AmentaPress.com

www.AmentaEliteAthlete.com
Amen-Ra@AmentaEliteAthlete.com
INITIATORY INSIGHTS

CHAPTER I
MUSINGS ON THE MATTER OF MIND

McGinn—Master Mysterian
Integral Ingredients
Immaterial Monism

CHAPTER II
WHAT IN THE HELL IS A WAVEFUNCTION
&
OTHER MUSINGS ON THE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE OF
MATTER

The Vapidity of Materiality: The View from Particle Physics


The Higgs Ocean & the Mystery of Mass
More Massive Mystification
The Vapidity of Materiality: The View from Quantum Mechanics
Wave Goodbye to Matter
"=#+$
Wavefunction Collapse: The Mediation of Mind
Nonlocal Nonentities in Supernal Superposition

CHAPTER III
SUPREME MATHEMATICS

Interpretations of Mathematics
The Constitutional Interpretation of Mathematics: The Third Factor
in M4
Mathematics & the Hierarchal Nature of Scientific Disciplines
CHAPTER IV
COSMOLOGICAL
&
COSMOGONICAL CONSIDERATIONS

T0
Chaotic Cosmogony
Tryon’s Theoretical Triumph: Creatio Ex Nihilo—Quantum Style
Initial Conditions
The Proto-Percipient Universe
N!n, Nous & Numerus: Symbols, Science & Supreme Mathematics

CHAPTER V
IDEATIONAL ANTECEDENTS

Adherents to Immaterialism
The Depths of Mathematics
Proto-Percipience: Many Mini Minds
Never Mind Matter, Mathematics Modulates Mentation

CHAPTER VI
ILLUSIONARY IDENTITY
&
THE MEANING OF MORTALITY

The Modular Mind: The View from Neurology


The Modular Mind: The View from Psychiatry
Mind, Meditation & Mahapralaya

A POPPERIAN PERORATION

AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL ALLUSIONS
INITIATORY INSIGHTS

_______________________________________

The central imperative of the inchoate discipline of OsiriologyI is to


understand the psychological ramifications of death and apply this
understanding in such a way as to assuage the grief of the bereaved.
To be bereaved is to be bereft, forcibly deprived of something valued.
To most, life is a valued possession and death assumes its inimical
character because it eradicates life. Death has many manifestations
moreover. As we age and observe the gradual deterioration of our
bodies we experience a sort of episodic, incremental death. When
individuals are irreconcilably estranged from their families of origin
they may experience a sort of familial death. Similarly, divorce can
constitute nuptial death. Perhaps most momentous is the evidence
that the Universe itself is dying, with matter imperceptibly
degenerating, energy irredeemably dissipating and space and time
ineluctably expanding into nothingness. This is cosmic death. Even
our psyches undergo alterations analogous to death. The mentality of
most adults differs dramatically from adolescents and this typical
transformation transpires over time. In a sense, the person I was as a
youth is no more—he is dead. There is something rather more

IOsiriology is the term originated by the Author to describe the discipline more
commonly known as Thanatology. The former is preferred because the Egyptian
god Wsir (Osiris), whose myth chronicles his crucifixion, resurrection, and
elevation as judge of the dead, symbolizes humanity’s hope for triumph over death.
The Egyptian adherent of “Osirianism” did not merely worship Osiris but sought
to become a deity by leading a life of supreme virtue in accordance with the Universal
Order. %&'&()* (Thanatos), the obscure Greek god of death, was not generally
deemed worthy of worship, emulation, or reverence, but merely dread. Only a
subjective preference for Greek nomenclature can seemingly justify favoring
Thanatology over Osiriology as an emblematic appellation for the systematic study
of death.

1
compelling about the concomitant mutability and stability of our
sense of self. Cleary, the personality is a product of the brain. The
brain is a dynamic organ whose myriad molecules move incessantly in
a complex chemical cacophony that boggles the mind. And yet,
memories persist and our sense of self subsists. But what sustains the
self, what undergirds its existence? Upon what foundation does
consciousness rest? Is consciousness reducible to rudimentary
matter? This crucial question lies not only at the core of this treatise
but at the core of the seemingly discordant dispensations of Western
and Eastern philosophy, at the heart of science and ultimately, as
shall be argued, at the heart of Osiriology, the study of death.
The clearly discernible dichotomy between matter and mind
has occupied the thoughts of thinkers great and small for millennia
and yet we still lack a compelling explanation for the origin, nature
and modulation of consciousness. At the risk of hubris, I shall argue
that the answer has revealed itself to me, a theoretical scientist and
Osiriologist, one of the plethora of “small” thinkers to which I
alluded above. There is little entirely original in my thinking however.
I have simply integrated information gleaned from seminal scientific
studies, ascertaining their ultimate implications for the philosophy of
mind and synthesized data from domains as disparate as Egyptology
and atomic physics in an effort to construct a theoretical framework
able to illuminate the interrelations among mind, matter, mathematics
and mortality. I mustn’t tarry any longer in divulging the elements of
our intellectual edifice. The crux of the mystery is that mind
manifests itself in a manner that seems immaterial. Nonetheless, the
machinations of the mind are unambiguously associated with the
operations of the brain. Stated more strongly, the brain and its
chemical constituents are the causal basis for consciousness. This
much is clear. Now comes the caveat. The chemical constituents of
the brain assume a place in a material hierarchy. Its organic molecules
are composed of atoms. These atoms are composed of subatomic
particles such as protons and neutrons. Protons and neutrons are
composed of fundamental particles called quarks. They are called
fundamental because, like the electron that “orbits” the periphery of
the atom, they appear to have no deeper substructure. In fact, they
appear to be infinitesimal point particles with no spatial extension or

2
dimensionality. If this description is indeed defensible, they are then
immaterial. What this may mean is that the supposed matter
supporting the seemingly immaterial mind is itself ultimately
immaterial. And this is not all. These point particles are not amenable
to analysis with the conceptual contrivances of classical physics.
Rather, the study of such point particles (or quanta) requires
Quantum Mechanics. Central to Quantum Mechanics are
wavefunctions, mathematical formulae whose computations reveal all
that is knowable (in a certain sense) about fundamental particles.
There is more. But first, it bears mentioning that much has been
made of the eerie aspects of Quantum Mechanics by persons such as
myself having no formal training in theoretical physics or
mathematics. We learned laymen must therefore rely on the
interpretations of experts in the field in order to avoid imprudent
intellectual excesses. I have done just this…and frankly, it is still
eerie. What I speak of are the experiments, exacting and audacious,
which indicate that particles of matter exhibit an awareness of their
environment and alter their behavior according to statistically
predictable rules that form the basis of the science of Quantum
Mechanics. So, we have ostensibly immaterial particles that exhibit a
property that can conceivably be called awareness (or Proto-Percipience
as I prefer). Clearly we are closer to an understanding of the
interrelationship between mind and matter. Added to this is the
intriguing argument that wavefunctions and the particles whose
properties they describe are in fact identical. Wavefunctions are
mathematical constructs. What can it mean for a mathematical
construct to constitute a material entity? Well, that material entities are
not material at all. This is the destination our speculations seem
bound for. The ultimate nature of Number has been a matter of
debate since Plato and probably prior to his predecessor Pythagoras.
If the infinitesimal elements of which our world is composed are
intrinsically mathematical, then another mystery would be appreciably
illuminated. These musings are as much numerological as they are
mathematical insofar as it seems that numbers have a hidden nature
that explains, in part, their uncanny efficacy in describing the world.
There is yet more, and it concerns the Cosmos. If matter is
immaterial, intrinsically mathematical and exhibits an attribute akin to

3
awareness, ought not the large-scale structure of the Universe offer
testament to this? This seems to obtain. We shall evaluate evidence
indicating that the aggregate amount of matter and energy in the
Universe amounts to nothing. Briefly, this is so by virtue of Einstein’s
equation, E=mc2, the precise symmetry between matter and
antimatter extant in the early Universe, and the present balance
between the positive energy embodied in matter summed with the
negative energy emanating from matter’s gravitational effect. Add to
this the idea that our Universe evolved from an infinitesimal entity
possibly possessing the proto-percipient properties of a quantum
particle and immateriality is roundly reinforced. Now, whatever has
this to do with death?
Death entails the destruction of the self and the dissolution of
consciousness. As we shall see, however, neurological research has
revealed that the mind of each individual is actually an amalgam of
multiple mental modules or entities illusorily integrated in such a way
as to simulate psychic unity. The multiplicity of the “individual” mind
contravenes the very concept of individuality and accordingly renders
the notion of “self” superfluous or fictive. And if the “self” is
fundamentally fictive, our fear of death, our fear of self dissolution is
therefore misplaced. Can we justifiably fear the destruction of
something that does not, in fact, exist? The ascetic sages of ancient
India affirmed that consciousness and our cherished sense of self is
illusory precisely because it is superficial, a manifestation of an
ethereal essence much more fundamental, much more elemental.
Perhaps the essence of which they spoke issues forth from
fundamental particles. If what we regard as matter exhibits
consciousness at its core then the despair that death ordains goes
only so deep. Admittedly, this speculation loosely skirts the limits of
logic and I can vividly imagine the voice of the incredulous skeptic
muttering “Very well, but this doesn’t make me feel any better about
dying.” Granted, this knowledge is not likely to assuage the anxiety of
most individuals as they grapple with the ponderous problem of
death. Indeed, the ancient Indian prescription has always been
unpalatable to the masses: Suffering engendered by the intimation of
death ensues when one erroneously regards the psyche as the
substance of one’s being; desist in this deleterious delusion and

4
identify not with the transient, transmogrifying psyche but with the
enduring, adamantine essence of consciousness and suffering shall
surely cease. Nothing in the foregoing discussion alters the essential
wisdom of this proclamation. The line of thinking I have delineated
does however provide a more empirical evidentiary edifice upon
which to uphold ancient wisdom adopted from the Indian doctrines
of Vedanta, Samkhya, Yoga, Buddhism and Jainism and certain of
their Western ideational analogues—Platonism, Pythagoreanism, and
Epicureanism. It is at least interesting to imagine that the methods of
meditation central to certain philosophical systems yielded insights
extracted from introspective awareness. Perhaps these insights accord
with what we are learning about matter because awareness is an
irreducible aspect of matter itself, discernible when one divests
oneself of the distractions of conscious cogitation. These and other
musings concerning cosmology and eschatology, ideas to be
discussed in the pages of this mercifully brief book, somehow make
me feel better about death. But such contentment can be
problematic, for we should be especially skeptical of those ideas that
make us feel better. For whatever has truth to do with feeling? Let us
therefore analyze the ideas enumerated herein with the
aforementioned admonition in mind. Finally, it must be
acknowledged that this work contains a substantial amount of
speculation. Speculation ought not be eschewed outrightly however,
especially if it is undergirded by sound science and rigorous reasoning
as I affirm this treatise to be. I leave it to my Audience to evaluate the
veracity of this claim.

5
…I do not expect any popular approval, or indeed any wide audience. On the
contrary I would not urge anyone to read this book except those who are able and
willing to meditate seriously with me, and to withdraw their minds from their
senses and from all preconceived opinions. Such readers, as I well know, are few
and far between. Those who do not bother to grasp the proper order of my
arguments and the connection between them, but merely try to carp at individual
sentences, as is the fashion, will not get much benefit from reading this book. They
may well find an opportunity to quibble in many places, but it will not be easy for
them to produce objections which are telling or worth replying to. But I certainly
do not promise to satisfy my other readers straightaway on all points, and I am not
so presumptuous as to believe that I am capable of foreseeing all the difficulties
which anyone may find.

—RENÉ DESCARTESI

I
Descartes R. Meditations on First Philosophy, 1641, Preface. Translated by Elizabeth
Haldane & G. R. T. Ross, 1952.

6
CHAPTER I

MUSINGS ON THE MATTER OF MIND


___________________________________

I maintain that mind is immaterial. This declaration is not likely to


strike people as particularly poignant or provocative. So quotidian, so
common, is this concept that I shall not undertake an exhaustive
evaluation of its veracity. Ideas are essential elements of minds and
ideas, we must admit, can scarcely be construed as corporeal. So if
minds can be crudely conceived as “containers” for ideas or perhaps
considered to consist of ideational impressions engendered by
emotions and sensations, this would seem to reinforce our
conception of the mind as immaterial. But even when the mind is idle
and no ideas effervesce therein, consciousness persists. The mind is
ostensibly a matrix within which immaterial ideas emerge and this
matrix itself must needs be equally insubstantial, equally immaterial.
Introspectively discerned, the mind exhibits the characteristics of
continuity, homogeneity and indivisibility. It is this apparent
indivisibility of mind that René Descartes (1596-1650) cited in his
Meditations as an argument against the incorporeity of mind:

[W]e cannot understand a body except as being


divisible, while by contrast we cannot understand a
mind except as being indivisible. For we cannot
conceive of half a mind, while we can always conceive
of half a body, however small; and this leads us to
recognize that the natures of mind and body are not
only different, but in some way opposite.”I

Descartes clearly appreciated the essentiality of extensibility to the


concept of matter and considered the mind’s lack thereof as an
indication of its immateriality:

IDescartes R. Meditations on First Philosophy, 1641, 1952.

7
…[W]hen I consider the mind, or myself in so far as I
am merely a thinking thing, I am unable to distinguish
any parts within myself; I understand myself to be
something quite single and complete. Although the
whole mind seems to be united to the whole body, I
recognize that if a foot or arm or any other part of the
body is cut off, nothing has thereby been taken away
from the mind. As for the faculties of willing, of
understanding, of sensory perception and so on, these
cannot be termed parts of the mind, since one and the
same mind that wills, and understands and has
sensory perceptions. By contrast, there is no
corporeal or extended thing that I can think of which
in my thought I cannot easily divide into parts; and
this very fact makes me understand that it is divisible.
This one argument would be enough to show me that
the mind is completely different from the body, even
if I did not already know as much from other
considerations.I

And yet, despite their undeniable dissimilarity, the mind is evidently


dependent upon the brain. This issue is complex and of such import
that we shall touch upon it many times throughout the course of this
investigation. It is clear, however, that the mind does not reside in the
brain—the mind, in fact, does not seem to reside anywhere. If one
envisions the rings of Saturn, where then is one’s mind? Where is it
when one recalls a vivid childhood experience or performs
arithmetical calculations in one’s head, or attempts to visualize an
atom or contemplate the infinite set of all real numbers? Perhaps we
cannot say where the mind resides, but we are justified, it seems, in
saying that it does not reside in the space equivalent to a loaf of
bread. All this is meant to illustrate the nonlocality of mind, the notion
that minds are not localized in the paltry space of the cranial vault.
We also feel (some more sensuously or saliently than others perhaps),

IIbidem.

8
and this quality of feeling, this sentience, also informs our conception
of the mind as immaterial. For there is nothing material about love,
longing, grief, guilt, or glee. These are emotions and emotions are not
attributable to material entities devoid of minds. We have no reason
to believe that rocks or roses repine imperceptibly. If the mind is
indeed immaterial, then we have a problem—a problem as profound
as any mind can conceive. For it would seem that we inhabit a
dichotomous world, a world of material entities bound by space and
by physical laws, and, simultaneously, a world of immaterial mental
entities bound neither by space nor any (as yet discernible) physical
laws. What is more, these two disparate realms must interact with
each other in a way that eludes us as a species and has done so since
the sagacious scribes of the Nile Valley and the astute ascetics of the
Indus Valley sought to systematize soma and psyche, body and mind.
That our attempts to understand the relationship between matter and
mind have proven so fruitless thus far has led the eminent
philosopher Colin McGinn to conclude that the problem is utterly
intractable. And if a scholar of such prowess is so insistent about the
insolubility of the mind-matter problem, then throwing in the towel
might seem prudent. In my humble opinion, however, such
intellectual capitulation would be premature.

McGinn—Master Mysterian

I am incalculably indebted to the intellectual labors of Colin McGinn.


He has written more lucidly and thought more deeply on the
fundamental “problem” of consciousness than any contemporary
theorist known to me. His conviction that the enigma of mind-matter
interaction is irremediable (or in his words “cognitively closed” to us)
carries considerable weight. The nature of his argument on this
matter, assuming I have an adequate understanding thereof, is
strikingly simple and straightforward and this, I believe, is one of the
keys to the persuasiveness of his position. He accepts the materiality
of matter, with all its allegiant properties of ponderosity, solidity, and
locality within a lattice of space-time. He also takes into consideration
the way consciousness presents itself to us—as immediate,

9
immaterial, non-localized, and sensorily rich. Such properties of mind
would seemingly argue for a dualistic conception of mental substance
and material substance. But however separate these “substances”
seem, they are nonetheless linked. One need only consider the fact
that consciousness emerges anew with the birth of each organism
possessed of a suitably sophisticated nervous system. Alternatively,
one need only consider what we might call the ‘biochemical
contingency of consciousness’—the fact that molecular moieties as
mundane as sugar or as potent as PCP can, through their influence
on the chemical milieu of the brain, alter one’s state of consciousness
considerably. Thus the physical substance of the brain succors and
sustains the seemingly aphysical mind. As McGinn adroitly
articulates:

How is it possible for conscious states to depend on


brain states….How could the aggregation of millions
of individually insentient neurons generate subjective
awareness? We know that brains are the de facto
causal basis of consciousness, but we have, it seems,
no understanding whatever of how this can be so. It
strikes us as miraculous, eerie, even faintly comic.
Somehow, we feel, the water of the physical brain is
turned into the wine of consciousness.I

How do such radically different substances coexist and correlate?


Moreover, how does one (matter) give rise to another (mind) and
incessantly so since the emergence of conscious life hundreds of
millions of years ago? Clearly there must be a link between the two.
Yet this link has proved so elusive that McGinn is convinced that it
shall forever confound and evade us. The link is, as he might say,
“mysterious”. It is for this reason that McGinn’s position has been
given the apt appellation mysteryian. I, for one, am exceedingly
impressed by the recondite reasoning of this capable thinker. Indeed,
it seems that we are no closer to an understanding of how brains
subserve consciousness than the family dog is to an understanding of

IMcGinn C. The Problem of Consciousness, 1993.

10
how currents of electricity heat metallic filaments in bulbs, causing
them to emit quanta of light (i.e. photons). And to such a man as me,
having been immersed in the quandary of consciousness for his
entire intellectual life, this admonition from a formidable philosopher
of mind to stop hitting my head against the wall would be a
welcomed respite indeed. But I am stubborn and possessed of certain
mentally masochistic proclivities. Mysterianism, I am convinced, is
not the final word.

Integral Ingredients

It is difficult to accept the notion that there are two fundamentally


distinct, radically dissimilar substances that comprise the world we
inhabit, that matter and mind coexist and interrelate. Perhaps because
of the triumphs of science in linking space and time, electricity and
magnetism, matter and energy, and the exhilarating prospect that
theorists are on the verge of unifying the laws of physics, discerning
the fundamentum relationis of the forces of Nature, we have come to
expect that underlying all is supreme simplicity. Plurality is passé,
superseded by Singularity, usurped by Unity. Not surprisingly, the
dominant trend in the neurosciences and the quasi-scientific
discipline of psychiatry is to regard consciousness and its psychic
derivatives as thoroughly physical, thoroughly chemical, if they regard
it at all. In defense of these disciplinary domains, it must be conceded
that the materialistic view is neither irrational nor radical, especially if
one concedes that our understanding of consciousness is incomplete
to say the least. Introspection—the inward projection of our powers
of perception—gives us immediate and privileged access to the inner
workings of consciousness. But immediacy does not imply inerrancy.
The window into the soul through which the introspective faculty
permits us to peer may be, unbeknown to us, beclouded. Secure in
our partial, introspectively acquired knowledge, we are wont to
ascribe to consciousness a quality which it perhaps does not
possess—namely, immateriality. McGinn maintains that:

11
Conscious states, as they are presented to
introspection, seem to call for an ontology of
nonphysical substances for them to inhere in. And the
feeling that consciousness can be radically detached
from the physical world is…comprehensible, though
mistaken; it is a natural response to the way
consciousness presents itself. For the surface of
consciousness does not contain the materials to
demonstrate the nature of its necessary connection
with physical fact.I

In other words, our faculties of introspection might present


consciousness to us in such a way as to hide its true nature, giving us
the erroneous impression that it is nebulous, ethereal, and immaterial.
Deep down, however, this seething mental matrix is marshaled into
existence by the machinations of material entities comprising the
brain. But this is a leap that I am not prepared to take. For in the vein
of René Descartes, nothing is more elemental, more certain, and less
open to doubt than consciousness. Several centuries have not
negated the Cartesian credo: Cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am).
All else might be illusory but the fact that I am here and now
perceiving something is not open to serious scrutiny. Perception might
delude us but introspection is infallible in its guise as the bedrock of
being. We all know how fallible our sense faculties can be. We are
susceptible to simple optical “illusions”. We perceive, for instance,
straight objects as bent when they are immersed diagonally in
translucent liquids. Snell’s Law assures us that this effect is
attributable to the differential speed with which light propagates
through air and liquid, but this fact fails to forestall our slight sense
of illusion. Examples abound of how our senses misrepresent the
nature of reality. Thus, in order to ascertain all but the most mundane
truths we must employ the contrived artifices of science,
mathematics, and reason. We cannot, it seems, fully trust the senses
in our concerted quest for ultimate truths. But, I must reiterate, there
is no reason to regard introspection as similarly suspect.

IMcGinn C. The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World, 1999.

12
Introspection reveals to us qualities of consciousness that bear no
relationship to those commonly accorded to corporeal objects—
introspection presents consciousness to us as aphysical, supraphysical,
immaterial. I ask the Reader to consider this assessment of
consciousness and then reflect on its ineluctable implication: radical
dualism.
Dualism is something we’d like to avoid if at all possible, if
only because it lacks a certain intellectually aesthetic appeal. But how
can we escape its grasp (and escape it we must if we are to maintain a
modicum of metaphysical equanimity)? McGinn and many others
endeavor to achieve this end by subsuming consciousness under the
banal banner of the physical. Material monism is their remedy. It
&+

matters not that McGinn regards the “psychophysical nexus”, the


critical link between mind and brain, as unknowable. He is a
materialist inasmuch as he regards consciousness as a thoroughly
physical phenomenon, albeit a physical phenomenon we, putatively,
can never hope to fathom. Though the superficial features of
consciousness may bespeak the immaterial, McGinn might argue, a
thorough understanding of the deeper, hidden nature of
consciousness would dispel the spectre of immaterialism:

But we, alas, are confined to the slippery surface of


consciousness, and this surface does not furnish a
rich enough conception of consciousness to allow us
to understand how consciousness depends necessarily
upon the body and brain. So we proceed to detach it
from the body, locating it in a mysterious immaterial
substance specially manufactured for the purpose. We
fall for the mirage consciousness projects. What we
should do is pause and ask ourselves whether the
surface exhausts the reality; for if it does not, then the
hidden part might well contain what is needed to keep

All etymologies and definitions have been taken in part or in toto from The Oxford
&

English Dictionary, Second Edition, 1989 & The Oxford Latin Dictionary, 1983.
[L monismus, f. Gk monos single]
+

13
consciousness glued down to the physical world,
where it belongs.I

McGinn is adamant that consciousness must be “glued down to the


physical world”, that it is in the phenomenal, physical Universe that
mind “belongs”. The fervency of this philosophical predilection
would be quelled, I suspect, if he realized how flimsy the physical
world really is. It is no firm nook into which mind may be cozily
nestled. For if McGinn regards consciousness as deeply mysterious,
he might consider what is known, fundamentally, about matter and
the physical world from the vantage of modern science. If ever our
unaided sense faculties have been guilty of misrepresenting the true
nature of things, it is so with respect to our perception of the physical
basis of reality. Nothing is as it seems. Space is neither vacuous nor
“smooth”; time is non-local, relativistic, contextual; energy is,
paradoxically, both finite and infinite, both positive and negative and
capable of producing a plentitude of particles out of the void; and
most mysterious of all, matter is both wave and particle,
simultaneously, and in its particle guise occupies a paltry volume of 0
radius, extending in no dimensions whatsoever and can be described
exhaustively on the basis of a probabilistic mathematical formulation
known as a wavefunction, the evolution of which is seemingly
dependent on the mediation of “conscious” observers. If we knew
the physical world solely through the agency of our unaided senses,
we would know precious little. With this in mind, the marriage
between the seemingly immaterial mind and the “physical” world—a
world revealed by science as fundamentally ethereal, fundamentally
aerial—is immeasurably more amicable than once thought.

Immaterial Monism

My approach to the psychophysical problem may be termed


Immaterial Monism insofar as I maintain that the nominally physical
brain is capable of generating and supporting or transducing the

IMcGinn C. 1999.

14
effervescence of consciousness precisely because it, itself, is
immaterial. In using the word “monism” I mean to convey the same
sense and meaning of the term as defined in The Oxford English
Dictionary:

A theory or system of thought which recognizes a


single ultimate principle, being, force, etc., rather than
more than one….[A] theory that denies the duality of
matter and mind….

I do indeed deny the duality of matter and mind. I must, however, be


clear that, though I regard the brain as immaterial, I do not take it to
be particularly or inherently special. It is composed of altogether
ordinary ingredients—organic molecules containing carbon,
hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen and an allotment of inorganic ions
including sodium, potassium, and calcium. All such elements
originate from the interiors of massive stars as products of intense
thermonuclear reactions. Such elements, organic and inorganic, litter
the Universe—they are ubiquitous. As my informed Audience
undoubtedly knows, atoms of carbon, oxygen, calcium, and hydrogen
have substructure. Their nuclei are composed of protons and
neutrons and confined to the periphery are electrons. Electrons are
fundamental, without deeper substructure. Protons and neutrons are,
however, composed of particles called quarks and these are
fundamental—so fundamental, in fact, that they are, like the electron,
thought to be without spatial extent. To be devoid of dimensionality
is to be, from the materialist standpoint, a nonentity. But this is
absurd, for matter obviously exists, if only as a figment of the mind.
We are, it seems, impelled to invoke immateriality. That which is
without substance is void; that which is without spatial extent is
immaterial. This picture of the brain as being composed of matter
that is fundamentally vacuous, fundamentally immaterial, is one we
shall develop in the ensuing chapters and it shall play a crucial part in
dispelling the metaphysical perplexity engendered by the ‘mind-
matter muddle’.

15
That compounds should be constituted and decomposed by physical forces and
according to physical law, that minute particles of matter should be moved hither
and thither by the action upon them of other particles…all this is clearly intelligible.
But that these same things should be made to happen without any physical
substances or physical processes among their causal antecedents, that they should
be wrought by something so nebulous as an idea or mental image, by something
having no physical property and not even a location, by something that could never
enter into the physical description of anything, or into any chemical equation, and
in violation of the very physical laws and principles according to which all physical
objects such as the brain and its parts operate—that anything like this should
happen seems quite unintelligible….One can…always verbally describe human
behavior or the activity of the nerves and brain and glands, interlarding the
explanations here and there with references to mental or physical processes; but no
one can possibly understand what is thus verbally set forth, or form the least
conception of how such interaction between wholly disparate realms of being is at
all possible.

"RICHARD TAYLORI

But extension is nothing independently and objectively existing. For all our
perception of things are within our own souls, which are unextended; and the
things exist not but in these perceptions. Extension then exists only in our minds.
All the objectivity it has is as a universal law binding on finite intelligences, that
they should all perceive in this way. It is a consequence and condition of our
limitation as finite souls.
II
"R. D. ARCHER-HIND

I
Taylor R. Metaphysics, 1974.
IIFrom the Introduction to Archer-Hind’s 1888 translation of Plato’s Timaeus.

16
CHAPTER II

WHAT IN THE HELL IS A WAVEFUNCTION &


OTHER MUSINGS ON THE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE OF
MATTER
________________________________________

I maintain that there is no such thing as matter, that there is no such


thing as a physical entity, no such stuff as solid substance. In this
chapter I intend to establish the vapidity of materiality. First, let us
consider the foundation upon which our conception of matter is
based. Though matter can be conceived, generally, as anything that
comprises the substance of a thing, our notion of matter is, more
specifically, commensurate with the definition proffered in The Oxford
English Dictionary as:

That which has mass and occupies space; physical


substance as distinct from spirit, mind, qualities, etc.
[emphases mine].

As we shall come to see, modern physics has revealed that the


fundamental constituents of matter are point-like particles with zero
radii, devoid of dimensionality. Thus, in stark contrast to our notion
of matter as that which “occupies space” physics compels us to
concede that our perception of this quality of matter—its
extensibility, its volumetric, space-occupying nature—is, in some
sense, illusory. Add to this the quantum mechanical picture of
particles as constituted by probabilistic mathematical waves and we
can no longer reasonably hold on to our common sense notion of the
materiality of matter. Likewise, the quality of mass, integral to our
notion of matter, is rather tenuous. For prominent physicists now
regard mass as epiphenomenal, as a quality that is not intrinsic to
“matter” as such, but the result of a particular force, produced by a
particular particle, whose effect gives only the appearance of
weightiness. Mass, according to this conception, is the result of a field

17
which permeates space and interacts with “material” particles. Thus,
our contingent concept of matter as that which has mass is hereby
challenged. Indeed, there is ample reason to embrace the idea that
what we had hitherto regarded as matter is nothing more than the
aggregation of qualities, mere properties—properties of immaterial
entities, properties perceived by our minds. Thus, the notion of
matter as being “distinct from spirit, mind, qualities, etc.” is open to
scrutiny, and scrutinize we shall.

The Vapidity of Materiality: The View from Particle Physics

It can be reasonably argued that our modern conception of matter


originated with the expositions of the Greek-Ionian philosopher,
Democritus of Abdera. Democritus is said to have propounded the
idea that all matter is composed of indestructible, indivisible
elements. It is by virtue of these putative qualities—indestructibility
and indivisibility—that the fundamental constituents of matter were
given the name &()µ), (atomos), which, in Greek, means
“indivisible”. It is interesting to note that the word “atom” is
identical in form and similar in sense to the Egyptian Atom
or Atum . Atom, in Egyptian cosmogony, was a demiurgic deity
!

whose essence was supposed to suffuse the substance of all beings


and all things. In this way Atom could conceivably be identified with
the substance of the material Universe. Because this cosmogenic
theosophy emerged, perhaps, near the dawn of recorded history [c.
5000 BCE] when Greece, the nation-state, was nonexistent, because
it apparently presages certain elements of the Democritan school of
thought known as Atomism, because Democritus and other Grecian
philosopher-scientists are reputed to have studied in Kemet
(Egypt) and, finally, because the Greeks borrowed considerably and
confessedly from the corpus of Kemetic culture, it is possible that we

&
The ambiguity in spelling stems from the fact that the Egyptians ordinarily omitted
vowels from written words. In the Egyptian language, or Mdw Ntr (literally ‘the
god’s speech’) as it was called, Atom or Atum is transliterated Atm, just as Amen or
Amun is rendered Amn.

18
can trace our quest to uncover the mystery of matter to the
speculative musings of mythologists who walked the Valley of the
Nile many millennia ago. [Similarly striking is the affinity between the
Egyptian Atm and the Sanskrit Atman, the Sanskrit term denoting the
elemental essence of Man which inheres in and is identical with the
substance of the Universe.] However prescient the Egyptians,
Indians, and Greeks were in their conjectures on the nature of
matter, their knowledge claims were just that—conjectural. With due
deference to our intellectual predecessors, modern science affords us
an understanding of the inner workings of matter that the Ancients
could never have dreamt. Of course, every succeeding generation
since the dawn of modernity can boast of a privileged intellectual
status, but ours is superlatively so. For modern scientists of the late
20th and early 21st centuries have cut so incisively into the core of
matter and peered so probingly into its depths that it is clear that
there is no substructure left—matter has been laid bare for all to see,
the physicist, the philosopher, and the philistine alike.

The basic structure of the atom is known by all educated


laymen—the nuclei of atoms being composed of positively charged
protons and (typically) equal numbers of neutral neutrons. Negatively
charged electrons orbit atomic nuclei at distances far removed from
the proton-neutron core, interacting with the electrons of other
atoms to produce the rarefied reactions upon which life itself
depends. Astonishingly, this familiar picture of the atom is less than a
century old. It was not until the first decade of the 20th century that
science afforded humankind a correct bi-laminar description of the
atom as consisting of a dense nuclear region about which electrons
ambulate. We owe this knowledge to the efforts of Ernest
Rutherford, who pioneered a technique that would become critical to
the further investigation of atomic and, indeed, sub-atomic structure.
The technique is called scattering and factors heavily enough in our
present discussion to warrant some digression on its basic features.
Rutherford employed a radioactive material which, of course,
spontaneously emits particles—alpha particles or helium nuclei in this
case. Customarily, in such scattering experiments the radioactive
source is ensheathed in an insulative material of some sort (lead for

19
example) leaving only a tiny orifice through which emitted particles
may escape. The narrow aperture is then aimed at, say, a thin metallic
sheet. The particles emanating from the radioactive material pass
straight through the atoms in the metallic sheet for the most part
because the peripheral electrons are far too light to impede the
trajectory of the comparatively massive alpha particles (which consist
of 2 protons and 2 neutrons). Some particles, upon striking the atoms
of the metal are deflected back towards the radioactive source at an
angle to their initial path. It is this angular deflection that, when
properly analyzed, imparts information about the internal architecture
of atoms. On the basis of such scattering data Rutherford was able to
deduce decisive conclusions about the arrangement of the atom’s
constituents. One exoteric science book describes the innovating
insight as follows:

Rutherford…calculated that the only configuration


capable of knocking an alpha particle backward was
one in which the entire mass and positive charge were
concentrated in a very small volume in the center of a
relatively huge (atom-size) sphere….The central
positive charge (nucleus) occupies a volume no more
than one trillionth of the volume of the atom.
According to the Rutherford model, matter is
predominantly empty space. When we pound on a
table, it feels solid, but it is the interplay of electrical
forces…among atoms and molecules that creates the
illusion of solidity. The atom is mostly void.I

A tiny, positively charged nucleus about which negatively charged


electrons orbit, the two regions separated by a huge expanse of empty
space. Such is the pedestrian picture of the atom. This sober synopsis
is rather too simplistic however. For electrons do not truly “orbit”
nuclei in a manner analogous to the way a planet orbits a star.
Moreover, electrons are not localized in discrete regions on the

ILederman L & Teresi D. The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the
Question?, 1993.

20
periphery of atoms but are spread out in a wavelike manner. What it
means for electrons to exhibit a wavelike character we shall discuss in
the next section. But electrons can also be freed from ‘atomic
incarceration’. Free electrons are localized particles. However, though
they can be localized in space, they do not occupy any space. Electrons
exhibit no deeper substructure and are thought to be point-like,
possessed of no radius (no volume) and no dimensionality. The
criterion for designating a particle as fundamental is its lack of deeper
substructure. Electrons fit this description and so are considered
fundamental, but protons and neutrons do not. Protons and neutrons
have substructure. Each is composed of one of two types of quark,
whimsically named “up” and “down”. Like the electron, quarks are
thought to be fundamental, point-like, zero-radius, non-dimensional
particles. I have used the phrase “thought to be point-like” or
“thought to be fundamental” in reference to elementary particles
because there is no straightforward way of measuring the size of the
smallest objects in existence. Against which standard is one to
measure? Experimental setups must be extraordinarily subtle.
Perhaps this is why the seminal experiment that established the
existence and character of quarks employed an equally fundamental
particle—the electron—as a measuring device of sorts.
The experimental investigations that enshrined the Quark
Model commenced in 1967 at two principle locales—the Stanford
Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) and the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (MIT). The daunting complexity of the team’s work is
expressed in the very description of their endeavor which, in their
words, was aimed at studying “the electro-production of resonances
as a function of momentum transfer” by analyzing “large energy loss
scattering of electrons from the nucleon (the generic name for the
proton and neutron), a process…dubbed deep inelastic scattering”.I II
A detailed description of the experiment is beyond the scope of this
book and, indeed, beyond the bounds of my knowledge. Fortunately,

IFriedman JI. Deep Inelastic Scattering: Comparisons with the Quark Model; Nobel
Lecture, 8 December 1990.
IIKendall HW. Deep Inelastic Scattering: Experiments on the Proton and the Observation of

Scaling; Nobel Lecture, 8 December 1990.

21
one need not be versed in the arcanum of advanced particle physics
in order to grasp the profundity of the team’s findings. So important
are the implications of their work, that it has been sufficiently
summarized and simplified by able authors in such a way as to enable
an acceptable understanding thereof. In a most engaging book
written by the particle physicist and Nobel Laureate, Leon Lederman,
entitled The God Particle, the work of the Stanford/MIT team is
described thusly:

A series of scattering experiments was undertaken


using…electron beams….[T]he objective was a more
incisive study of the structure of the proton. The
electron at high energy goes in, hits a proton in a
hydrogen target, and an electron of much lower
energy comes out, but at a large angle to its initial
path.I

As with Rutherford’s early 20th century scattering experiment, crucial


information lay in the analysis of the angular deflection of the
incident electron beam. Just as Rutherford’s calculations prompted
him to conclude that the positively charged nucleus is confined to a
vanishingly small volume of atomic space, thereby permitting the
delimitation of its size, so the SLAC team upon analysis of angular
deflection (among other data) was able to delimit the size of the
proton’s constituents—zero. The proton, they found, is composed of
three point-like particles of zero radius. But as Lederman explains in
the following excerpt, the SLAC experiment was somewhat subtler
than Rutherford’s early scattering experiment:

…Rutherford simply bounced alpha particles off the


nucleus and measured the angles. At SLAC the
process was more complicated. In the language of the
theorist and in the mental image evoked by the
mathematics, the incoming electron in the SLAC
machine sends a messenger photon into [a detection

ILederman & Teresi. 1993.

22
device]. If the photon has the right properties, it can
be absorbed by one of the quarks. When the electron
tosses a successful messenger photon [one that gets
absorbed], the electron alters its energy and motion.
In other words, the energy of the outgoing electron
tells us something about the messenger photon it
threw, and, more important, what ate it. The pattern
of messenger photons could be interpreted only as
being absorbed by a pointlike substructure in the
proton.I [emphasis mine]

For this breathtaking discovery the team was awarded the 1990
Nobel Prize for Physics, an honor well deserved.
Let us reflect upon this for a moment. Look around you.
Look at your body. Apparently, astoundingly, everything we see is
composed of elementary entities devoid of any size whatsoever.
Electron-like particles (leptons ) and quarks make up the totality of
&

ordinary matter in our observable Universe—there is nothing more


to matter. We must be willing to accept that there is nothing physically
there but an amorphous energetic halo with myriad perceptible
properties, but no size, no volume, no dimensionality. Materiality
implies size and, fundamentally, there is none. Materiality also implies
mass and, fundamentally, there may be no such thing.

The Higgs Ocean & the Mystery of Mass

Fundamental particles appear to exhibit appreciably different masses.


As to why this should be so, scientists presently have no empirically
established explanation. They do, however, have theoretically cogent
conjectures. Central to their theoretical expositions is the so-called
nonzero Higgs Field vacuum expectation value or what physicist Brian
Greene refers to as simply the “Higgs ocean”. This elusive ocean is
envisaged as a fundamental field filling all of space, interacting with

IIbidem.
&
[Gk leptos small]

23
elementary particles in alternate ways, opposing their acceleration
accordingly. Greene likens this peculiar force field to a vat of
molasses and the particles embedded therein to ping-pong balls. It is
an instructive metaphor:

To accelerate a Ping Pong ball submerged in


molasses, you’d have to push it much harder than
when playing with it on your basement table—it will
resist your attempts to change its velocity more
strongly than it does when not in molasses, and so it
behaves as if being submerged in molasses has
increased its mass. Similarly, as a result of their
interactions with the ubiquitous Higgs ocean,
elementary particles resist attempts to change their
velocities—they acquire mass. [latter emphasis mine]I

According to this line of thinking, mass is nothing more than a


measure of the ease with which particular particles emanate through
the obstructive “ocean” embodied by the Higgs field. Strongly-
interacting elementary particles merely mimic massiveness whereas
weakly-interacting ones weave through effortlessly, appearing well-
nigh weightless. This is why photons are so fast—they ambulate
altogether unimpeded about the ocean and, as such, exhibit no
weight whatsoever. Indeed, if there were no Higgs field, no particles
would exhibit weight or even elicit the intimation of its existence. So
instead of explaining why particles have the masses they appear to
have, physicists are wont to explain why particles interact as they do
with the Higgs field.

The Higgs field has important implications for our


understanding of the origins of the Universe, an arena into which we
shall delve in Chapter IV. For now it is instructive to appreciate the
conditions under which the Higgs field emerged. The primordial
point that preceded and produced the Big Bang, we are informed,
was intensely hot. As it expanded, however, it cooled. Theoretical

IGreene B. The Fabric of the Cosmos, 2004.

24
analyses indicate that at around a hundredth of a billionth (10-11) of a
second, the temperature of the Universe would have been a million
billion (1015) degrees, millions of times hotter than the center of the
sun. It is at this juncture that the Higgs field is thought to have
“condensed” from the frothy fabric of the incipient Cosmos. In some
sense the field existed before this time, though the extreme initial
temperatures prevented its manifestation. And so it is with all the
fields that mediate the four fundamental forces of Nature—the
strong and weak forces, the electromagnetic force and the
gravitational force. They all materialized after the cosmic temperature
declined to a particular point. This association between force fields
and temperature can be intuitively appreciated when one imagines a
magnet losing its magnetism when heated to a particular point and
spontaneously “remagnetizing” after appreciable cooling. Mass, like
magnetism, manifested itself only after considerable cosmic cooling,
coincident with the creation (or condensation) of the Higgs field. As
Greene explains:

Prior to 10-11 seconds [after the big bang], the Higgs


field fluctuated up and down but had an average value
of zero….[A]t such temperatures a Higgs ocean
couldn’t form because it was too hot. The ocean
would have evaporated immediately. And without a
Higgs ocean there was no resistance to particles
undergoing accelerated motion…which implies that
all the known particles (electrons, up-quarks, down-
quarks, and the rest) had the same mass: zero.I

The primordial Universe had no mass. But this is ostensibly true


now. What seems more intriguing is that the early Cosmos and its
elementary constituents would have had no appearance of massiveness
as there was no agency to oppose the acceleration of elementary
particles, no inhibitory entity to interact with particles in such a way
as to weigh them down.

IIbidem.

25
Fundamentally, mass may be as illusory as extensibility and
we may soon find that just as elementary particles are without spatial
extent, they are also weightless. If this is indeed so, there is nothing
to justify the perpetuation of the myth of materiality. Though the
existence of the Higgs particle has yet to be experimentally
confirmed, its evocation has already elucidated much about the
mystery of mass. As we shall see, there are other intriguing ideas that
impel us to doubt the physical and conceptual substantiality of mass.

More Massive Mystification

As suggested in the foregoing section, mass is not, ex hypothesi, an


intrinsic property of matter. This sounds somewhat specious, so let
us deliberate on the issue a bit more. First we must distinguish
between the concepts of “weight” and “mass”. When we weigh
ourselves on scales, we are not really measuring our mass. Rather, we
are measuring the magnitude of the force of gravity exerted upon the
“matter” of our bodies by the Earth’s gravitational field. This force is
expressed by the following formula derived by Isaac Newton: Fw=ma
(where m is the mass of the object and a is the acceleration due to
gravity). If we were in an environment where the strength of the
gravitational field were negligible, the fundamental difference
between weight and mass would be more evident, as is true of
astronauts orbiting the planet or ‘lunarwalking’ on the surface of the
moon where the strength of the gravitational field is comparatively
weak. Let us imagine we are blithely floating aloft in deep space in a
virtually weightless environment. We can now analyze mass in
isolation from the confounding influence of massive planetary or
lunar gravitational fields. All that is left is the mass of our bodies, the
weak gravitational force field instated thereby, and, strictly speaking, a
weak gravitational field that permeates the totality of space as a
consequence of the aggregate mass contained in the Universe. But
let’s ignore this latter gravitational contribution for the moment and
concentrate on the mass of our bodies so as to appreciate the essence
of the concept. The equation that best captures the ‘conceptual
essence’ of mass is, fittingly, the most famous equation in all of

26
physics—Einstein’s equation relating energy (E), mass (m), and the
speed of light (c):

E=mc2
The import of this equation lies in its succinct symbolization of the
equivalence and interconvertibility of mass and energy: mass is
convertible into energy and energy, in turn, is convertible into mass.
The interconvertibility of mass/energy can be illustrated by two
complimentary quantum processes involving particles and their
antiparticles. We shall have more to say on the intriguing topic of
particle/antiparticle interaction, but for now let us briefly note the
basics. Each elementary particle (e.g. electrons and quarks) and each
subatomic particle (e.g. protons and neutrons) has a partner particle
that is identical to itself in every respect except for charge and one
other property that we shall discuss in Chapter IV. The electric
charges of particles and their antiparticles are diametrically opposite,
with the electron, for example, having a charge of –1 and its partner
particle, the positron, having a charge of +1. When a particle and its
antiparticle partner meet, they annihilate each other, leaving in their
wake only a magnificent flash of energy. Particle accelerators
exemplify the converse phenomenon. When particles are accelerated
to stupendous speeds approaching that of light, the input of energy
into the system can elicit the emergence of particle/antiparticle pairs.
“Matter” is thereby born of pure energy. It is important, furthermore,
to consider whence the energy of particle accelerators derives. The
energy to effectuate the acceleration of particles comes from a
force—specifically, the electromagnetic force. This is the same force
that propels currents of electrons through the wires of our electronic
devices. This force can be described as a difference of potential
energy or, more commonly, voltage. Potential energy is, essentially,
negative energy. Potential energy or negative energy is thereby
converted into a type of positive energy or kinetic energy demonstrable
by the propulsion of the particle. In this scenario, we clearly discern
the datum that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, only
transmuted from one form into another—from electromagnetic
potential energy (negative) into motive or kinetic energy (positive),

27
for example. While we are on the topic of electromagnetism, it seems
appropriate to digress a bit more. Electric charge, like mass/energy, is
a “conserved quantity”, meaning it too, can be neither created nor
destroyed; this implies that its absolute magnitude in an insular
system cannot change. Consider the luminous discharge from a bolt
of lightning. It is the polarization, accretion and subsequent
separation of opposite charges that causes the rapid redistribution of
electrons and, ultimately, the emission of photons that we recognize
as lightning. For our purposes, the important point is that the
physical manifestation of the lightening is fleeting, disappearing
completely once the polarization of charges is rectified, once positive
and negative charges equilibrate. In a sense, lightning is a
manifestation of the separation of charged particles that disappears
when such separation ceases. Considered collectively, the lightening
“system” can be viewed as starting from a state of zero net charge,
after which charges begin to accumulate in clouds due to
electromagnetic reorientation. Lightning propagation proceeds only
as long as polarization persists, petering out when protons and
electrons equilibrate. The Universe can be loosely likened to
lightening in that its constituents consist of charged particles, equal
and opposite in type which, when summed, equalizes to zero.
Lightning is a fleeting flicker of light engendered by the separation of
charged particles; the Universe is a fleeting frenzy of activity
engendered also by the separation of charged particles; each, as we
shall see, is destined to disintegrate as their charges ultimately
equilibrate. The import of this analogy between lightning and the
Universe lies in its cosmological implications. Succinctly, how can an
electrically neutral Cosmos replete with particles possessed of equal
and opposite charges emerge from an amorphous, aggregated state?
This brings us to a related question posed by particle physicist Michio
Kaku (and a prolongation of our deliberate digression that I implore
the Reader to forgive). Namely, why doesn’t the Universe spin? The
answer may be that the Universe arose from utter oblivion, absolute
emptiness, devoid of matter, energy, charge and spin. As Kaku
conceives of it:

28
Everything we see around us spins, from tops,
hurricanes, planets, and galaxies, to quasars. It seems
to be a universal characteristic of matter in the
universe. But the universe itself does not spin. When
we look at the galaxies in the heavens, their total spin
cancels out to zero….The reason why the universe
does not spin may be that our universe came from
nothing. Since the vacuum [the void of space] does
not spin, we do not expect to see any net spin arising
in our universe.I

Similar reasoning can be applied to the aggregate electric charge of


the Cosmos:

Why do positive and negative electrical charges


balance out exactly? Normally, when we think of the
cosmic forces governing the universe, we think more
about gravity than the electromagnetic force, even
though the gravitational force is infinitesimally small
compared to the electromagnetic force. The reason
for this is the perfect balance between positive and
negative charges. As a result, the net charge of the
universe appears to be zero, and gravity dominates
the universe, not the electromagnetic force….The
answer to these enduring puzzles may be that the
universe came from nothing. Since the vacuum has
net zero spin and charge any…universe springing
forth from nothing must also have net zero spin and
charge.II

Kaku’s case is compelling. Conceivably, a Cosmos containing no net


charge and no net spin can arise only from a state of near
nothingness. This is yet another element of our immaterial edifice.
For if the Universe arose from nothing, and yet we undoubtedly

IKaku M. Parallel Worlds, 2004.


IIIbidem.

29
perceive something, that something mustn’t be material. It must
instead be immaterial. We shall have more to say on this matter
shortly. For now let us return to our discussion of energy.

The concepts of force, energy, potential energy, and negative


energy can become bewilderingly complex, at least to the Author’s
ordinary intellect. Let us therefore try to simplify the matter with yet
another example. Imagine an electromagnetic force field permeating a
region of space. If we place a charged particle in the region suffused
by the force field, the particle will move in a given direction
depending on the orientation of force field lines and the nature of the
charge, positive or negative. The movement of the particle within the
field defines another type of energy—kinetic energy. We have here a
force, which transmits potential energy (negative) to a charged
particle which, in turn, dissipates this potential energy as motive,
kinetic energy (positive), bringing the net energy of the system to
zero in accordance with the first law of thermodynamics—the Law of
Energy Conservation. So, in one sense, energy represents the
transmission of forces. Now back to our bodies and the mass
contained therein.
Every massive particle comprising the substance of our
bodies transmits a gravitational force or, equivalently, instates a
gravitational field given by the following equation:

Fg=G(m1m2/r2)

[Where m signifies masses of particles or objects separated by a


distance r, and G is a constant known as the universal gravitational
constant.] Though gravity is the weakest of Nature’s forces, it is the
most pervasive of them all; it permeates all space and exerts an effect,
massive or minute, on all objects proportionate to their ponderosity.
This fundamental fact of Nature was discerned by Isaac Newton and
codified in 1686 in his famous Mathematical Principles of Natural
Philosophy. Newton’s Law of Gravity specifies that:

30
Every particle in the Universe attracts every other
particle with a force that is directly proportional to
the product of their masses and inversely
proportional to the square of the distance between
them….The gravitational force is a field force that
always exists between two particles, regardless of the
medium that separates them.I

But this field—in the same vein as the electromagnetic field—can be


regarded as a field of potential energy or, more to the point, a field of
negative energy. The description of the negative energy field associated
with the gravitational force is perhaps more intuitive than that of the
negative energy field associated with the electromagnetic force. One
need only imagine lifting a massive object, say a stone, from the
ground to a certain height and then letting it fall back thence. It takes
effort (work) to lift an object against the Earth’s gravitational field
and this work performed on the system, so to speak, is “stored” in
the form of gravitational potential energy, negative energy. When an
object such as our stone is released, however, this stored negative
energy is converted into kinetic energy, dissipating in the process the
gravitational potential energy and leaving the net energy of the system
as zero. The central point of this exposition is that all massive
objects, ourselves included, produce gravitational fields that permeate
all of space, equaling in magnitude the positive energy constitutive of the
mass (or equivalently, energy) of matter. Expressed alternatively:

The law of gravitation insures that the negative


potential energy of gravitation between the masses in
the universe must always be equal in magnitude but
opposite in effect to the sum of the mc2 energies
associated with each of the individual masses. The
total is therefore always exactly zero!II

I
Serway RA. Physics, 1996.
IIBarrow JD. The Origin of the Universe, 1994.

31
This stands as compelling evidence that the sum total of energy in the
Universe is zero and it ineluctably implies, ipso facto, that the sum total of
mass in the Universe is zero. In a manner of thinking, mass is the
materialization of energy; energy is the dematerialization of mass. And
all this creation and annihilation of mass ensues from a state of zero
energy. It is like the numeral zero, giving rise simultaneously and
spontaneously to the numerals –1 & +1, then being summed only to
annihilate like a particle/antiparticle pair. Seen in this manner, the
Creation may have been exceedingly simple, necessitating no pre-
extant mass, no pre-extant energy, no pre-extant charge, no pre-
extant spin, no pre-extant matter, only a simple, sublime,
mathematical logic whose nature is becoming increasingly intelligible.
Such simplicity, such vacuousness. So much for God. What role has
She in such a Universe?

Though the fundamental constituents of conventional


matter—electrons and quarks—are ghostly particles, devoid of size,
dimension, and perhaps even mass, they are possessed of what we
may call concatenated properties or derivative properties: energy,
charge, spin, momentum. Substance materializes out of the void of
potentiality, embodying within itself the mathematico-logical
construct specifying its own properties. And this substance of which
“matter” is composed reveals itself as being as vacuous as the
nothingness from which it emerged. Mere properties comprise the
substance of the Universe. It is with these properties, however, that
we are presently concerned and they are fully explicable and
intelligible only through recourse to a rigorous mathematical
methodology known as Quantum Mechanics. The centerpiece of this
methodology is an equation known as the wavefunction. Let us
prepare to relinquish more materialistic misconceptions.

The Vapidity of Materiality: The View from Quantum Mechanics

The defining feature of a wave is its undulatory nature—it exhibits


peaks and troughs, ups and downs, highs and lows like the ripples on
the surface of the sea amidst a storm. This central feature—

32
undulation—results in such derivative phenomena as interference
and superposition. When multiple waves are emitted from a source,
they ordinarily interfere with each other. When the peaks of one
wave coincide with the troughs of another, the signal is attenuated.
Conversely, when the peaks of one wave coincide with the peaks of
another, the signal is augmented. If the signal is a light source, for
example, a characteristic pattern of light and dark fringes emerges
and may be recorded on, say, photographic film. That collections of
water molecules exhibit wavelike behavior is not at all troubling.
However, if individual water molecules or individual atoms of
hydrogen and oxygen or their sub-atomic constituents exhibited such
wavelike behavior there would be cause for concern. They do indeed
exhibit this property and there is, accordingly, cause for concern.
The experiment that exposes the wavelike essence of matter
in all its eerie eminence is descriptively denominated the “double slit”
experiment. So momentous are the implications of this experiment
that I shall not risk miscommunication or misapprehension by relying
solely on my understanding thereof. Instead we shall lean heavily on
the lucid writing of physicists Jim Al-Khalili and John Gribbin. Al-
Khalili has written one of the most illuminating non-technical
accounts of quantum mechanics that I have ever read. Entitled
Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed, his is a book well worth reading,
repeatedly. Our other guide, Gribbin, is a prolific writer and all of his
works are insightful. I have, however, found his concise encyclopedia
of particle physics most instructive. Entitled, Q is for Quantum,
Gribbin’s compendious book is an invaluable resource for laymen
lacking a mastery of mathematics who nonetheless long to learn the
basic outlines of quantum mechanics. Let us proceed.
It should be stated at the outset that the experiment in
question is generic and has been conducted using photons (light
particles), molecules, atoms, and sub-atomic particles such as
electrons; all exhibit wavelike properties. The experimental design is
deceptively simple, requiring only three basic components: an
emitting source, a screen with small (sub-microscopic) slits or
apertures through which emitted atoms or particles can pass, and a
detector of some sort that may amount to nothing more than a
scintillant screen that illumines in areas impacted by particles. Let us

33
use the example of electrons if only because they are both familiar
and fundamental. Our envisioned emitting source shall be a metallic
wire heated by an electric current. The wire is encased in a box
through which is bored a hole, permitting excited electrons to escape.
If we aim a beam of electrons through a single slit and observe the
incident pattern on the detector screen, it is just as expected—a
bright band on the detector screen directly behind the slit
corresponding to the impact of numerous individual electrons. But
what if we open two slits, giving the electrons an additional path
through which to travel? Quantum enigmas ensue. Common sense
suggests that the pattern should appear as two luminescent patches
behind each slit, giving two distinct regions “that are brightest in their
centre and gradually fade away as we move out and the ‘hits’ become
rarer. The mid-point between the two bright patches will be dark,
corresponding as it does to a region of the screen that is equally hard
to reach for the [electrons] whichever slit they manage to get
through”.I This emphatically is not what happens. “Instead, we see an
interference pattern of light and dark fringes….The brightest part of
the screen, believe it or not, is in the centre where we would not
expect many [electrons] to be able to reach”.II In one sense the
particles exhibit a discrete character—each electron produces a flash
of light upon impact with the screen. In another sense the “particles”
exhibit a wavelike character—each electron contributes to an
aggregate pattern that can only conceivably arise through
interference, an unambiguous property of waves. This is intriguing
and rather mysterious. But perhaps this odd, counter-intuitive, wave-
mimicking behavior of particles is a consequence of the collective
behavior of minute elementary entities in the same way that the
collective behavior of water molecules exhibits the qualities of waves.
But this is not so. For even if only one electron is permitted to pass
through the openings at a time, the interference pattern still emerges.
If the apparatus is adjusted in such a way as to emit a single electron
at a time, allowing it to strike the detector before firing another, the
wavelike pattern, though initially imperceptible, is produced

IAl-Khalili J. Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed, 2003.


II
Ibidem.

34
progressively as the impacts accumulate. At the risk of
repetitiousness, I give Gibbon’s elaboration:

Now, single particles are traveling one at a time


through the experiment, and each makes a single spot
on the screen. You might think that each particle
must go through only one or the other of the two
holes. But as more and more spots build up on the
screen, the pattern that emerges is the classic
interference pattern for waves passing through both
holes at once. The quantum entities not only seem to
be able to pass through both holes at once, but to
have an awareness of past and future, so that each can ‘choose’
to make its own contribution to the interference pattern, in just
the right place to build the pattern up, without destroying it.I
[latter emphasis mine]

Thus, the wave nature of electrons, of matter, is not a collective


phenomenon, but is a property exhibited by individual particles of
matter. What is more, as Gribbin clearly indicates, each particle is
possessed of a property that can only conceivably be termed
awareness. We shall have more to say about this most momentous
topic when we discuss a slight variant of the double slit experiment
below. For now, it must be appreciated that all “material” objects are,
in essence, waves. With every material object is associated a wave
whose wavelength and frequency depend on the mass of—that is, the
amount of matter constitutive of—the object itself. It is only when
the wavelength of the “matter wave” approximates or exceeds the
dimensions of the material body itself that quantum effects are
detectable. Electrons, protons, neutrons, photons, quarks, atoms, and
even some molecules exhibit such quantum, wavelike effects as
interference and diffraction because the waves of which they are
composed have wavelengths that exceed or approximate the apparent
dimensions of the objects themselves. These objects are thus quantum
entities. Figs and dates are not, in aggregate, quantum entities (though

IGribbin J & Gribbin J. Q is for Quantum: An Encyclopedia of Particle Physics, 1998.

35
their individual particles are) because the wavelengths of their
constitutive waves are miniscule compared to the scale and mass of
these objects. Figs and dates are not good candidates for the double
slit experiment; their constitutive waves will not split when faced with
alternative paths, interfere with each other and produce a
characteristic interference pattern. But they are waves nonetheless, as
are we. If, God forbid, we were to be incinerated, the matter
comprising our bodies would emit waves of electromagnetic radiation
in the infrared range. The energy of such waves of electromagnetic
radiation would be given by the following equation:

E=h"

[h is a miniscule, yet fundamental and universal constant of Nature


which symbolizes a given packet or quantum of indivisible energy
that must be emitted or absorbed completely and discretely, in toto. It
can be regarded as the fundamental limit of the divisibility of energy
and has a paltry value of -6.6 x 10-34 Joules-seconds (Js)—its
dimensions being those of energy x time; " symbolizes the frequency
with which a wave propagates. This equation expresses the fact that
the energy of a wave of electromagnetic radiation is a product of the
frequency of the wave and a minute constant of proportionality.]

Incineration is probably a painful process and we should like


to avoid it at all costs. Can massive objects such as ourselves still be
construed as waves even without being combusted, without being
converted into electromagnetic radiation (and ash!)? The answer, as
Louis de Broglie was to deduce, is yes. With each of the particles that
comprise our bodies is associated a momentum—a product of the
mass (m) of an object and the speed or velocity (v) with which it
moves. Momentum (p) is given by the following mathematical
expression:

p=mv

36
de Broglie, employing Einstein’s two equations for the speed of light
and the energy of electromagnetic radiation, respectively…

c=#/" & E=h"


[where . is wavelength]

was able to derive the following equation(s) which expresses the


wavelength of an object with a given momentum:

#=h/p
Or

#=h/mv

Thus, the wavelength associated with a massive object such as


yourself is inversely proportional to your momentum or, more to the
point, inversely proportional to the mass comprising your body.
Because the magnitude of your body’s mass is so much greater than
the magnitude of Planck’s constant, macroscopic objects such as figs,
dates, and people do not appear to exhibit wavelike properties,
though their constituents do, in fact, exhibit such properties.
Electrons and other such elementary particles manifestly exhibit the
properties of waves. But the waves of which electrons, protons, and
positrons are constituted are not, we must remind ourselves, waves in
the conventional sense. They differ radically from sound waves and
water waves and even electromagnetic waves. The waves associated
with electrons and their quantum kindred are waves of probability.
Quantum particles are, in the absence of observation, neither here
nor there. They can only be said to have a certain probability of being
here or there, as having this property or the other. The waves of
which particles are composed, the waves of which we are composed,
are like no waves of which we are intuitively familiar. As strange as
this wavelike behavior may seem, it is predictable and obeys a

37
rigorous mathematical modus embodied in the so-called wavefunction
or $-function. The wavefunction is a probability function, the
solution of which gives the probability of finding a particle in a
particular state or in a particular place at a given time. Moreover, it
conveys all we can know about a quantum system (such as an
electron) in the interval between the initial and final observations of
its state; it tells us how a quantum system or particle behaves when it
is not being observed or directly measured. In one of its guises it is
symbolized thusly:

-((h/2%)2/2m)&2$+V$=i(h/2%)('$/'t)

[h is Planck’s constant; & describes how the wavefunction ($)


changes from one spatial locus to another; V describes the forces
acting on a particle; ('$/'t) describes how the wavefunction changes
over time.]

Wave Goodbye to Matter

Now that we have seen the form of the wavefunction, let us reflect
on its conceptual implementation and its utility in describing the
behavior of quantum entities. To this end we must ultimately attempt
to apprehend what it means for the properties of particles to be
probabilistic in nature and what it is that is “waving” in the wave
equation. We shall consider only two examples, but these two shall
suffice, I submit, to shape a correct conception of the fundamental
nature of quantum entities and the wavefunctions to which they are
inextricably wedded. Our first example involves an electron confined
in a box.

38
Let us imagine that the electron is located in, say, the lower left
corner of the box at the outset of the demonstration. Let us call this
time T0. Our goal is now to specify the position of the particle at any
future time. Let us call this time Tx. The caveat is that we cannot
observe the particle but must predict its future position on the basis
of all we know about its initial state and that of its surroundings—
principally its initial position at T0 and the volume of the container.
The wavefunction permits us to determine the future location of the
electron within the box, but only probabilistically. Solving the
wavefunction for any future time (Tx) gives the probability of finding
the electron in a particular region within the confined space of the
box. But here is the crucial point: “At any instant in time [the
wavefunction] has a value for each point in space…[it] is spread out
over all of space—hence the term ‘wave’”.I Nowhere within the
container is the “probability density” equal to zero, nowhere is there
exactly zero probability of finding the electron at a discrete locus
within the confines of the box. This fact permits the following
interpretation: the electron physically suffuses all of the space
bounded by its container; the single particle is ‘smeared out’,
distributed over the entire expanse of the box. Some physicists have
been uncomfortable with this interpretation, preferring instead to
think of the single electron as always behaving as a discrete particle
whose changing position over time is given by the computation of its
wavefunction. But this is not entirely defensible because in order to
test the veracity of this interpretation one would have to peer inside
the container to observe the state of the particle. As we shall see in
the next section, the mere act of observation radically alters the state
of the particle, causing its wavefunction to “collapse”, thereby
compelling the quantum entity to “reveal” its particulate nature:

“[I]f the electron is detected in a certain location then


its wavefunction is instantly altered. At the moment
of detection there will be zero probability of finding it
anywhere else. Leave it be, and its wavefunction
evolves and spreads out again….[A]ll the time we are

IAl-Khalili J. 2003.

39
not tracking the motion of the electron, its
wavefunction is all we have at our disposal to describe
it….[T]he electron doesn’t even exist as a simple
classical particle with a definite location at each time.
Its influence is spread out over space. How this can
be so we can never find out. All we have is the
wavefunction, and that is just a set of numbers (with
physical significance of course).I

It seems consistent with the dictates of Quantum Mechanics to


regard the confined electron as a true wave (when it is not being
observed). But a wave of what exactly? A wave of information, a
wave of probability, a wave of mathematical potentiality I aver.
Information, probability, potentiality—these things are all amorphous,
ethereal, immaterial. So are fundamental particles, so are we, so is
everything it seems.
Physicist Jim Al-Khalili, who has been aiding us
(unbeknowingly albeit) in our quest for quantum competence, freely
admits that “no one really knows what the wavefunction actually is”
but that “most physicists regard it as an abstract mathematical entity
that can be used to extract information about nature…while others
assign it to its own, very strange, independent reality”.II Al-Khalili
makes an audaciously absurd leap however in asserting that “what is
important here is that it doesn’t matter whether the wavefunction is real or not,
its mathematical properties are the same” [emphasis mine].II Let us
forgive the physicist’s philosophical foible and emphatically affirm
that it does indeed matter whether the wavefunction is real or not. In
fact, few philosophical questions matter more than the true nature of
the wavefunction inasmuch as it has implications for the true nature
of ultimate reality. The wavefunction embodies indispensible
information about the elementary entities that presumably comprise
the totality of Nature. To say that the wavefunction is unreal or
artificial, that it is merely a descriptive mathematical implement
permitting the probabilistic prediction of properties of physical

IAl-Khalili J. 2003.
II
Ibidem.

40
particles is to proclaim that matter is, perforce, material. Conversely,
to say that the wavefunction is real, that it has an independent
existence, that it is indissolubly bound to the quantum entities whose
behavior it so exhaustively describes, is to intimate that quantum
entities are essentially immaterial, that Nature itself is immaterial. To
us interested in metaphysics, in the understanding of ultimate
existence, the reality of the wavefunction is of critical concern. Given
what is known, I am inclined to conclude that the wavefunction is
real, that quantum entities are actually composed of such
wavefunctions, and that, ipso facto, matter is fundamentally immaterial.

As a further test of the philosophical solvency of our


Immaterialistic Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, let us cogitate
upon the phenomenon of quantum tunneling. Consider a barrier of
some finite thickness. Were we to propel a particle at this barrier, its
trajectory would be specified by a wavefunction. Let us assume that
we know the “penetrability” of this barrier—that is, we know how
much energy must be focused at the barrier in order to breach it. We
then project a beam of electrons at the barrier, the intensity of which
is known to be energetically insufficient to breach the barrier. We
might reasonably expect the incident particles to be deflected upon
impact with the barrier. This is just what would happen…in the main.
There is, however, a finite, non-zero probability that a particle (with
insufficient energy moreover) will nonetheless penetrate the
theoretically impregnable barrier. There is indeed a finite chance that
a given quantum particle will tunnel through any barrier of any given
thickness over a sufficiently lengthy span of time. Such quantum
tunneling has not only been experimentally verified but has been
harnessed and exploited in certain technological applications and
invoked in explaining such phenomena as radioactive decay and
electrical conduction through metallic materials. There are two
principal ways of interpreting quantum tunneling:

The standard way of explaining how quantum


tunneling takes place is by appealing to [the]
uncertainty relation between energy and time:
provided the energy barrier that a particle needs to

41
tunnel through is not too high or wide, it can borrow
sufficient energy from its surroundings to get
through. This is allowed as long as it gives back this
energy within a time set by the uncertainty relation.I

This concept of the quantum particle “borrowing energy from its


surroundings” is quite intriguing and we shall consider some of the
possible implications of this interpretation in an ensuing section.
There is, however, an alternative interpretation more in keeping with
the probabilistic, wavelike properties that quantum particles are
known to possess:

More accurately, we must think of the particle’s


wavefunction as existing as a superposition of being
on both sides of the barrier at once. And it is the
wavefunction that is penetrating the barrier. Only when we
look do we ‘collapse the wavefunction’ to find the
particle on one side or the other. [emphasis mine]I

It is difficult to conceive of a material particle of finite size breaching


an impenetrable barrier of finite thickness. Replace the material
particle with an immaterial entity that meanders through an equally
immaterial obstruction and some light begins to illumine the darkness
of our profound perplexity.

"=#+$

The wavefunction and the quantum system it describes are intimately


and inextricably connected. But how intimately, how inextricably? Is
the wavefunction merely descriptive or is it constitutive? The truth, as
Al-Khalili and other physicists admit, is that no one really knows. Of
course, I am not neutral on this issue and I have a rather resolute,
though rational, opinion. While Quantum Mechanics and the all-
important wavefunction are probabilistic in nature, its solutions yield

IAl-Khalili. 2003.

42
data more precise than any other scientific methodology yet devised.
If the wavefunction is epistemologically exhaustive, telling us all we
can know about the quantum world, all we can know, fundamentally,
about the behavior of the very constituents of the Cosmos, then how
and where do we draw a distinction between what the wavefunction
describes and what the wavefunction is? The wavefunction describes
properties of quantum entities and quantum entities, as we have seen,
are seemingly nothing more than properties. They are ‘sizeless’,
dimensionless, and perhaps intrinsically weightless—purely
projections of perceptible properties. Such quantum quantities as
spin, momentum, and energy are merely magnitudinous. What are we
left with when the supposed material constituents of matter are
found to be devoid of size, devoid of mass, and composed of mere
properties whose magnitudes are completely describable by a
probabilistic mathematical equation? What, essentially, is a
mathematical representation but an immaterial entity, devoid of
“physical” substantiality but embodying certain magnitudinous
properties? Cannot the wavefunction be regarded as an embodiment of
information, an expression of encoded mathematical data duly
decoded by our minds? Can we not dispense with the conception of
quantum particles as miniscule quantities of matter, miniscule
quantities of energy? Can we instead conceive of them as quantities
of information? Such speculation seems consonant with all we know
about the quantum world. What then prevents us from reasonably
postulating that fundamental, elementary particles and the
mathematical wavefunctions that govern their behavior are, in some
sense, one and the same? This is precisely what I posit—the identity
of mathematics and matter. It is a position that I will attempt to
defend more stridently in the next chapter. For now, let us pursue an
even more mysterious phenomenon associated with the quantum
realm: the “collapse” of the wavefunction.

Wavefunction Collapse: The Mediation of Mind

In the preceding section I made the point that the wavefunction


constitutes all that we can know about an electron or any quantum

43
system when it is not being observed. It is during this unobserved,
unmeasured interval that quantum effects are engendered, that
particles behave like waves, tunnel through matter, and exhibit other
strange behavior. When a given particle is observed however, it does
not appear wavelike; it does not present itself as an amorphous entity,
but as a discrete “particle”. Yes, it seems that quanta such as
electrons behave one way when they are being observed or when a
measurement is being performed on them and quite differently when
they are not being so scrutinized. This is almost unacceptably weird
and lest the Reader doubts the veracity of this claim, I will relate to
you an experiment that leaves little doubt that quantum systems are
somehow “aware” of being observed, “aware” of being detected. It
is, in fact, upon observation that the wavefunction of a quantum
system is said to “collapse”. Let us return to the double slit
experiment.
The Reader will recall that when a single slit is open, the
particles that manage to traverse the slit behave as discrete particles,
in keeping with expectations. However, when two slits are open,
presenting the quantum particle with a “choice” of trajectories, the
particles behave as waves whose individual wavefunctions seem to
interfere with each other, thereby producing a characteristic, wavelike
fringe pattern on the detector screen. This caused us considerable
consternation. But sure to intensify our sense of intellectual
indignation is the following technical twist. We alluded to the fact
that one of the indications of the double slit experiment is that
quantum particles or even a single quantum particle, when faced with
alternative avenues such as two suitably separated slits in a screen (on
the order of millionths of a meter), traverse both paths simultaneously.
Ostensibly this is the only way for a wavelike interference pattern to
emerge. And this is true, as Gribbin stressed, even if a single atom or
electron is emitted at a time, with the next particle being emitted only
after the previous one has traversed the slits and strikes the detector
behind the slit screen. If electrons are emitted one by one in this
methodic manner, the pattern that emerges is none other than the
familiar wave pattern. Eerily, it seems we can interpret this in no
other way than the following: the electron emerges from the emitting
device, “sees” two available paths, splits into two wavefunctions as it

44
traverses the slits, and interferes with itself; that is, it interferes with
its bifurcated wavefunctions, resulting in the fringe pattern
characteristic of interacting waves. This mysterious behavior should
strengthen our defensibly dogmatic supposition that the
wavefunction does not simply describe the behavior of a quantum
particle, but is the quantum particle itself. The mystery deepens still
more. For what if we sought to force the quantum particle to reveal
itself to us in its wave guise? What if we tried to detect the particle
after it traversed the slits, after it bifurcated into its separate
wavefunctions and, by so doing, ascertain which of the two slits it
actually traversed. Such ingenious experiments have, indeed, been
carried out. When a detecting device (such as a Geiger counter) is
placed behind one of the two slits in such a way as to register a signal
whenever a particle goes through, the particle does not behave like a
wave, no fringe pattern appears on the far screen, only two distinct,
bright bands representing the detection of discrete incident particles.
Curious indeed. It gets even ‘curiouser’. When the detector is
switched off such that it is incapable of recording the passage of a
particle, the wavelike fringe pattern reappears! There can be no doubt
that quantum particles are in some sense aware of the experimental
design, that they “know” how many slits are open and how many
paths are available to them, that they are aware of the detector being
“on” or “off”, aware of being detected, aware of being observed.
There is nothing more intriguing in all of science than this
phenomenon and it guides my thinking on the fundamental nature of
consciousness more forcefully than any other conception. So
intriguing is this phenomenon that it warrants deeper reflection. Let
us consider the device that detects the quanta as they emerge from
one or the other slit. It need not be highly sophisticated. Evidently, it
must simply be capable of registering a signal whenever it detects a
quantum particle or atom. Beyond this requirement, it does not
matter, presumably, how simplistic or how complex the detector is.
Whether complex or simple however, the device amounts to nothing
more than a collection of quantum particles, albeit suitably arranged
to effect detection of an event—namely, detection of the passage of a
quantum particle. The detector and the experimental setup must, of
course, be conceived and fashioned by an intelligent agent whose

45
brain is similarly composed of nothing more than a collection of
quantum particles, suitably arranged to observe events, among other
things. If the particles that certain suitably contrived machines detect
are somehow, in some sense, “aware”, being cognizant of the
conditions under which they exist, it should come as no surprise that
a collection of quanta, atoms, molecules, cells, organs, and organ
systems should, over the course of hundreds of millions of years,
under the influence of a selective, guiding principle aimed at insuring
survival, result in the accretion of awareness and the emergence of
what we call consciousness. Consciousness is the epiphenomenal
result of the guided assemblage of molecules whose very elementary
constituents are demonstrably possessed of the capacity for
awareness. We do not know what it is like for a quark or an electron
or an atom to be aware, but there seems to be little reason to doubt
that they are in some sense aware. We know, moreover, that we are
composed of these very entities. The key to consciousness may lie in
the rudimentary awareness of the constituents of which we are
composed. Animism is alive (pun intended).
Natural selection, it seems, has endeavored to originate
organisms increasingly aware of the state of their surroundings and
has afforded them the ability to manipulate those surroundings. With
this burgeoning evolutionarily conferred awareness the human mind
has been able to ascertain something of the nature of the very agents
and processes that make us aware. We have constructed devices and
developed methodologies that enable us to peer into the very fabric
of the Universe, into the very substance of ourselves. And we have
found, ironically, that natural selection never intended for us to be so
perspicacious, that our senses were not “designed” to uncover the
secrets of the Universe. It is not our crude sensory capacities crafted
by natural selection that have conferred such insight. Rather, it is the
sophisticated technological artifices, sound scientific techniques, and
arcane mathematical methodologies aided by an artificial selective
process, invented quite recently by the human mind, which has
revealed matter’s multifarious mysteries to us. And the crux of the
mystery is that there truly is no matter and that the gulf between
mind and the “material world” is not what we naïvely supposed.

46
Nonlocal Nonentities in Supernal Superposition

We seem steadily to be losing our grip on matter. Materiality is


evidently exhausting its intellectual utility. But what of space and
time? Surely these concepts are unassailable. Does not the “fabric” of
space enmesh us? Do we not experience the inexorable passage of
time? We do indeed perceive the encompassing embrace of space, we
do indeed perceive the arrow of time hurling headlong into the
unforeseeable future. But these may merely be perceptions. There is
reason to believe that the fundamental elements of Nature are not so
encumbered by the constricting confines of space and not so
beholden to the dictates of time. Fundamental particles, it has been
shown, exhibit a property known as nonlocality. Consider the spin of
elementary particles. Particles do not, of course, spin in the ordinary
sense. Particle spin is a quantum phenomenon and has more to do
with the orientation of particles than with rotational motion in space. It
is helpful to imagine a particle such as an electron rotating about a
certain axis in one of two directions, say clockwise or
counterclockwise or simply (+) or (-). What makes particle spin
quintessentially quantum and considerably counterintuitive is that a
given particle cannot be said to possess either clockwise or
counterclockwise spin until such time as it is observed. Prior to such
observation, the particle is said to be in a superposition of both states,
clockwise and counterclockwise. This sort of indeterminacy—the
inability to determine or specify the precise state of a particle or
system until it is observed, detected, or measured—is a central tenet
of Quantum Mechanics. It is, however, troubling to some. We are
accustomed to attributing definite features to objects—they either
possess a particular property or they do not. Quantum Mechanics
does not accommodate anthropocentrism. In the quantum realm,
detection dictates definitude. In the absence of detection or
observation only a sort of existential nebulosity reigns. In a manner
of speaking, the (+) spin wavefunction of an (unobserved) electron
exists in a superposed state with its (-) spin wavefunction. Only when
a measurement is performed to determine the axial alignment of the
electron’s spin does it assume a definite orientation. This seems

47
strange but it has been experimentally established with impressive
accuracy. Now consider an idealized system consisting of two
electrons, one with (+) spin, the other with (-) spin. Because of a
quantum condition known as the exclusion principle, a system of two
electrons cannot assume the same spin orientation—if one electron
has (+) spin, the partner to which it is paired must have (-) spin. Now
imagine that a certain distance separates the pair of electrons, say a
light year. If we were to determine the spin orientation of one
electron to be (+), we would know instantaneously the spin state of
the other electron to be (-) and effectively force it to be so. This
quantum correlativity has, we reiterate, been experimentally
established. Succinctly, this is the crux of nonlocality—instantaneous
effectuation. Something is transmitted or effectuated in no time, as if
no space intervened betwixt the two objects. But how could this be?
By what means do quantum particles instantaneously affect each
other’s orientation? No information can be transmitted faster that the
speed of light, so says Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. It is as if
quantum particles are connected in some subtle way, that they are not
separated in space, that they can interact without spatial mediation,
that they are oblivious to time. This makes no sense unless we are
prepared to concede that for quantum entities, space and time (as
commonly conceived) may not exist. Space and time, if they exist in
any sense, are seemingly subjective and define the fates of aggregate
entities such as ourselves, not fundamental particles. If one
relinquishes the concept of matter, it is not so difficult to relinquish
the concepts of space and time. What need would there be for space
or time in the absence of matter. Immaterial entities have no need for
space or time. Matter is possessed of dimensionality, spatiality,
temporality—immaterial essences are not. Space and time are, it
seems, epiphenomenal, not intrinsic. In some way our minds
engender an awareness of space and time, but these may merely be
mental contrivances. We may perceive the epiphenomena of space
and time but, fundamentally, they may not exist at all. Nonlocality,
the Reader will recall, was first introduced in Chapter I in the context
of consciousness. Though the brain upon which consciousness
causally depends is localized in the space comprising one’s cranium,
the mind is not so confined—the mind is thus nonlocal. Ideas,

48
emotions, and perceptions are neither spatially nor temporally
constricted. Consciousness shares the property of nonlocality with
fundamental particles, with the elementary substance of Nature, with
the very agents that subserve its existence. Upon reflection, this
should not be so surprising. Immateriality implies nonlocality and, as
we have argued, both mind and matter are immaterial. The
significance of this similitude between mind and the elementary
constituents of matter is not altogether apparent, but there is little
doubt in my mind that it is indeed significant. The vague feeling that
we are mentally “connected” to another being is probably a common
experience. Given what we know (and do not know) about the
nonlocality of “matter” and the nonlocality of mind, it is difficult to
dismiss this eerie inkling outright. But I digress and tread upon terra
incognita.

So what does this all mean? Here is my take on the matter.


What it means for something to have clearly defined, discernible
properties (as fundamental particles certainly do) but to have no
radius, no dimensionality, and (perhaps) no mass, is to say that such
entities are devoid of physical form and substance, that they consist
merely of magnitudinous properties, agglomerations of arithmetic
values. Such properties are thoroughly mathematical, though we lack
an intuitive understanding of what it means for something to be
mathematical, as opposed to being simply describable in
mathematical terms. But our minds perceive these mathematical
properties and miraculously transmogrify them into sensory data. I
am here reminded of the climactic scene in the film, The Matrix,
which won wide acclaim in the early 21st century, where the
protagonist “Neo” gains insight into the true nature of the Matrix
and begins to see the villainous “agents” with whom he is desperately
dueling as mere codes, sequences of symbols. Victory was
vouchsafed immediately upon the hero’s epiphanous vision. This is a
fitting analogy that may be more than merely metaphorical. When we
are permitted to gaze more deeply into the nature of reality than our
unaided, evolutionarily constrained minds normally permit, we see
the elementary constituents of “matter” as they truly are—
insubstantial and thoroughly mathematical.

49
Some things cannot be weighed, as having no force and power; some things cannot
be measured, by reason of having no parts; but there is nothing which cannot be
numbered.

"LEIBNIZI

The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the


formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift, which we neither understand
nor deserve.

"EUGENE PAUL (JÉNÓ PÁL) WIGNERII

IQuote excerpted from Gottlob Frege’s The Foundations of Arithmetic, 1950.


II
Quoted in Peter W. Atkins’ Gailileo’s Finger, 2003.

50
CHAPTER III

SUPREME MATHEMATICS
_______________________________________

The mystery of mathematics is arguably as deep as the mystery of


consciousness. For despite our familiarity with mathematical
concepts, we do not truly know what mathematics is. Are there such
things as mathematical entities? If so, where do such entities reside?
Any such entities must be immaterial and yet they describe the
“material” world with unsurpassed fidelity. Do mathematical
concepts exist only in the mind or are immaterial mathematical
entities somehow intimately woven into the very fabric of the
“material” Universe? Perhaps mathematical concepts are simply
creations of human cognition projected onto Nature as a means of
simplifying and modeling the behavior of “physical” objects and
processes. We may not be able to answer these perennial questions
with a high degree of certitude, but the conceptual edifice we have
been assiduously erecting already has a cozy, pre-fabricated place for
a radical, though not entirely novel, interpretation of the fundamental
nature of Number.

Interpretations of Mathematics

Our discussion of mathematics shall be descriptive, not exhaustive.


This is necessitated by the fact that I lack mathematical expertise and
expect my otherwise intelligent Audience to be similarly encumbered.
Mathematics is, after all, downright difficult and mastery of the
discipline is a distinction few can claim. We are, however, thinkers
who, possessed of the right tools, can capably conduct ourselves
through conceptually complex terrain, especially if we lean on learned
individuals. To our advantage, we shall be concerning ourselves with
the what of mathematics, not the how—the former task being far more
facile, tractable (and mayhap meaningful) than the latter.

51
There are several, seemingly irreconcilable interpretations of
what mathematics is. Let us denominate these dominant schools of
thought with the following nomenclature (I) the Realistic
Interpretation, (II) the Conceptualistic Interpretation, (III) the
Formalistic Interpretation and (IV) the Simplistic/Intuitive
Interpretation. Physicist John D. Barrow gives an illuminating
account of the various currents of thought on the nature, definition,
and interpretation of mathematics in his book The World Within
Worlds. Barrow’s cogent analyses have gone a long way in guiding my
thinking on the numinous nature of Number. Let us consider each
interpretation in turn.
The Realistic Interpretation is so named because supporters
of this school of thought regard mathematical entities as real, as
existent. Not existent in this Universe albeit, not extant in the space
and time of our world. Rather, mathematical entities exist in an
ethereal realm divorced from (though in some way connected to) our
phenomenal Universe. It is for this reason that the Realist
Interpretation is often identified with Plato. Plato conceived of a
world of immaterial, idealistic “forms” faintly perceptible by the
human mind and imperfectly instated in this world. What it means
for mathematical entities to be ‘imperfectly instated’ in our world is
perhaps explicable in the following way. The formula specifying the
volume of a sphere is expressed thusly:

V=4/3%r3

A sphere of any given radius (r) that assumed this exact conformation
would be a perfect sphere, an “ideal” sphere in Platonic parlance. No
such perfect spheres exist in this “real” world of ours. Neither Man
nor Nature is able to construct spheres with the exactitude specified
by the mathematical formulation for the volume of a sphereI. So the

IThis proclamation may prove excessively severe. It may in fact hold that stellar
bodies undergoing catastrophic gravitational collapse eventually assume a state of
exact sphericity. Would not this be something magnificent to observe? Further, a
fascinating experiment conducted by JJ Hudson and colleagues (Nature May 2011)
suggests that, within the then limits of experimental sensitivity, the electron appears
to be perfectly spherical. Though this provisional finding plays havoc with

52
question that naturally arises is ‘From whence do such mathematical
principles derive?’ The Realistic or Platonic Interpretation answers
this question unambiguously: They derive from an ulterior
metaphysical realm. The question of how such principles and entities
are realized (however imperfectly) in our world is not so
unambiguous but centers on the vague notion of correspondence. As
Barrow explains, “These mathematical objects do not exist in the
space and time we experience. They are abstract entities, and
mathematical truth means correspondence between the properties of
these abstract objects and our system of symbols”[emphasis mine].I
While our limited powers of reasoning permit us to deduce
mathematical “truths”, these truths are necessarily derivative and
secondary to the ultimate, transcendent “truths” of the yonder meta-
mathematical realm of the Realist. Thus, to the Realist, mathematical
entities resident in the metaphysical realm are, in a sense, more real
than the crude mathematical phenomena we perceive in our
Universe, more real than the mundane mathematical proxies of our
physical world. “Mathematical ideas like the number ‘seven’”, Barrow
says of the Realist position, “are regarded as immaterial and
immutable ideas that really exist in some abstract realm, whereas our
observations are of specific secondary realizations….”II
The Realist Interpretation is admittedly alluring to an Idealist
like myself though it is concomitantly difficult to accept at face value.
For one, it seems to offer no explanation of how mathematical
properties become imprinted on the objects of our physical Universe.
We shall delve a bit more deeply into this glaring problem later on in
this chapter. For now, let us turn to another interpretation—that of
Conceptualism. This school of thought is antithetical to Realism in
that it views mathematics as nothing more than a conceptual
contrivance. Mathematics, the Conceptualist avers, is simply a
product of human thought. In this respect, mathematics is like
language—both are products of human thought, both are employed

hypothetical projections pertinent to particle physics, it has a certain aesthetic


appeal.
IBarrow JD. The World Within the World (1988) quoted in The World Treasury of Physics,

Astronomy, & Mathematics, Ferris T (Ed.), 1991.


IIIbidem.

53
as communicative media, and both can be used to describe features
of the natural world, though not with equal efficacy. So how does the
Conceptualist explain the amenability of the physical world to
mathematical description? In a word, projection. Conceptually
contrived mathematical models are simply projected onto the
physical world. Armed only with a hammer, the Conceptualist might
say, one is liable to regard problems all-too-commonly as nails. I
must say that I do not find this interpretation to be especially
compelling. The link between the physical world and mathematics
seems far too deep to attribute it to a mere mental projection of a
contrived communicative modality. On the other hand, some
mathematical concepts seem so abstract, so artificial as to be
inapplicable to any entities or phenomena in our physical Universe.
Surely such exotic creatures as imaginary numbers are conceptual in
nature, having no counterpart in the phenomenal world. Should we
limit our conception of mathematics to that which is realistically
conceivable, that which is ‘common-sensical’, that which is intuitive?
Yes, according to the Simplistic/Intuitive Interpretation. Infinity is
one such concept that the Intuitive approach abrogates. We cannot
grasp the infinite. It is not intuitive to us. There is no physical
referent to which we may easily apply the concept of infinity.
Consider the set of all real numbers. It is infinite [Actually or
potentially—I know not the correct designation]. Likewise, there
exist an infinite number of digits between any two numerals in the set
of all real numbers, even between the numbers 1 & 2, even between
the numbers 1 & 1.1. One need only imagine the following expansive
sequence {1, 1.01, 1.001, 1.0001, 1.00001…}. We can let an infinite
number of zero’s follow the decimal place, illustrating thereby the
infinite numerical expanse between real numbers. But can this
mathematical premise be extended to the natural world, to time for
example? It would be nonsensical to speak of an infinite amount of
time separating two events transpiring over, say, an interval of 2
minutes. There is no infinitum of time between 12:00 & 12:01. This
excursive example illustrates (in a way) the formalistic nature of
mathematics—mathematics as a logically consistent system of rules
based on axiomatic principles that may or may not be physically
meaningful. This is the crux of the Formalistic Interpretation. It

54
holds that the “truth” of mathematics is to be found in its formal
rules of computation. As Barrow explains:

The focus of attention is upon the relations between


entities and the rules governing them, rather than the
question of whether the objects being manipulated
have any intrinsic meaning. The connection between
the world of Nature and the structure of mathematics
is totally irrelevant to the formalists….Attention [is]
focused upon the relationships between concepts
rather than on the concepts themselves. The only goal
of mathematical investigation [would be] to show
particular sets of axioms to be self-consistent, and
hence acceptable as starting-points for the logical
network of [mathematical] symbols.I

Formalism, Realism, Conceptualism, and Intuitionism are all


intellectually meritorious, though seemingly irreconcilable. But our
admittedly immodest mathematical “model” does just this—it
reconciles these divergent interpretations and integrates them into a
comprehensive, cohesive framework. Our interpretive model is, in a
word, deep.

The Constitutional Interpretation of Mathematics: The Third Factor


in M4

Stated explicitly, our interpretation of mathematics—what I term the


Constitutional Interpretation—maintains that the material constituents of
the Universe are integrally mathematical, that the “physical”
substance of our world is constituted by mathematical entities. Had
we not already established the non-physicality of the “physical”
world, this contention would seem rather absurd. For mathematical
entities are immaterial, consisting merely of properties and governed
by deterministic rules. This, the Reader will recall, is also true of

IBarrow JD. 1988.

55
“matter” in its most elementary form. The strength of this position is
augmented by the thoroughness with which mathematics describes
the properties and constitution of elementary particles and their
interactions. The model which experimentalists and theorists have
collaboratively constructed to organize, synthesize, and distil all
current knowledge of elementary particles and fundamental forces—
nominally, the Standard Model of Particle Physics—is a magnificent
mathematical edifice, and though incomplete, is exceptionally
accurate. The Standard Model can hardly be conceived or understood
satisfactorily in any other way except mathematically. Also
compelling is the fact that an arcane branch of mathematics,
encompassing group structures and symmetries, ‘prophesied’ the
physical description of various subatomic particles. As John Barrow
relates:

The interactions of elementary particles, indeed the


existence of particular elementary particles, appear to
be dictated by mathematical symmetries, and these are
described by groups. All these groups were
discovered and classified by pure mathematicians
more than a hundred years ago, oblivious of modern
physics. These properties are exact as well; they
predict that there exists a certain number of particles
of a certain type and no more….[This] seems to
reinforce the view that the world is intrinsically
mathematical.I

Consider also the extraordinary discovery of antimatter by P. A. M.


Dirac. It was, we are informed, Dirac’s ambition to reconcile
Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity with Quantum Theory. To this
end, he derived an equation that “embodied both the wave nature of
electrons and Einstein’s ideas about the relativity of motion, with the
correct relationship between mass and energy. But there was a

IIbidem.

56
subtlety that could not be ignored”.I The subtlety was embodied in
the equation itself:

Strictly speaking, the relevant formula relating mass


and energy turned out to be not E=mc2 but E2=m2c4.
Taking the square root of both sides does indeed give
Einstein’s familiar equation—but it also gives another
‘root’, leading to the alternative equation E=-
mc2….At first, Dirac ignored the second root,
because it implied that the energy of the electron
could be negative, which seemed meaningless. But its
presence as a solution to the equation troubled him,
because he could think of no obvious reason why an
electron with positive energy should not emit energy
in the form of a photon, and thereby make a
transition to a state with negative energy.II

What could it mean, phenomenally, for the electron to possess


negative energy? Electrons routinely make energetic transitions,
emitting photons in the process. So what, Dirac mused, was to
prevent electrons from being engulfed by a sea of negative energy
and disappearing?

Dirac’s answer hinged upon the fact that electrons are


fermions, and that only one electron can go into each
possible state….It must be, he reasoned, that
electrons didn’t fall into the negative energy states
because all those states are already full. What we call
“empty space” is actually a sea of negative energy
electrons….Give an electron energy and it will jump
up the ladder of energy states.III

IDavies & Gribbin. The Matter Myth: Dramatic Discoveries that Challenge our
Understanding of Physical Reality, 1992.
IIIbidem.
IIIGribbin J. In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics & Reality, 1984.

57
Imparting the right amount of energy to an electron lurking in the
lake of negative energy causes it to materialize as an ordinary
electron:

The negative energy electron promoted into the real


world would be normal in every respect, but it would
leave behind a hole in the negative energy sea, the
absence of a negatively charged electron. Such a
hole…ought to behave like a positively charged
particle (much as a double negative makes an
affirmative, the absence of a negatively charged
particle in a negative sea ought to show up as a
positive charge).I

The name bestowed upon such an electron with positive charge is a


positron. Thus was the concept of antimatter born. Theoretical
‘prophetization’ soon gave way to validation as experimental evidence
established the emission of antimatter (positrons) from cosmic rays.

These two examples warrant serious consideration in my


estimation. In the former example—relating groups and symmetries
to the existence and properties of particular elementary particles—we
have a case of an esoteric branch of mathematics, conceived in the
absence of any then-known physical referent, embodying the correct
logical structure to serve as an explanatory model of discrete
properties of quanta. In the latter example we have a case of a
mathematical equation derived to explain a physical parameter of one
aspect of the world, embodying in its very mathematico-logical
structure the key to the conceptualization of new and theretofore
unknown physical parameters, doubling in a single stroke the known
elementary constituents of our Universe. To make this realization all
the more compelling, consider that the insight which led Dirac to the
profound discovery of antimatter was apparently prompted by
performing a mathematical operation so simple that it is routinely
taught to grade schoolers: recognizing the dualistic nature of perfect

IIbidem.

58
squares (i.e. +2 and –2 as solutions to the problem, /4). This does
not diminish the ingenious discovery of Dirac in the least but
illustrates the integral nature of the nexus between mathematical
entities and the rudimentary substance of this world. All that is
needed to firmly establish the intrinsically mathematical character of
the Cosmos is to establish the intrinsically mathematical nature of the
most elementary constituents of the Cosmos—fundamental particles.
This imperative has been admirably executed by able theorists. What
is left is to consider how intrinsic the numerical nature of elementary
particles is. I would argue that the intrinsicality is so deep as to be
inextricable, indissoluble. I see no logical barrier to this conclusion
and it answers quite compellingly that perplexing perennial question
that has vexed serious thinkers throughout the ages: ‘Why is
mathematics so incomparably successful in describing the natural
world?’ The Constitutional Model answers emphatically: ‘Because the
physical world is not merely described by mathematics, it is constituted by
mathematics’. As such, discerning and mastering the mathematical
logic to which Nature conforms permits the astute physicist to plumb
the arcane corpus of mathematical principles that mathematicians
have derived (partly by using Nature as a guide and partly by using
the mind as a guide) and to thereby preconceive various theretofore
unknown constituents and properties of the “physical” world.
Quantum Mechanics, the foundational science of the subatomic
world, is a mathematical masterpiece. Every elementary particle is
governed in minutest detail by a temporally evolving, probabilistic
mathematical function—the wavefunction. It is mathematical
through and through. And there seem to be insufficient grounds for
separating the quantum system from the wavefunction that governs
its state—quantum entities and their wavefunctions are inextricably
linked and the wavefunction embodies all that is knowable from a
quantum perspective. The principal barrier to the idea that the
elementary constituents of our Universe and their associated
wavefunctions are one and the same is, to reiterate, the once-
reasonable retort that physical entities are material and mathematical
entities are immaterial. When one considers the evidence for the
immateriality of matter, however, the two realms—the ‘pseudo-

59
physical’ realm and the mathematical realm—merge seamlessly into
one.
The mathematics constitutive of our phenomenal world does
not exhaust the totality of what we regard as mathematics however.
For the human mind has been able to discern the mathematical
principles inherent in Nature, constitutive of Nature. From these
primary mathematical principles, Man has been able to abstract from
Nature the basic logical structure of mathematics and conceptually
contrive principles of a secondary, abstract, derivative character. This
is the mathematics of Acad"m#a—formalistic mathematics. In this
view, only a subset of the panoply of mathematical principles is
embodied in the pseudo-physical substance of our Universe. And
those mathematical principles so embodied in our Universe are, to
our minds, intuitive. Those mathematical principles that strike us as
non-intuitive, that do not correspond to physically realizable entities,
are the products of the human mind, mere conceptual contrivances.
Mathematics can thus be viewed as a grand logical lattice that
encompasses the very constituents of our world as well as derivative
principles modeled upon and abstracted from Nature. The human
mind is therefore truly creative in that it derives, de novo, mathematical
structures based on logical principles which undergird our Universe.
The formal logic of mathematics is thus generic and generative. This
generative capacity is demonstrated in the mathematical constitution
of the world. Summarily, the Constitutional Interpretation subsumes
each of the dominant interpretations of mathematics—the Realistic
Interpretation, the Conceptualistic Interpretation, the Formalistic
Interpretation, and the Simplistic/Intuitive Interpretation. Our model
encompasses the Realist approach inasmuch as it regards
mathematical entities as real. The Constitutional model does not,
however, relegate mathematical principles solely to a transcendent
realm. The reality of mathematical entities is manifested in the
“physical” constitution of our Universe. In accordance with
Conceptualism, the Constitutional model acknowledges that a subset
of mathematics is contrived and, true to the Formalistic approach, it
is the logical structure of conceptually contrived mathematics that
defines its mathematical validity. However, in line with the
Simplistic/Intuitive approach, it is only those mathematical principles

60
intuitive to our minds that are embodied in and constitutive of the
pseudo-physical world in which we live. There. A happy marriage of
multifarious models.

Mathematics & the Hierarchical Nature of Scientific Disciplines

Admittedly, it is difficult to view the ordinary physical objects of our


world as being composed of mathematical entities. How is a
“mathematical entity” supposed to look? How is it supposed to feel?
We don’t typically regard mathematical entities as anything more than
concepts. How can they have a physical existence? The truth is that
they don’t have a “physical” existence. Nothing has a “physical”
existence and nothing is as it superficially seems. Our senses bear
false witness to the ultimate nature of existence—they were not
“designed” for this purpose. As previously stated, we must trust,
instead, in scientific, technological, and mathematical methodologies
to discern the hidden nature of Reality. And these methodologies
have revealed the immateriality of matter and the intrinsically
numerical nature of the Cosmos’ constituents. When we peer deeply
enough into matter we see only properties, governed and constituted
by mathematics. Our perceptions and sensations are, ultimately,
perceptions and sensations of the mathematical properties of
“matter”. And from these perceptions and sensations we are able to
abstract general mathematical principles that transcend physical
embodiment. This is not too dissimilar to the way in which general
principles of Chemistry are abstracted from actual chemical entities:
There are chemical entities and an abstract science of Chemistry
based thereupon. There is nothing strange in the notion that physical
objects are literally composed of chemical substances and that the
properties of these chemical substances are governed by principles
codified in the science of Chemistry. There is likewise nothing
strange in the notion that organisms are literally composed of biological
molecules and that the properties of these molecules are governed by
principles codified in the science of Biochemistry. There is nothing
strange in the notion that physical objects are literally composed of
atoms and that the properties of atoms are governed by principles

61
codified in the science of Atomic Physics. We could say the same of
Subatomic Physics but I’m sure the Reader anticipates the
culmination of our line of analogical reasoning: There is nothing
illogical or absurd in the notion that physical substances are, at their
very core, literally composed of mathematical entities and that these
entities are governed by principles codified in the discipline of
Mathematics. Consider the hierarchical organization of the natural
sciences:

I. Biological organisms constituted by biological molecules


are governed by the principles of Biochemistry. Biology is
based on Chemistry.

II. Physical substances constituted by chemical entities are


governed by the principles of Chemistry. Chemistry is
based on Physics.

III. Physical entities constituted by atoms are governed by the


principles of Atomic Physics. Atomic Physics is based on
Mathematics.

IV. Atoms constituted by fundamental particles are governed


by the principles of Mathematics. Mathematics is based
on no deeper substructure. Mathematics is foundational.

V. Fundamental particles are constituted by mathematical


entities…

Mathematics is thus the bedrock upon which all science is


founded and the “substance” from which Nature itself is
assembled.

62
We have to embark upon the track of the absolute zero of creative involvement in
the creation, the absolute zero of intervention. The only clue we have at the outset
is that the final answer will almost certainly be one of extreme simplicity, for only
the perfectly simple can come into existence while all agents sleep (or are not
there). This suggests that we should examine the universe for the footprints of its
underlying simplicity. As we look for them we must always remember that
complexity of behavior and appearance may be illusions, and what we perceive as
complexity may be the outcome of chains of simplicity.

"PETER W. ATKINSI

Ah, these troublesome limitations of yours!—they hamper me. Your race cannot
even conceive of something being made out of nothing—I am aware of it, your
learned men and philosophers are always confessing it. They say there had to be
something to start with—meaning a solid, a substance—to build the world out of.
Man, it is perfectly simple—it was built out of thought. Can’t you comprehend that?

"# 44, New Series 864,962II

Born from nothing though I be proved, let me find that nothing out.

"OEDIPUSIII

…[T]here is in every man a profound instinct which is neither that of destruction


nor that of creation. It is merely a matter of resembling nothing.

"ALBERT CAMUSIV

IAtkins PW. Creation Revisited, 1992.


IIQuote from Mark Twain’s # 44, The Mysterious Stranger: Being an Ancient Tale Found
in a Jug, and Freely Translated from the Jug, 1969.
IIIQuote from Sophocles’ Oedipus the King.
IVCamus A. The Minotaur or The Stop in Oran, 1939.

63
The universe at large is fringed with nothingness, from which indeed (how else?) it
must have been created, if created it was, and its beginning and end, like that of all
change within it, must similarly be viewed as a passage from one nothing to
another, with an interlude of being in between.

"P. L. HEATHI

I
Quote from entry “Nothing” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Volumes 5 & 6, 1967.

64
CHAPTER IV

COSMOLOGICAL & COSMOGONICAL


CONSIDERATIONS
_____________________________________

The central theoretical postulations of this book are allegiant with the
philosophical doctrines of Immaterialism, Numericism, and Proto-
Percipience, where Immaterialism proclaims the intrinsic
immateriality of matter, Numericism proclaims the intrinsic
‘mathematicality’ of matter, and Proto-Percipience proclaims the
intrinsic ‘quasi-sentience’ of matter. The bases upon which our
versions of these philosophical doctrines rest are, in my estimation,
scientifically and theoretically tenable. Our evidentiary edifice is
erected upon such empirical premises as the infinitesimal character of
elementary particles, the explicability and intelligibility of elementary
particles preponderantly in mathematical terms and, most
momentously, the exhibition of awareness by such particles. As we
adduced earlier, no finite aggregation of any such immaterial particles
(of which the totality of the Universe is ostensibly composed) can
amount to a material object. This synoptic deduction has both
cosmological and cosmogonical implications—that is, implications
for both the large-scale structure of the Universe and the origin
thereof. If the totality of the Universe is composed of immaterial
elementary entities, then the Universe itself is immaterial. And if the
Universe as it now exists is immaterial, then it must have been equally
immaterial billions of years ago at its inception, or at its Incarnation.
Current scientific thought regarding the origin of the Universe
appears to affirm the veracity of these assumptions and our present
undertaking amounts to an exercise in chronicling the continuity of
the immaterial essence of the Cosmos as we peer into the past,
ambulating across the awesome expanse of space and time. Is our
conception temporally consistent? Does immaterial cosmology
comport with immaterial cosmogony? Did the Cosmos appear
equally immaterial at its inception as it appears presently? These are
the questions that we shall confront in this chapter, and from my

65
presupposing posture the perceptive Reader will doubtless discern
that I have already answered these queries affirmatively in my mind. I
now seek to secure the assent of my sapient Audience.

T0

Theoreticians believe that the Universe began as a singularity—as an


infinitesimal point, immeasurably dense and incomparably hot.
Compelling scientific support for this position has come from several
quarters, the most important of which was the discovery made in
1923 by Edwin Hubble that the Universe is expanding. If the
Universe is expanding, it is reasoned, if galaxies are receding away
from each other, there must have been a time in the remote past
when the distance between galaxies and the stars contained therein
was much closer and the radius of the Universe substantially smaller.
But how much smaller? Renowned theoretical physicist Steven
Hawking in his brilliant book, The Universe in a Nutshell, gives a lucid
explication of the necessity of the cosmogonical singularity based
upon Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Central to his reasoning is the
observable fact that energy and mass both exert an attractive force
(mediated by gravity) upon all objects, including quantum particles of
light and on the very substance of space-time. Consider the light
emitted from the most distant galaxies. The emergent light spreads
out in the shape of a cone. When the paths of such quanta are traced
backward in time, the density of the Universe increases as its radius
decreases. Hawking goes on to explain that:

As one follows our past light cone back still further,


the positive energy density causes the light rays to
bend toward each other more strongly [due to
gravity]. The cross section of the light cone will shrink
to zero size in a finite time. This means that all the
matter inside our past light cone is trapped in a region
whose boundary shrinks to zero. [emphasis mine]I

IHawking S. The Universe in a Nutshell, 2001.

66
Can one realistically suppose that any two material objects may
occupy a given space simultaneously? Can one realistically suppose
that the totality of matter was simultaneously confined to a region of
infinitesimal size a finite time ago in the past? The answer is clearly
“no” if one regards matter as material, as being composed of particles
of finite size. The answer is clearly “yes” if one regards matter as
immaterial, as being composed of particles of infinitesimal size or as
oscillatory waves of magnitudinous values. This stunning vision of
the Universe as evolving from an infinitesimal locus is not at all
counterintuitive if what we have claimed about the nature of matter is
correct—if matter is, in essence, an aggregation of infinitesimal
immaterial entities. When we imagine the coalescence of all matter in
the Universe in the temporal regress back to the beginning—T0—
back to the point where all the point particles constitutive of matter
converge, back to a locus of infinitesimal radius, back to the
Primordial Point, it is easy to appreciate the insubstantiality of matter,
the vacuousness of the Universe, the immateriality of All. We are
composed of virtually nothing, we originated from virtually nothing,
and to near nothingness we shall surely return. This is not so hard to
imagine when one learns, as we have learned in the previous chapter,
that the sum total of matter in the Universe is zero. There is no more
intriguing case of the macrocosm embodying the microcosm than
this.

Chaotic Cosmogony

Steven Hawking and his illustrious colleague Roger Penrose


employed Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in their mathematical
demonstration that the Universe must have begun with a singularity.
This demonstration, however, posses some serious scientific
dilemmas. The existence of a singularity at the very inception of time
and space places limitations on what can be discerned, scientifically,
about the origin of the Universe. The problem arises from the infinite
curvature of space-time associated with a zero-radius, infinitesimal
entity of infinite density. Such infinities are mathematically menacing

67
and are thought to demarcate the limits of the applicability of the
very theory (i.e. Relativity) responsible for its invocation. Quantum
Theory, when applied to the origin of the Universe, introduces yet
more incorrigible infinities. Specifically, it is the Uncertainty Principle,
propounded by Werner Heisenberg, which causes cosmological
consternation. Though we need not delve into the mathematical
intricacies of the theory (as if I could manage to do so), it should
suffice to appreciate that the Uncertainty Principle imposes an
inherent limitation on our knowledge of certain simultaneous
complementary quantities associated with quantum entities. A
canonical example of this is the inability to define, simultaneously,
the precise position and momentum of, say, an electron. If one
complimentary quantity is known precisely, the other is known
imprecisely. There are other such complimentary quantum quantities,
including energy and time. The interplay of these two variables has
extraordinary consequences as explained by physicist Jim Al-Khalili:

The more accurately we know the energy [of a


quantum particle], the less certain we can be about
how long it has this energy. Likewise, the shorter the
time interval we consider, the wilder the fluctuations
in energy we will get….In the quantum realm, the
time scale of events is very short indeed….The
number of times that a proton can travel from one
side of an atomic nucleus to the other in a single
second (moving comfortably within the intra-nuclear
speed limit) is many thousands of times more than
there have been seconds since the Big Bang. This
short time scale allows particles such as protons and
neutrons to utilize the uncertainty principle in a neat
yet crucial way. They can borrow energy from literally
nowhere for a very short duration, provided the energy
gets paid back before the uncertainty principle is
violated. The shorter the time the energy is needed for, the
more can be borrowed. [emphasis mine]I

IAl-Khalili J. 2003.

68
Thus, over an instantaneous span of time, an individual particle can
accrete an infinite quantity of energy from nowhere. Why from
nowhere? Because an infinite quantity of energy cannot be originated
in this Universe it would seem. Such would be an apparent violation
of the First Law of Thermodynamics: Energy can be neither created
nor destroyed. From whence comes this infinitum of energy then? It
must come from a realm that is separate from, but linked to our
Universe. The Reader will recall that mass is a ‘derivative’ property of
energy and that the two are completely interconvertible. This means
that innumerable pairs of particles and virtual particles can
incessantly, though fleetingly, emerge, annihilate, and re-emerge in a
phantasmagoric quantum congeries. As Stephen Hawking explains,
this phenomenon has momentous consequences for the quantum
description of cosmology:

The uncertainty principle means that even ‘empty’


space is filled with pairs of virtual particles and
antiparticles. These pairs would have an infinite
amount of energy and, therefore, by Einstein’s
famous equation E=mc2, they would have an infinite
amount of mass. Their gravitational attraction would
thus curve up the universe to infinitely small size.I

Obviously our Universe is not infinitely small, so the marriage of


Quantum Theory, which explains the behavior of particle/antiparticle
pairs, with Relativity Theory, which explains the morphology of
space-time, is a troubled union. It seems to be the consensus view
among theoretical physicists that Quantum Theory and Relativity
Theory are irreconcilably flawed in their combined description of
space-time on the minutest scales. Can it be that, despite the
demonstrable accuracy of these two central scientific theories in their
respective domains, they are nonetheless inherently immiscible and
that, perhaps, a more sweeping, more general theoretical complex can
encompass them both? Perhaps. But consider this alternative,

IHawking S. A Brief History of Time, 1996.

69
admittedly speculative, conjecture. Perhaps the infinities created by
the conflation of Quantum Theory and Relativity Theory do not
indicate their ultimate inefficacy in the fundamental description of
space-time, but instead intimate that space-time is radically different
in nature than previously presumed. Perhaps, fundamentally
speaking, there is no space-time—no space and no time. Perhaps
each discrete region of space is a dimensionless singularity whose
properties are specified and constituted by a mathematical
formulation that our minds simply perceive in gross, aggregate form,
as space. Perhaps it is true that every locus of space is contiguous
with a realm of infinite energy. Perhaps our Universe is but one of a
multiplicity (or perhaps an infinity) of universes that emerged from
this energetic abyss. These conjectures are a bit extravagant, but
consider their explanatory implications. They might indicate that the
two central systems of physics, Quantum Theory and Relativity
Theory—the most accurate empirical edifices ever erected—are
indeed veracious in their fundamental description of space-time. It
just might be that the ultimate elucidation of space-time necessitates
its conceptual obliteration. There is no matter, there is no mass, there
is no energy, there is no space, there is no time. It is becoming easier
to conceive how the Universe could have emerged from nearly
nothing.

Tryon’s Theoretical Triumph: Creatio Ex Nihilo—Quantum Style

Empty space is not altogether vacant; the Void is not entirely


vacuous. It was mentioned previously that matter and antimatter
annihilate upon impact, converting their combined mass into energy.
So too can the converse process proceed, wherein energy in the
quantized form of a photon gives rise to a particle-antiparticle pair.
More intriguing is the fact that particle-antiparticle pairs emerge
spontaneously from utterly “empty” space, with no input of energy
whatever. This would seem to violate laws of conservation insofar as
it entails the creation of matter. Antimatter, however, exhibits
properties exactly opposite to that of matter, so their summation
cancels out completely. Stated explicitly, each quantum quantity of a

70
particular particle—mass, charge, spin, &c.—is exactly counterposed
by its complementary counterpart, its antiparticle. Each of these
aforementioned quantities is conserved, collectively counting as zero
contribution to the Cosmos’ net mass, charge and spin. What is
more, the duration over which such particles borne of nothing can
exist is fleeting and for this reason they are termed “virtual particles”.
Quantum mechanics dictates that virtual particle pairs can exist for a
time defined by the Uncertainty Relation. It is expressed as follows:

$E$t~h
OR

$t~h/$E

[Where $E is the net energy of the particles, $t is the allotted lifetime


of the particles and h is the ubiquitous quantum constant that bears
the name of its distinguished discoverer, Max Plank.]

If virtual particles can emerge ex nihilo (out of nothing), in


keeping with the conventions of quantum uncertainty, could the
Cosmos have arisen from a similar state, from a fortuitous flux of the
Void? This is the question presciently posed by theoretical physicist
Edward P. Tryon in his seminal paper published in 1973. His
preliminary conclusion was compelling:

The spontaneous temporary emergence of particles


from a vacuum…is utterly commonplace in quantum
field theory. If it is true that our Universe has a zero
net value for all conserved quantities, then it may
simply be a fluctuation of the vacuum, the vacuum of
some larger space in which our Universe is
embedded.I

ITryon EP. Nature 1973.

71
As to how a quantum fluctuation could have occurred on such a
cosmic scale, ultimately originating the Universe itself, Tryon was
quite clear:

[T]he laws of physics place no limit on the scale of


vacuum fluctuations. The duration is of course
subject to the restriction $E$t~h, but this merely
implies that our Universe has zero energy….I

Consider the equation in question expressed again in terms of time:

$t~h/$E
If the energy content of our Universe is infinitesimal, then its
duration approaches infinity; if the energy thereof is indeed zero,
then its duration is undefined. Thus, a universe such as ours can (or
must) emerge completely uncaused and exist for a temporally
indeterminable period provided it comports with the conventions of
quantum conservation and contains zero net energy. That the
Universe apparently arose from nothing and contains nothing
material is a suggestive substantiation of Immaterialism.

Initial Conditions

It is evident that our Universe (or an “incarnation” thereof) began as


a dense, hot, compressed point that commenced to cool as it
expanded. Our Universe is still expanding at a rate of 15 kilometers
per second per million light years and the remnants of this awesome
explosion are detectable, some 15 billion years later, in the
resplendent residuum of radiation that suffuses the interstellar aether,
giving deep space a uniform though exceedingly cold temperature of
approximately 3 Kelvin, a few degrees above absolute zero. Though
its “cause” is uncertain, the Big Bang is a “fact” as incontestable as
Evolution. But it is with causes that we are presently concerned, with

IIbidem.

72
the initial conditions that compelled the Cosmos to evolve in a
precise way and to exhibit the features and properties it possesses.
The Universe seems superficially to consist of 4
dimensions—3 spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension.
Contained therein are both “matter particles”, ostensibly possessed
of such qualities as energy, spin, and mass, and “force particles”
which mediate or transduce the fundamental forces of Nature, of
which there seem to be 4: electromagnetism, gravity, the strong force,
and the weak force. Things were not always as they appear presently
however. During the Universe’s infancy, conditions of temperature
and density were such that molecules and atoms could not exist.
Radiation and a plethora of exotic particles predominated during the
earliest phase of cosmic history. There was a time, moreover, when
the fundamental forces of Nature were concatenated into a single,
primordial Force. There was, at this time before time, no space to
speak of, no separation of the agglomerated, infinitely dense “matter”
of the Universe, only an isolated, infinitesimal entity governed by a
single supreme Force. Once again we must reiterate the suggestive
similitude between the fundamental particles of the Universe being
constituted by non-dimensional, infinitesimal entities, possessed
purely of properties and the primordial Universe, itself having been a
non-dimensional, infinitesimal entity, possessed purely of properties.
Intrinsic immateriality and intrinsic mathematicality are attributes
shared by the fundamental particles of Nature and the primordial
Universe itself. Just as mathematical parameters define the features of
fundamental particles, so do mathematical parameters define the
features of the primeval Universe. Embedded within the
mathematical formulae constitutive of the incipient Cosmos were the
formulae constitutive of the Cosmos’ constituents. In the beginning
there existed nothing more than mathematical parameters—initial
conditions—sufficient to specify the evolution of the Universe.
Presently, there exist nothing more than the mathematical parameters
constitutive of the Universe and conscious observers, some
sufficiently sentient and sagacious to apprehend the ultimate nature
of their Being. Even before the Beginning there must have existed
the mathematical logic that would determine the nature and evolution

73
of the Universe. Even before the Beginning there must have existed
the mathematical “ingredients” for muons, mice, men, and minds.

The Proto-Percipient Universe

In Chapter II we reflected upon the central mystery of Quantum


Mechanics—the fact that elementary particles undoubtedly possess a
degree of awareness. This fact is demonstrable by such empirical
evidence as the modified double slit experiment, where the process of
observing or detecting a given quantum particle causes it to shed its
nebulous, wavelike guise and assume a discrete particulate character.
As we have seen, the state of the primordial Universe is arguably
analogous to that of a fundamental particle. What are the implications
of this similitude? One implication is that just as fundamental
particles possess proto-percipience, so might the primordial Universe
have possessed this property. What can it mean for the entire
Universe to have possessed the quality of proto-percipience? Of this
we cannot be sure. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to conclude that
if the Universe behaved like a quantum entity, exhibiting all the eerie
attributes of quantum particles, then the origins of awareness,
“matter”, and the mathematical logic that governs the properties
thereof were cosmogenetically contemporaneous. So consciousness,
in a manner of speaking, was born at T0, at the Cosmos’ inception.
Consciousness and existence are, perhaps inextricably linked.
Existence as such may be a sufficient cause for consciousness (of the
rudimentary, proto-percipient sort).
The Reader is forthwith reminded of our definition of a
quantum entity: It is an entity possessed of both wave and particle
properties. It is constituted by a wave, the size of whose wavelength
exceeds the dimensions of the observed entity itself. Thus, it is
reasonable (at least ostensibly so) to regard the primordial Universe
as a quantum entity. An ineluctable consequence of doing so is to
invest it with the quantum quality of proto-percipience common to
all such entities. The Reader will recall that the act of observation or
detection is necessary to induce the exhibition of proto-percipience
by quantum particles. At the inception of the Universe there were no

74
such observers and no such detection devices. But this fact does not
preclude proto-percipience per se at the earliest cosmic epoch.
Observation and detection are necessary to induce the exhibition of
proto-percipience but not necessarily to elicit the emergence of proto-
percipience. Proto-percipience is a property of quantum entities as
such. Selective observation and detection of this property merely
makes us aware of its existence, it does not, perforce, bring this
property into existence. So even though there were no observers to
perceive the proto-percipient property of the Primordial Point, this
attribute was ostensibly extant nonetheless. In the very Beginning
were sown the seeds for consciousness. These seeds were embedded
and encoded in the wavefunction of the Universe. This wavefunction
contains the superposition, the summation, of the individual
wavefunctions constitutive of the Universe’s elementary constituents.
In the Beginning there was proto-percipience and mathematicality.
As it was in the Beginning, so shall it be in the End.

N!n, Nous & Numerus: Symbols, Science & Supreme Mathematics

In our discussion of mathematics we resolved to return to the


question of its ultimate source. We noted that certain discernible
numerical principles govern the morphology and evolution of the
Universe. Fundamental particles, it was argued, are constituted by
mathematical entities inasmuch as they are infinitesimal, immaterial,
and explicable on the basis of mathematical constructs called
wavefunctions. The Universe itself can conceivably be regarded as a
wavefunction and, hence, as a thoroughly mathematical entity.
Everything we construe as corporeal, physical, and substantive, we
contested, should be regarded instead as mathematical. But, as
mentioned previously, mathematics is multifarious. Mathematics
constitutes our world, but it is also the offspring of human minds.
There is a subset of mathematics that is embedded in the fabric of
Nature and there is a subset relegated to the recesses of the human
mind. The entire corpus of mathematics known to humankind is not
applicable to Nature. Nature, therefore, does not exhaust the totality
of mathematics in its embodiment. This is not so difficult to conceive

75
when one appreciates the extraordinary simplicity that must have
characterized the early Universe—an entire cosmos contained in an
infinitesimal volume, devoid of space, time, and “matter”, and
governed by a single Force. Whatever mathematical principles
governed the early Universe must therefore have been decidedly
simple. [Though not so simple as to be perspicuous to the minds of
conscious observers born 15 billion years hence.] So it might be said
that our Universe evolved from a limited set of initial conditions, an
initial set of mathematical parameters, an initial corpus of
information specifying its conformation and constitution. But what,
if anything, specified and gave rise to this limited set of mathematical
parameters? Is there an unlimited set of mathematical parameters? Is
there an infinite set of initial conditions specifying the constitution of
an infinite collection of universes of which our Universe is but one of
an infinitum? Edward Tryon alluded to this possibility in his
previously cited statement that our Universe “may simply be a
fluctuation of the vacuum, the vacuum of some larger space in which
our Universe is embedded.”I As unsettling as this idea is, it comports
well with a perplexing phenomenon discussed previously. Particles
can “borrow” infinite quantities of energy from nowhere for fleeting
instances of time, provided they dissipate this borrowed energy back
to nowhere with a rapidity governed by quantum rules, thus preserving
the Principle of Energy Conservation. “Nowhere”, I surmise, is a
realm of infinite energy contiguous with our Universe. Might this
“nowhere” be the unlimited set of initial conditions from whence the
multiplicity of universes such as our own arose? Might “nowhere” be
a realm of infinite energy and infinite information? Infinity is,
admittedly, a concept that is barely intelligible. Infinite energy can be
conceived with some difficulty. Infinite information is, however,
scarcely comprehensible. The apprehensibility of this idea may be
augmented, perhaps, by simply defining what we mean by
information. The Oxford English Dictionary gives a lucid exposition of
the concept we wish to convey by our use of the term “information”:

IIbidem.

76
…[T]hat which inheres in or is represented by a
particular arrangement, sequence, or set, that may be
stored in, transferred by, and responded to by
inanimate things….[A] statistically defined quantity
representing the probability of occurrence of a
symbol, sequence, message, etc., as against a number
of possible alternatives.

The infinite informational Abyss from whence our Universe emerged


embodied the essential elements needed to specify the conformation
of infinite universes—so we postulate. This realm of infinite
information contains the set of all initial conditions, the set of all
mathematical potentiality. It is, moreover, the origin of all
mathematics. This is why only a subset of mathematical principles is
ensconced in our Universe—the rest is invested in an infinitum of
other causally closed universes.

The ancient Egyptians conceived of a primordial Abyss from


whence all things originated. This Abyss was given the name (N!n)
and it embodied inexhaustible potentiality. From it emerged
the plentitude of the perceptible world. N%n was neither a god nor a
mortal being of any definite sort, but an entity from whose ineffable
essence everything arose. N%n was not created but existed for
eternity in a realm distinct from the space and time of this world. Its
“evolutions” were inscrutable to the minds of men—so the Ancients
avowed—though its multifarious emanations created the constituents
of the world. Awareness inhered in the substance of N%n and this
archetypal awareness ultimately engendered Mind.I This disembodied
Mind, incubated in the murky depths of the Abyss, was personified as
the dark demiurgic deity (Amen), probable precursor of the
Platonic Logos, which brought Itself into being through mental self-
substantiation and thereafter proceeded to populate the created
Cosmos. Amen, the Arkhitekt$n, the Grand Artificer, established
creation on the basis of divine Order. In Egyptian mythography, this

IThe similitude between the Egyptian N!n and the Platonic Nous (Mind) is
suggestive.

77
Order was personified and iconically identified with the goddess
Maát. Mathematics connotes order and the word Maát
denotes the same. [There is an intriguing affinity between the
words— Maát ~Math. Consider, moreover the Sanskrit word math or
matha, which denotes a monastery. Monasteries are of course
commonly devoted to certain Orders (i.e. monastic orders).]
Remarkably, these musings may reveal recognition on the part of
Kemetic chroniclers of the centrality of mathematics (conceived as
Order or Maát) in the evolution of the Cosmos.

In this theosophy, primitive though profound, crude yet


captivating, the origins of which abut the prehistory of humankind,
we have a conception of the world beginning not solely with gods or
spirits but with an all-pervading, enigmatic, eternal substance
suggestively symbolizing potentiality and percipience. And this Primordial
Percipience, though personified in the image of a deity, conformed its
creative designs to the dictates of an overarching Order. Arguably,
the theistic elements of ancient Egyptian cosmogony are incidental
while the metaphysical elements are integral. Having been exposed to
Egyptology at an early, impressionable age and intellectually
identifying with some aspects of that cryptic culture, I do not know
precisely the extent to which Kemetic cosmogony has influenced my
thinking on the nature and origin of the Universe. Certain of Egypt’s
millennia-old creation mythologies manifest a surprising sense of
sobriety that make them fitting metaphors from the vantage of a
modern metaphysician with a flair for recondite relics of the past.
Perhaps symbols can still be said to serve a salutary purpose.

78
ONE OF MONSIEUR TESTE’S PRAYERS

Lord, I was in the Void, endlessly nothing and quiet. I was aroused from that
condition to be thrust into this strange carnival…and in your care I was endowed
with all that is needed to suffer, enjoy, understand, and be wrong; but these gifts
are unequal.

I consider you the master of that darkness I look into when I think, and on which
the last thought will be inscribed.

Grant, O Darkness—grant the supreme thought…


But any generally ordinary thought may be the “supreme thought.”

If it were otherwise, if there were one thought supreme in itself and of itself, we could
discover it by reflection or by chance; and once it was found, we should have to
die. That would mean being able to die of a particular thought, merely because
there was none to follow.

I confess that I have made an idol of my mind, but I have found no other. I have
served it with offerings and curses. Not as a thing of mine. But…

"PAUL VALERYI

A strange mystery it is that Nature, omnipotent but blind, in the revolutions of her
secular hurrying through the abyss of space, has brought at last a child, subject still
to her power, but gifted with sight, with knowledge of good and evil, with a
capacity of judging all the works of his unthinking Mother.
II
"BERTRAND RUSSELL

IExcerpt from Paul Valery’s Monsieur Teste, 1989.


IIExcerpt from Jamal N. Islam’s The Ultimate Fate of the Universe, 1983.

79
80
CHAPTER V

IDEATIONAL ANTECEDENTS
_________________________________________

As mentioned in the preceding chapter, the central themes of this


work—Immaterialism, Numericism, and Proto-Percipience—are not
novel philosophical conceptions. Various thinkers throughout the
ages have proffered arguments consonant with these schools of
thought, the ‘Trinitarian Truths’ of metaphysics. What is novel about
the approach we have taken in our effort to substantiate
Immaterialism, Numericism, and Proto-Percipience is our invocation
of rigorous scientific arguments and empirical evidence—information
that has never been meticulously evaluated in the context of these
philosophical positions. To my knowledge, ours has been the first
preliminary attempt to do so. But these philosophical doctrines were
pre-extant if not altogether substantive and so I feel compelled to
catalogue the convergence and divergence of our ideas with the ideas
of other proponents thereof and indicate instances where our system
has expounded upon and, arguably, improved upon the concepts of
other thinkers.

Adherents to Immaterialism

Bishop George Berkley (1685-1753), the 17th century Irish


philosopher and clergyman was perhaps the most influential
proponent of Immaterialism. Berkley, though he explicitly affirmed
the reality of an objective, sensible world, held that the objects of our
perception exist only as a consequence of being perceived—Esse est
percipi (“To exist is to be perceived”). “It is the mind”, said Berkley,
“that frames all the variety of bodies which compose the visible
world, anyone whereof does not exist longer than it is perceived”.I
However much he affirmed the reality of an objective world,

IBerkley G. Principles of Human Knowledge/Three Dialogues, 1710, 1988.

81
Berkley’s position amounts to a radical form of Mentalism, where all
that exist are minds and their mental content. Because the reality of
objective existence is contingent upon conscious observation, it must
be explained what happens to a thing when it is not being perceived
and, more pointedly, before there were any such things as minds.
Berkley’s answer to the former question is that there is no time when
objects are not being perceived, for the infinite mind of God fashions
the elements of the world and miraculously impresses these
immaterial elements in the minds of conscious beings. His answer to
the latter question is a merely a modification of the first: Because the
mind of God is temporally infinite, there was no time when His mind
did not exist. We think the thoughts we think and perceive the
perceptions we perceive because God forges them in our minds.
According to Berkley:

It is evident that the things I perceive are my own


ideas, and that no idea can exist unless it be in a mind.
Nor is it less plain that these ideas or things by me
perceived, either themselves or their archetypes, exist
independently of my mind, since I know myself not
to be their author, it being out of my power to
determine at pleasure, what particular ideas I shall be
affected with upon opening my eyes or ears. They
must therefore exist in some other mind, whose will it
is they should be exhibited to me….There is a mind
which affects me every moment with all the sensible impressions
I perceive. And from the variety, order, and manner of
these, I conclude the Author of them to be wise,
powerful, and good, beyond comprehension….The things by
me perceived are known by the understanding, and
produced by the will, of an infinite spirit.I

It is clear that Berkley expounds this rather curious version of


Immaterialism principally to provide a proof (particularly paltry the
Reader will readily concede) for the existence of God. In fact, he

IIbidem.

82
expresses this aim explicitly in his Three Dialogues Between Hylas &
Philonous: in Opposition to Skeptics and Atheists. By debasing Materialism
in favor of Immaterialism and by equating God with immaterial,
illimitable spirit, Berkley seeks to subsume all Being within the
substance of his Deity. God is more easily assimilable into an
immaterial spiritual world than a gross, material world of crude
physical objects. Thus, theistic imperatives fueled Berkley’s
philosophical speculations and it is difficult to see how the invocation
of gods or spirits adequately explains anything whatsoever in the
context of objective reality. Whatever his motivation for
promulgating Immaterialism, Berkley’s arguments, in my opinion,
provide no substantive support for this philosophical doctrine.
Indeed, Berkley inveighs against the soundest supposition supporting
Immaterialism—the infinitesimal character of the Cosmos’
constituents. He denounces both infinitesimal and infinite entities
(actual and abstract) on the basis that they cannot be conceived by
the human mind, and that which cannot be conceived by the human
mind, he avers, cannot be said to exist. To Berkley, that which is
inconceivable is existentially impossible, precluded in principle. This
lamentable line of reasoning absurdly and imperiously projects the
limitations of the human mind onto objective reality and onto the
discipline of mathematics. Moreover, it runs counter to current
scientific thought. As we have seen, both experiment and theory
affirm the infinitesimal, non-dimensional, point-like character of
fundamental particles and this is the chief basis upon which our
version of Immaterialism rests. Add to this the wave nature of matter
revealed by quantum mechanics and the suspect status of such
“physical” properties as energy, charge, and mass and Materialism
compulsorily concedes victory to Immaterialism as the most
veracious description of Nature.
The ideas of another eminent Immaterialist warrant our
appraisal—Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716). Regrettably, I
must assert at the outset that the very foundation of Leibniz’s
framework is tenuous inasmuch as he bases his deductions entirely
upon the notion that extension cannot conceivably be a property of
elementary matter. What is more, he must assume that this dubious
datum is self-evident to his audience, for in his terse treatise, The

83
Monadology, he makes no attempt at substantiation or explanation; he
simply states that: “Now, where there are no constituent parts there
is possible neither extension, nor form, nor divisibility.” Since
elementary matter can have no constituent parts, it is incapable of
exhibiting extension. Therefore, matter must be comprised of
infinitesimal, immaterial entities which he calls monads. Leibniz’s
monads are infinite in number, each possessed of different
properties, and unable to interact with each other. As to how and
why matter appears to exhibit interaction, we are informed that the
Divine Will is at work:

In the case of simple substances, the influence which


one monad has upon another is only ideal [apparent,
perhaps]. It can have its effect only through the
mediation of God, in so far as in the ideas of God
each monad can rightly demand that God, in
regulating the others from the beginning of things,
should have regarded it also. For since one created
monad cannot have a physical influence upon the
inner being of another, it is only through the primal
regulation [God’s intervention] that one can have
dependence upon another….For God, in comparing
two simple substances, finds in each one reasons
obliging him to adapt the other to it.…I

I cannot imagine a more extravagant, inelegant, intellectually inane


theory than one that necessitates an omnipotent, omniscient god to
directly manipulate an infinite number of infinitesimal entities in such
a way that they only appear to interact though they remain absolutely
isolated and aloof. [William of Ocham would be indignant.] If I were
God I could think of better things to do with my life, everlasting
though it may be. Admittedly, it brings me no great gratification to
disparage the emanations of a mind keen enough to independently
originate the infinitesimal calculus. Alas, everything that issues forth
from a great mind is not great. While the Bishop and the

I
Leibniz GW. The Monadology, 1720, 2005.

84
Mathematician may have been Immaterialists or Idealists, the
essential features of our respective theories differ decidedly.
Immaterialism may have been propounded in ages past, but not until
the present has Immaterialism been buttressed so firmly by empirical,
scientific data and rigorous theoretical reasoning.

The Depths of Mathematics

The very fabric of space-time and the perceptible, particulate material


strewn about the Cosmos are describable in precise detail by
mathematical models. Mathematical principles govern the dimensions
of discrete space, the minutest intervals of time, the smallest quanta
of energy, the properties of fundamental particles and the forces that
act thereupon. The ability of mathematics to describe Nature with
such fidelity has impinged upon the minds of myriad metaphysicians,
mystics, and particularly pensive people since the dawn of
civilization. So deep is the connection between the physical world
and the mathematical models which describe its machinations that
some have argued persuasively that Nature is intrinsically
mathematical. Such luminaries as Pythagoras and Plato held this view.
At the risk of seeming overly dismissive, the veracity of this position
is patently obvious upon informed analysis. Nature is manifestly
amenable to mathematical description. Of greater intellectual
exigence is the issue of whether the relationship between the
nominally physical world and the numinous world of Number is one
of correspondence or one of identity. We have argued the case for
identity, for Numericism. This position has had few adherents,
though its most prominent modern advocate, writer and physical
chemist, Peter W. Atkins, is sufficiently adept to lend it considerable
weight. Unfortunately, however, the illustrious scientist falls
somewhat short of convincingly establishing the soundness of
Numericism. In his delightful book, Creation Revisited, Atkins presents
a mathematical interpretation termed Strong Deep Structuralism:

By strong deep structuralism I…mean that


mathematics and physical reality do not merely share

85
the same logical structure but are actually the same. In
other words, according to the hypothesis of strong
deep structuralism, physical reality is mathematics and
mathematics is physical reality.I

Atkins holds the view that the mathematical formulae employed by


physicists to describe physical phenomena are statements or
symbolizations of general logical principles that inhere in physical
entities and phenomena. With this sentiment we earnestly agree. He
goes on to explain that:

Aspects of the universe are summarized by


mathematical formulas; formulas are generalized
statements about relations between quantities; those
quantities are expressed numerically; hence, formulas
are statements about the relations between numbers;
statements about numbers are in fact statements in
general logic. Thus we discern the hint that the
formulas of physics are expressions about some
underlying logical structure of the universe, which is
the content of deep structuralism.II

The above passage is well reasoned. It is, however, merely a case for
the correspondence between the underlying logic of mathematics and
the underlying logic of objective “physical” reality. This position is
indistinguishable from Atkins’ Weak Deep Structuralism, which holds
that “mathematics and physical reality merely share the same logical
structure and mathematics is a mirror that can be held up to
nature”.III So, though he explicitly makes the claim that “the physical
world is mathematics”, he does not provide a convincing case for the
strong version of Numericism. Our version, Constitutionalism, does.
To succeed in making the case for Numericism, one must succeed in
making the case that the physical realm and the mathematical realm

IAtkins PW. Creation Revisited: The Origin of Space, Time & the Universe, 1994.
IIIbidem.
IIIIbidem.

86
which so successfully describes it are constitutionally similar, not simply
logically similar. I confess that I do not truly apprehend the essence
of the ‘constitutional similarity’ of physical entities and mathematical
entities, but one will have gone a long way in rendering this concept
intelligible if one establishes the fundamental immateriality of matter.
Constitutionalism succeeds where Deep Structuralism fails because
Constitutionalism plausibly presupposes the immateriality of matter.
Mathematical entities are immaterial entities and for there to be
identicalness between mathematical entities and physical entities, it is
necessary that physical entities be ‘de-physicalized’, ‘immaterialized’. I
believe we have succeeded in this ambitious endeavor. Our case was
made even more persuasive as we focused our attention on the basic
ingredients of “physical” reality, the fundamental particles that
comprise the substance of Nature. Fundamental particles, we learned,
have a quantum character—a character embodied in the
mathematical formula known as the wavefunction. There is no
consensus as to what the wavefuntion truly is but there is no doubt
that it tells us all we presently know, perhaps all we can ever know,
about the quantum world. Constitutionalism takes a definite stand on
the true identity and nature of the wavefunction. We maintain that
the computation of the wavefunction and the subset of reality that its
solutions describe are one and the same. This interpretation is only
defensible if, fundamentally, there is no “physical” reality, only an
immaterial reality—an immaterial reality that is nonetheless objective,
nonetheless real.

Proto-Percipience: Many Mini Minds

It is difficult to chronicle the origins of Proto-Percipience as it


presents itself as one of only a few basic conceivable approaches to
the problem of consciousness. Though Proto-Percipience is not
theoretically novel, our particular version of it has some novel
elements and rests on the foundation of the most exact science ever
conceived—Quantum Mechanics. We shall therefore focus on the M4
dispensation of Proto-Percipience and consider some criticisms
leveled at this theory in general.

87
In Chapter I we presented some of the ideas of philosopher
Colin McGinn. We return to the work of this profound thinker
because he has, in his lucidly written Mysterious Flame, furnished a very
poignant critique of Proto-Percipience or “Proto-Mentalism”—a
critique that is well worth confronting, especially considering its
centrality to our theoretical edifice. Proto-Percipience, the Reader will
recall, is the proposition that the basic substance of “matter”
possesses a particular property that is sufficient to summon sentience
when suitably arranged as in organs of perception. This property is
called proto-percipience in recognition of its rudimentary nature—it is
not consciousness sensu stricto, but a quasi-sentient property that
precedes and permits consciousness. Not until the writing of M4, I
believe, has quasi-sentience been properly identified and linked to the
behavior of quantum particles as exhibited in the double-slit
experiment. McGinn is not, I surmise, privy to this property and his
critical analysis of Proto-Percipience suffers substantially from this
intellectual privation. We shall nevertheless consider his general
critique. The main thrust of McGinn’s argument is that Proto-
Percipience is blatantly obvious:

[Proto-Percipience] says that matter has some


properties or other, to be labeled ‘protomental,’ that
account for the emergence of consciousness from
brains. But of course that is true! It is just a way of
saying that consciousness cannot arise by magic; it
must have some basis in matter. But we are not told
anything about the nature of these properties.I

In fact, the double slit experiment does give us some insight into the
&

nature of what we call proto-percipient or proto-mental properties.


Simply stated, the experiment clearly establishes that quantum entities
are “aware” of the conditions of the experiment and alter their
behavior based not simply on the presence or absence of mechanical

IMcGinn C. 1999.
&
The Reader is referred to Chapter II for a description of the experimental design
and philosophical implications of the double-slit experiment.

88
detection devices but on their activation or inactivation, whether they
are turned “on” or “off”. Hence, quantum entities—elementary
particles, protons, neutrons, electrons, &c.—are aware of being
detected or observed. The results of this experiment permit few, if
any, alternative explanations but that we must ascribe awareness of a
rudimentary sort to the most elementary constituents of Nature.
McGinn explicitly invokes the properties and behavior of atoms and
elementary particles as indicating their absence of sentience:

Physicists have discovered no reason to attribute


sensations and thoughts to atoms….They get on
perfectly well without supposing matter in general to
have mind ticking away inside it. If electrons have
mental properties, these properties make no
difference to the laws that govern electrons.I

This presumption is demonstrably erroneous if ‘quantum quasi-


sentience’ of the sort exemplified in the double-slit experiment is
admitted in McGinn’s conception of “mental property”. Physicists do
indeed have reason to attribute a modicum of awareness to atoms
and electrons, though we do not know what it is like for an electron
to be (in any sense) aware. This should not be too troubling since we
do not know what it is like for a bat to be aware or a chimpanzee or a
mentally malfunctioning man for that matter. We do know, in a
limited yet precise sense, what electrons and other such quantum
entities are aware of in the context of the experiments. They are
aware of being presented with particular paths and they are aware of
being detected traversing such paths. Moreover, quantum entities
assume either wavelike or particulate properties depending on
whether or not they are being observed. The analysis of this
complementary character—wave or particle—is central to Quantum
Mechanics and ‘constitutional duality’ is a basic feature of quantum
entities. McGinn is therefore mistaken in presuming that the property
of Proto-Percipience “makes no difference to the laws that govern
electrons”. Quite the contrary, what we call Proto-Percipience may be

IIbidem.

89
regarded as a consequence or manifestation of a “law” or principle
that does indeed “govern electrons” and their quantum kindred.
Another focus of McGinn’s critique of Proto-Percipience is
that it renders the properties of brains merely epiphenomenal. If rocks
too are composed of quasi-sentient constituents and are yet evidently
inert, why should brains (or the minds they subserve) be so
manifestly animated? We addressed this problem in Chapter II but it
is worth reconsidering. I hypothesize that it is only when quantum
entities are aggregated in a particular way that they attain the
sophisticated biological attribute that we properly call consciousness.I
McGinn calls this position “empty”, claiming that it packs no
explanatory punch. This criticism may be misdirected however, as
can be illustrated by analogy. It is instructive to regard consciousness
as merely another biological phenomenon, like genetic replication for
example. Rocks are seemingly inert; rabbits are not. What animates
rabbits, what makes them biological entities instead of merely
physical entities in the vein of rocks? In ages past the answer was
elusive but it eludes us no longer. It is not the basic ingredients of
which rabbits are composed that causes them to differ radically from
rocks (especially if the rock is a meteorite containing organic
materials from interstellar space). What causes rabbits to differ from
rocks boils down to an informational code. This informational code
is embedded in the nuclei of each of the rabbit’s billions of cells and
it specifies the construction of its body and dictates, through
neurophysiology, the complexities of its behavior. The code is
incorporated in the very atomic constituents of its molecules (DNA,
RNA, &c.). But these atomic constituents do not differ in kind from
those found in a meteoric rock. What differs is the organization of

IOur hypothesis is subject to the following critique. Aggregation is a spatial


construct. If quantum particles are in fact non-spatial, how can the spatial
arrangement of non-spatial entities engender particular properties? Perhaps the
answer (as intimated elsewhere in the context of nonlocality) is that what we
perceive as space is, fundamentally, a phenomenon far removed from the reality
experienced by quantum particles. On this analysis, our use of the term “space”
would amount to a convenient shorthand that does not convey the complexity of
the concept. Perhaps a mind more adroit than the Author’s can offer us a more
adequate account of this apparent limitation of our hypothesis.

90
the atoms constitutive of the rock and rabbit respectively. In the
same way that organic molecules must be suitably arranged to
transduce biological activity, organic molecules must be suitably
arranged to transduce psychological (neurological) activity. Function
follows form. The difficulty with extending this biological analogy to
consciousness is that the leap from physics to chemistry to biology is
merely a leap from one manifestation of matter to another
manifestation of matter. The leap from biology to psychology—that
is, from biology to consciousness—ostensibly entails a leap from
matter to mind, from material substance to immaterial substance. But
then, we have crossed this conceptual chasm haven’t we?

Never Mind Matter, Mathematics Modulates Mentation

M4 is a prescription for the demystification of consciousness. No


longer should the metaphysical problem of consciousness be
regarded as insoluble. No longer is there a need to reconcile the
existence of asomatous souls or immaterial minds with the existence
of material brains and bodies, for we have seemingly succeeded in
rendering the concept of materiality superfluous. Materiality is thus a
concept with no objective referent. It may seem radical to divest
matter of its physical character, but our model seems scientifically
sound and is consistent with the central theories of physics so far as
they stand in this century. Lifting the veil of materiality from the face
of Nature leads us not only to the unification of mind and matter but
also to the unification of matter and mathematics. The rather
unreasonable, otherwise inexplicable effectiveness with which
mathematics describes physical phenomena is now seen to be a
consequence of the identity of “physical” entities and mathematical
entities. In fact, the very concept of a mathematical entity is now
arguably intelligible—mathematical entities and the physical entities
they were once thought to merely symbolize are one and the same.
One need no longer conceive of a parallel world of immaterial
mathematical essences. Mathematical entities need not be relegated to
a realm distinct from the space and time of our Universe. Immaterial
mathematical entities comprise the substance of which boulders,

91
bodies, and brains are built and brains are evolutionarily engineered
organs that have acquired the capacity to comprehend the principles
that govern their existence. We have hereby effectuated the
integration of all Being into a seamless Whole. Mind, Matter, and
Mathematics are One. Now what of Mortality…

92
There are individuals who feel that their senses separate them from the real, from
being. That sense in them infects their other senses.
What I see blinds me. What I hear deafens me. That by which I know
makes me ignorant. I am ignorant inasmuch, and insofar, as I know. This light
before me is a blindfold and hides either a darkness or a light more…More what?
Here the circle of that strange reversal closes: knowledge as a cloud over being; the
bright world as an opaque growth on the eye.
Away with everything, so that I may see.

&PAUL VALERYI

All the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday
brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar
system, and…the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried
beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond
dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to
stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of
unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.

&BERTRAND RUSSELLII

“…can’t you extinguish time? can’t you comprehend eternity? can’t you conceive of
a thing like that—a thing with no beginning—a thing that always was?”

&# 44III

Suppose, then, that after the greatest, most passionate, vividness and tender glory,
oblivion is all we have to expect, the big blank of death. What options present
themselves? One option is to train yourself gradually into oblivion so that no great
change has taken place when you have died.

&SAUL BELLOWIV

IExcerpt from Paul Valery’s Monsieur Teste, 1978, 1989.


IIWhy I Am Not a Christian & Other Essays, 1957, 1976.
IIIQuote from Mark Twain’s # 44, The Mysterious Stranger, 1969, 2000.
IVHumboldt’s Gift, 1959, 1996.

93
94
CHAPTER VI

ILLUSIONARY IDENTITY & THE MEANING OF


MORTALITY

___________________________________

The focus of this, the final chapter of M4, is nothing other than the
final phase of existence—death. Our approach shall be practical,
rational and soterial. I shall shoulder the burden of explaining the
‘osiric’ implications of the theoretical edifice we have been so
assiduously assembling. In short, I intend to explain (or, more
humbly, to suggest) what the aforementioned facts, claims and
philosophic doctrines—Immateriality and Proto-Percipience in
particular—have to do with mortality and the attenuation of
existential angst. The undergirding arguments are somewhat
convoluted, so I am inclined to summarize and simplify them as best
I can at the outset. Preliminarily, I shall give my intellectual assent to
the theory of the Modular Mind. This theory holds that
consciousness is contingent upon the intricate interplay of myriad
modules or neural networks, each operating with appreciable
autonomy. It is the aggregate effects of these modules that mediate
consciousness, awareness and our conception of ourselves as
individuals. When these modules malfunction, consciousness
collapses. It is this contingency of consciousness, tenuously tethered
to innumerable networks nestled in the nervous system, that
illustrates the illusory nature of the psyche. Because the psyche is
superficial, inherently illusory, I argue, it ought to be abdicated,
disavowed as an integral aspect of one’s innermost essence. How
then does one disavow the delusory dimensions of the psyche? Surely
it cannot be effectuated by fiat, a mere act of will. Rather, such a
thing must be persistently practiced in pursuance of proficiency.
Practice entails ascesis—an exercise in expurgating images, ideas and
emotions from one’s mind in an environment devoid of substantial
sensory stimulation, the intent of which is to attain a state of

95
detachment, a state wherein one de-identifies with one’s self. What
then remains when one successfully forsakes the psyche, when one
succeeds in sacrificing one’s self so to speak? Something simple, I
suggest; something sublime. This simplistic, sublime state is the
source of the psyche, the source of consciousness, the source of the
phenomenal world. It is immaterial, elementary, and, ostensibly,
eternal. If it is possible to identify intimately with this enduring
adamantine essence, it is commensurately possible to defy death, to
deprive it of its profound perniciousness and eradicate existential
angst. This is essentially what the sages of the Indus surmised and
canonized in myriad Sanskrit sutras, some of which we shall survey;
this is the ideal emulated by enlightened Egyptians in their image of
the individual existing in accordance with Order (Maát), whom they
denominated ger (“the still man, the silent man”) or
rek (“the man of knowledge)I; so too may this sublime state which we
seek comport with the truest conception of the Greek eudemonia and
the Epicurean idea of ataraxia. In short, ours is a hieratic heritage—
we aim for an ideal envisaged by the ancient Illuminati but with an
understanding undergirded with knowledge never before assembled
in such an impressive, awe-inspiring array. What we have hitherto
done is provide a compelling evidentiary basis for the notion that
reality is illusory and inherently immaterial and, further, that
awareness is an irreducible aspect of the phenomenal world. We shall
now delve into neurology, but only to a depth demanded by sheer
necessity.

The Modular Mind: The View from Neurology

It should come as no surprise to empirically-oriented individuals that


specific neurological structures in the brain govern particular mental
processes and that injuries or insults involving specific structures in
the brain impair or abolish particular mental processes. What else
would one reasonably expect? Divorced from the dilemma of

IAllenJP. Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs. 2nd
Edition, 2010.

96
dualism, the dependency of mental phenomena on the operations of
the brain is not the least disconcerting. “[W]e now appreciate”, writes
neuroscientist and Nobel laureate Eric Kandel, “that all cognitive
abilities result from the interaction of many simple processing
mechanisms distributed in many different regions of the
brain….Perception, movement, language, thought, and memory are
all made possible by the serial and parallel interlinking of several
brain regions, each with specific functions.” While we can be
comfortable with the composite, contingent character of the
processes enumerated by Kandel in the preceding passage—
perception, movement, language, thought, and memory—we cannot
be entirely content with a contingent, composite concept of the self.
And yet, it is evident that we as “individuals” are indeed
agglomerations of multifarious mental modules. As Kandel writes in
his classic work, Principles of Neural Science:

The most astonishing example of the modular nature


of representational mental processes is the finding
that our very sense of ourselves as a self-conscious
coherent being—the sum of what we mean when we
say “I”—is achieved through the connection of
independent circuits, each with its own sense of
awareness, that carry out separate operations in our
two cerebral hemispheres….[E]ven consciousness is
not a unitary process.I

Kandel’s conclusion rests chiefly upon commissurotomy research


conducted principally by fellow Nobel laureate Roger Sperry and
Michael Gazzaniga. Beginning in the mid-twentieth century, Sperry,
Gazzaniga and a cadre of colleagues conducted and analyzed
commissurotomy operations collaboratively and independently over a
span of a quarter century. Commissurotomy entails cutting one or
more of several bands of fibers connecting the cerebral hemispheres,
the principal one being the corpus callosum (L. hard body). These
operations were executed to alleviate intractable seizures which

I
Kandel ER, Schwartz JH, Jessell TM (Eds). Principles of Neural Science, 1991, 2000.

97
seemingly spread from one cerebral hemisphere to the other via
connecting commissures (L. commissura, putting together, joining). Of
initial interest was the considerable preservation of physiological and
neurological functioning seen in the earliest subjects. This apparent
neurological normalcy was attributable to neurological redundancy—
a substantial symmetry between the two hemispheres, with control of
vital brain functions being distributed fairly evenly between both
brain regions. It was not long, however, before subsequent patients
were subjected to more subtle postoperative examinations and these
would reveal what animal experiments had already indicated—that
the brain was basically bisymmetric, with each hemisphere receiving
and perceiving stimuli separately. As Sperry summarized in an
informative review article published in a 1977 issue of The Journal of
Medicine & Philosophy:

The collected animal evidence supported the


conclusion that each of the disconnected hemispheres
develops its own private chain of learning and
memory experiences that are cut off from, and
inaccessible to, recall through the opposite
hemisphere. Not only did learning remain lateralized
to the one hemisphere receiving the critical sensory
input, but also the two hemispheres could be trained
concurrently to perform mutually contradictory tasks.
[Further] the separated hemispheres could be made to
perceive two different things occupying the same
position in space at the same time.I

A curious feature makes human hemispheric lateralization more


dramatic and compelling than that of animals—the striking
sequestration of linguistic proficiency principally within the left
hemisphere. Sperry and his colleagues exploited this species-specific
feature in their analyses. They designed experiments enabling
information to be projected, selectively, to either of the two

I
Sperry R. Forebrain Commissurotomy and Conscious Awareness. Journal of
Medicine & Philosophy, 1977.

98
hemispheres. They would then ascertain, through verbal inquisition,
which hemisphere exhibited awareness of the stimuli. In his insightful
book, The Integrated Mind, Gazzaniga describes the general features
and findings of a typical experiment:

[I]f a word (such as spoon) was flashed in the left visual


field, which is exclusively projected to the right
hemisphere in man, the subject, when asked, would
say, ‘I did not see anything,’ but then subsequently
would be able, with the left hand, to retrieve the
correct object from a series of objects placed out of
view. Furthermore, if the experimenter asked, ‘What
do you have in your hand?’ the subject would typically
say, ‘I don’t know.’ Here again, the talking
hemisphere did not know. It did not see the picture,
nor did it have access to the stereognostic (touch)
information from the left hand, which is also
exclusively projected to the right hemisphere. Yet,
clearly, the right half-brain knew the answer, because
it reacted appropriately to the correct stimulus. That
each half-brain could process information outside the
realm of awareness of the other raised the intriguing
possibility that the mechanisms of consciousness were
doubly represented following brain bisection.I

It is alarming enough that awareness can be bifurcated by bisecting


the brain, but consider the crudeness of commissurotomies—a
scalpel simply severs the cross-connecting fibers ferrying signals from
one cerebral hemisphere to the other. Might not there be numerous
neurological networks whose surgical separation or isolation would
reveal an element of autonomous awareness? In humans, language
seems to serve an integrative as well as communicative role.
Language gives form to our thoughts and feelings. Might not the
vocal domain of the brain exert an organizing, integrative influence
over other, equally aware, equally autonomous regions of the brain

I
Gazzaniga MS & LeDoux JE. The Integrated Mind, 1978.

99
that are merely mute? It bears mentioning that, according to Sperry,
each sensory modality that had been theretofore experimentally
lateralized—visual, somaesthetic, olfactory and auditory—could be
cognitively constricted such that reception of sensory data by one
hemisphere transpired agnostically, clandestinely, outside the
awareness of the other hemisphere. It seems plausible, therefore, that
there exists a separate module for each modality. Is each
independently aware? Does the vocal module simply sum the sensory
data of all the other modules and assume the majestic mantle of the
self? This is what Gazzaniga astutely suggests:

Implicit in the idea that self-consciousness involves,


at least in part, verbal consideration of sensorimotor
activities is the assumption that the person or self is
not a unified psychological entity, so that the
conscious verbal self comes to know the other selves
through overt behavior. In other words…there are
multiple mental systems in the brain, each with the
capacity to produce behavior, and each with its own
impulses for action, and these systems are not
necessarily conversant internally….[T]he verbal
system seems to encode information in its special
way, and the other mental systems do the same. So
when information is encoded by other than the verbal
system, the person is not consciously aware of the
information.I

Thus, when bilateral communication is disrupted, the dominant


hemisphere disavows data that does not comport with its cardinal
capacities. To impress upon the Reader the generality of this
phenomenon, it bears mentioning that interhemispheric
communication can be disrupted pharmacologically as well as
surgically. Neurosurgeons Juhn Wada and Theodore Rasmussen
demonstrated this in a series of simple experiments conducted during
the period 1948-1954, the results of which appear in a 1962 issue of

I
Ibidem.

100
the Journal of Neurosurgery. The impetus for their investigations was the
desire to spare the speech capacity of individuals undergoing surgery
for the alleviation of seizures. Such surgeries involved ablation or
excision of specific segments of the cortex. Clearly this procedure
could produce disastrous results if it were to extirpate speech
structures. In right-handed individuals the speech centers are
customarily consigned to the left hemisphere—the converse is true
for left-handed individuals. This rule is instructive not invariant. The
investigators therefore thought it prudent to develop a technique that
would definitively determine the dextrality of selected surgical
candidates. Their technique entailed anesthetization of one or the
other cerebral hemisphere. While the subject was awake, an
anesthetic (sodium amytal) would be injected via the paired common
carotid artery into the corresponding hemisphere, right or left. As
anatomy would have it, the injection affected ipsilateral intellectual
functions and contralateral motor functions. [Efferent motor fibers
from one cerebral hemisphere terminate on spinal neurons whose
processes extend to and innervate the opposite side of the body.]
When the anesthetic was injected into the right hemisphere of right-
handed individuals, paralysis was produced on the left side while
intellectual effects were negligible and fleeting (e.g. momentary
interruption of the counting that commenced during pre-injection on
the investigators command). Since linguistic functions, as we have
noted, are localized largely (though not exclusively) in the left
hemisphere of right-handed individuals, this effect was to be
expected. These subjects were also able to accurately name objects
when asked by the examiners. When, however, anesthetic was
injected into the right hemisphere of left-handed individuals, paralysis
was produced on the left side while intellectual functions faltered—
that is, subjects ceased counting and dysphasia developed. This effect
was also anticipated. Indeed, it was the intent of the study to elicit
this very outcome, serving as it did as a confirmatory test of linguistic
lateralization. Some things were surprising, however—if not to the
investigators themselves then to those more removed from the
mundane medical facts. The most surprising findings were as follows:
(1) the subjects whose dominant hemispheres were anesthetized
could be prompted to resume counting (which they had ceased

101
immediately after the injection) at the behest of the examiners (2)
those same subjects could carry out commands from the examiners
to move their non-paralyzed extremities (3) the subjects with
dominant anesthesia retained an ability to respond “yes” or “no” to
the examiner’s queries and (4) the subjects, after the effects of the
drug dissipated, were unaware of their partial paralysis or their
inability to name objects. From our perspective, the last listed finding
is the most intriguing. It suggests that all the events of the experiment
ensued outside the individuals’ awareness or, more specifically,
outside the awareness of the vocal hemisphere. Clearly some entity
within the “individual” was aware when it carried out movements of
the ipsilateral extremities on command and some entity within the
“individual” was aware when it responded affirmatively or negatively
to the queries of the examiners. This entity could comprehend
language but could not name objects. This would seem to indicate
that the ability to execute willed actions is not the exclusive province
of a single mental entity.

The dependency of one’s identity upon the independent


operations of multiple neurological structures is decidedly
disconcerting. If I lose my capacity for speech, I am mute. If I lose
my sight, I am blind. If I lose my hearing, I am deaf. I am the subject
of each of the aforementioned impairments. But if my very identity is
dependent upon distinct, divergent structures or neural networks,
most of which operate outside my awareness, then I am inherently
divisible and the very notion of identity disintegrates. Identity implies
singularity, but the mind manifests multiplicity. Who am I? Am I not
a unified, indissoluble, integrated, autonomous, individuated entity? I
am not says Gazzaniga:

The mind is not a psychological entity but a


sociological entity, being composed of many
submental systems. What can be done surgically and
through hemisphere anesthetization are only
exaggerated instances of a more general phenomenon.
The uniqueness of man, in this regard, is his ability to
verbalize and, in so doing, create a personal sense of

102
conscious reality out of the multiple mental systems
present.I

We have seen that interhemispheric communication can be disrupted


surgically and chemically. Now we shall consider the possibility that
the links between the modules that mediate psychic integration can
be severed psychologically, through the exercise of one’s own will or
otherwise.

The Modular Mind: The View from Psychiatry

Included among the classes of psychological syndromes delineated in


the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a
cluster of conditions termed Dissociative Disorders. They are
collectively characterized in the Manual’s most current edition as
follows: “The essential feature of the Dissociative Disorders is a
disruption in the usually integrated functions of consciousness,
memory, identity, or perception. The disturbance may be sudden or
gradual, transient or chronic.” Though the Manual enumerates five
such disorders, we shall concern ourselves with but two—
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Depersonalization
Disorder (DD). Conventionally called multiple personality disorder,
DID is characterized by the perception that one’s conscious mind is
comprised of two or more discernible identities that commonly take
control of one’s behavior. In terms of etiology, abuse and
psychosocial stress are considered probable precipitating factors.
Describing the diagnostic features of this mental malady the Manual
notes the following:

Dissociative Identity Disorder reflects a failure to


integrate various aspects of identity, memory, and
consciousness. Each personality state may be
experienced as if it has a distinct personal history,
self-image, and identity, including a separate name.

I
Gazzaniga & LeDoux, 1978.

103
Usually there is a primary identity that carries the
individual’s given name and is passive, guilty, and
depressed. The alternate identities frequently have
different names and characteristics that contrast with
the primary identity….Alternate identities are
experienced as taking control in sequence, one at the
expense of the other, and may deny knowledge of one
another, be critical of one another, or appear to be in
open conflict.

In DID there is a bifurcation or multiplication of the self into


multiple personalities whereas in DD the individual experiences a
disintegration of the sense of self as such. What links the two is
dissociation of the normally integrated, unified sense of self. The
diagnostic and descriptive features of DD are delineated as follows:

The essential features of Depersonalization Disorder


are persistent or recurrent episodes of
depersonalization characterized by a feeling of
detachment or estrangement from one’s self. The
individual may feel like an automaton or as if he or
she is living in a dream or movie. There may be a
sensation of being an outside observer of one’s
mental processes, one’s body, or parts of one’s body.
Various types of sensory anesthesia, lack of affective
response, and a sensation of lacking control of one’s
actions, including speech are often present. The
individual with [DD] maintains intact reality testing
(e.g. awareness that it is only a feeling and that he or
she is not really an automaton)….Derealization may
also be present and is experienced as the sense that
the external world is strange or unreal….[P]eople may
seem unfamiliar or mechanical….

While it is certainly defensible to doubt the definitiveness of these


supposed disorders, there seems little justification for dismissing
them outright. Let us therefore assume (guardedly albeit) that they

104
exist. Does it add to the integrity of our conceptual edifice? It would
seem so. Dissociative disorders can be conceived as psychological
counterparts to commisurotomy and cerebral anesthesia. All involve
disintegration of the devices, modules, or connections that seem to
subserve self-identity. Clearly, a correct characterization of the mind
or the self cannot exclude the physical, chemical, and psychological
dimensions. Commisurotomy reveals the physical dissolubility of the
self; cerebral anesthesia reveals the chemical dissolubility of the self;
dissociative disorders reveal the psychological dissolubility of the self.
In this tentative analysis there is a certain symmetry and logical
coherence that cannot easily be dismissed. We are therefore inclined
to accept that dissociation can be effectuated psychogenically. Of
greater practical import is whether it can be effectuated willfully. The
DSM accepts this supposition as indicated in its clarifying statement
distinguishing DD from known methods of self-detachment:
“Voluntarily induced experiences of depersonalization or
derealization form part of meditative and trance practices that are
prevalent in many religions and cultures and should not be confused
with Depersonalization Disorder”. It is this very topic—volitional
self-dissociation through meditation—that shall occupy our interest
in the succeeding section.

Mind, Meditation & Mahapralaya

Grief is the emotional accompaniment of bereavement which is, in


turn, the state of being bereft or deprived of something or someone
of vaunted value. Does it not seem that the more avidly one clings to
a prized possession the more misery its loss elicits? And is it not so
that when one recognizes that a particular possession is not truly his
but a borrowed item bestowed upon him for only a fleeting moment
that his reaction to its requisite relinquishment causes less
consternation? For most, the self is a possession prized more than
any other and the self-dissolution that death dictates is Man’s most
daunting dilemma. But what if the self, the persona, the ego, could be
rationally regarded not as the essence of one’s being but only a
transient transmogrification of Mind—the proto-mental substance

105
that suffuses the Cosmos? What if one intimately identifies oneself
with this ostensibly eternal entity? Would death not be subdued, its
sharp sting stultified or soothed? This has been the inveterate aim of
Indian ascetics for ages. Each of the established systems of Indian
philosophy or dar%anas as they are customarily called—Sankhya,
Jainism, Buddhism, Yoga and Vedanta—have as their goal the
alteration of the psyche of the adherent such that he no longer
identifies himself with the gross physical body but with a subtle
essence that is eternal, indestructible and serves as the source and
support of the self. A survey of each of these systems is beyond the
scope of this treatise, so we shall be selective, concerning ourselves
only with those isolated ideas particularly pertinent to our present
undertaking. Indeed, so prescient, so pregnant are the latter two
dar'anas—Yoga and Vedanta—that we shall focus our thoughts
primarily on these and secondarily on interspersed ideas of ancient
Egyptian origin along with consonant conceptions culled from the
philosophically rich “Western” tradition.
Vedanta actually denotes a body of literature encompassing
the Sanskrit scriptural sutras known as the Upanishads and the epic
tale known as the Bhagavad Gita. The etymology of the word
Upanishad is itself instructive. As explained by Hindu hierophant
Swami Nikhilananda in his translation and explication of the ancient
text:

The word Upanishad has been derived from the root


sad, to which are added two prefixes: upa and ni. The
prefix upa denotes nearness and ni totality. The root
sad means to loosen, to attain, and to annihilate. Thus
the etymological meaning of the word is Knowledge,
or Vidy(, which, when received from a competent
teacher, loosens totally the bondage of the world, or
surely enables the pupil to attain (i.e. realize) the Self,
or completely destroys ignorance, which is responsible for
the deluding appearance of the Infinite Self as the
finite embodied creature.I

IThe Upanishads, Volume I. Swami Nikhilananda (Translator), 1949.

106
Quite explicitly then, the millennia-old Upanishads purport to exposit
knowledge, the acquisition of which allegedly illuminates the true
nature of the Self. From our vantage, we are concerned with the
veracity of this supposed knowledge and its ultimate “osiriologic”
applicability. First, it must be stated at the outset that the compilation
of the Upanishads commenced over 2,500 years ago and that the
metaphysical underpinnings of Vedanta are arguably coeval with the
emergence of the Indus Valley civilization—that is, upwards of 4,000
years ago. Therefore, one ought not turn to Vedanta for insight into
the nature of biological life, matter, energy, space, time or the
machinations, origins and fate of the Cosmos and its constituents—
the Ancients have little of scientific worth to say on these matters to
denizens of the 21st century. But the sages of the Indus have much to
say on the matter of the mind and that of mortality. The mind is,
after all, amenable to analysis through the faculty of introspection—a
resource readily accessible to Indian investigators. What is more, the
mind is the medium between the world, replete with its myriad
misfortunes, and the ever-present peril of death imposingly arrayed
against the solitary individual. Everything we covet and condemn,
esteem and eschew impresses itself upon our minds. If one can
control one’s mind, one can, in a sense, control the totality of reality
or at least modulate one’s perception thereof. This, of course, is not
unique to the Indian outlook. Epicureanism is, as it were, predicated
upon the pursuit of ataraxia—an imperturbable state of serenity
secured by the intentional attenuation of irrational anxiety. Neo-
Platonists such as Plotinus promulgated the practice of mental
mastery through strenuous self-discipline in order to secure a state of
supreme tranquility. Stoics such as Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus
Aurelius counseled that consummate control of the mind conduces
to contentment. What is rather unique to the Indian approach is its
methods of control—meditation and identification. Indian ascetics
developed techniques of intensive introspection aimed at
investigating the nature of the mind and, more importantly, gaining
mastery over its operations by controlling its perceptual and
conceptual contents. Practitioners of these meditative techniques
sought to secure the cessation of spontaneous cerebration and
facilitate suppression of somatic sensation. The means by which this

107
featureless form of meditation, this ‘vacuous cerebration’, is executed
is threefold: (I) the assumption of a fixed, immobile posture; (II) the
intentional inhibition of inhalation such that each successive breath is
rendered more and more shallow to the point of minimally requisite
respiration; and (III) the concerted, yet passive, act of expunging all
images and thoughts from the mind. Asana, pranyama and ekagrata are
the respective Sanskrit appellations appended to the aforementioned
exercises, the execution of which properly define the discipline of
Yoga. Yogic meditation requires exceptional mental resolve and
repetitive iterations for lengthy intervals of time to attain the merest
modicum of mastery, so natural it is for the unrestrained, mundane
mind to meander meaninglessly from thought to thought, image to
image, emotion to emotion. Marked meditative awareness is
ephemeral for a novitiate such as I and words are incapable of
capturing completely its beatific essence; I have attempted a
description nonetheless, for it is germane to our present discussion. It
is as though the mind and body dissolve into an amorphous, ethereal
substance engulfing the entirety of eternal space. There is no notion
of dimensionality, no perception of length nor width nor depth,
neither a feeling of being “here” nor “there” but one of being
everywhere and nowhere at once. There is no sense of being fully
conscious, and yet no sense of being unconscious—one might
describe it as semi-conscious or pseudo-conscious or merely aware.
There is an awareness of one’s own being, but for fleeting moments
the awareness of all else evanesces. It is as if the substance of one’s
mind engulfs and subsumes the Cosmos in some eerily dark and
infinite abyss. And yet, despite this supreme isolation, despite this
illogical intimation of simultaneous cosmic integration and
disintegration, there is a sense of sedateness. The act of inducing a
state in which the Self is conceived as disintegrating into oblivion is
given a name in the esoteric systems of Yoga. It is called the
Mahapralaya, the great dissolution: “Creation exists from all eternity”
states one Yoga scholar “and can never be destroyed; but it will
return to its original aspect of absolute equilibrium…in the great final
resorption, mahapralaya”.I It is the explicit aim of the Yogin to

IEliade M. Yoga: Immortality & Freedom, 1969.

108
obliterate the conception of the phenomenal, physical self along with
the phenomenal, physical world, “to abolish creation by
reincorporating all forms in the primordial Unity”.I And yet, in the
midst of the nigrescent nothingness, known as N%n by the ancient
Egyptians, awareness was allegedly imbedded.II This awareness, as
explained elsewhere, was considered coeval with Creation and lay
latent within it. The Archetypal Awareness was deified by Kemetic
cryptographers and given the apt name Amen (“The Hidden One”).
The ancient Egyptians believed that the world, the biosphere, the
ecosphere, the self and the myriad gods of their pantheon issued
forth from N%n—nebulous, inchoate, inert matter. It is annunciated
by the resurrected spirit of the deceased in the Egyptian Book of the
Dead:

I came into being from unformed matter, I came into


existence as Khepera [the revered god whose name
signifies evolution]….I grew in the form of plants, I
am hidden in the tortoise. I am of the atoms of every
god.III

The deceased—redeemed and resurrected in the form of Osiris, Lord


of Death—awakens to find himself imbedded in the murky depths of
the primordial abyss and speaks thusly:

What is this to which I have come into….Surely


without water it is, without air it is, deep doubly,
darkened doubly, remote doubly. He who liveth in it
is in peace of heart.I

The assumption of this consecrated state symbolically parallels the


destruction of the phenomenal world, for the self and the Cosmos

IIbidem.
II
The word nu in Egyptian denotes will, thought, intention, &c. according to
Budge’s An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary (1920, 1978). It would seem, as intimated
elsewhere, that the Greek nous (mind) is derived therefrom.
IIIBudge W (Translator). The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Ani, 1967.

109
are conceived as inextricably bound and essentially identical. The
Osirified Soul says:

I am but doing away [with my creation] when earth


came forth from Nun…out of the watery abyss like
unto its former state. I am fate and Osiris. I have
made my transformations….I

I have introduced the seemingly superfluous subject of Egyptian


cosmogony in the interest of intellectual continuity. I mean to suggest
that there is something valuable in the recognition that distinct
cultures, separated temporally and geographically, conceived of
Creation issuing from a supremely simple state, human consciousness
being an advanced efflorescence of an elementary awareness that
suffused all substances and, most importantly from our vantage,
death entailing disintegration of the individual self as it is subsumed
by the Universal Self, whether known as Atman or N%n. Consider the
ideas originated by the ancient Egyptians to conceptualize the
creation of the cosmos. In one of several brilliant essays on Egyptian
metaphysics, the learned linguist James P. Allen explains that the
undifferentiated substance from which the universe emerged was
thought by the Egyptians to exhibit a five-fold character, each of
such import as to warrant veneration, indeed deification. These are as
follows:

Nunu: inertness

Amenu: hiddeness

Heheu: infiniteness

IIbidem.

110
Keku: darkness

Tenemu: lostness

This Egyptian ethos elegantly encapsulates all that is essential to the


psychic experience of meditation. When the ascetic descends into
deep meditation, he experiences a state of mental inertia (nun). He
feels himself lost (tenem) to all external reality, deeply hidden (amen) in
a dark (kek) realm that is seemingly infinite (heh) in space and time. It
is tempting to equate this sublime, simplistic state with the essence of
the mind and the origin of the universe as thought and Being itself
seem indissolubly bound in the mind of Man. So long as Being
persists, the Illuminati of the Egyptian priesthood may have mused,
the Soul of man must endure.

Of central importance in this exhilarating exposition on


Osiriology is the fact that the dissolution of the individual self is
accepted by the adept with a sense of serene surrender. The sagacious
Socrates exuded such steadfastness in anticipation of his imminent
demise and this detached state was undoubtedly ensured by his belief
in the immortality of the soul and the attainability of absolute
enlightenment only upon emancipation from the corporeal
constraints of physical embodiment. So says Socrates:

Then when does the soul attain truth?—for in


attempting to consider anything in company with the
body she is obviously deceived….Then must not true
existence be revealed to her in thought, if at all?....And
thought is best when the mind is gathered into herself
and none of these things trouble her—neither sounds
nor sights nor pain nor any pleasure,—when she takes
leave of the body, and has as little as possible to do
with it, when she has no bodily sense or desire, but is
aspiring after true being?....And in this the

111
philosopher dishonours the body; his soul runs away
from his body and desires to be alone and by
herself….I

This implicit prescription to “take leave of the body”, to pursue that


state wherein “the mind is gathered into herself”, wherein the soul
ceases to be troubled by sensory perceptions, wherein the mind is
devoid of “bodily sense or desire”, to aspire “after true being”, is
essentially an exhortation to meditation. Explicitly, the above passage
from Plato’s Phaedo pertains to death and the desirability of the soul’s
severance from the body for the philosopher, for the true lover of
wisdom. Implicitly, however, it adumbrates the ideals of meditation
as the following excerpt indicates:

And what is purification but the separation of the


soul from the body…the habit of the soul gathering
and collecting herself into herself from all sides out of
the body; the dwelling in her own place alone, as in
another life, so also in this, as far as she can;—the
release of the soul from the chains of the body?II

This Platonic “purification” parallels meditation in essential respects


and reveals the introspective underpinnings of the “Western”
philosophical tradition.
That the aforementioned ideas (or elements thereof) are
reconcilable with reason is also important for we Moderns who laud
logic above all else. Finally, it may suggest that introspection, wedded
with intuition and reason, can elucidate aspects of existence that are
less accessible to empirical investigation. Egyptian and Indian
theosophy are essentially animistic as were certain Western schools of
thought in their earliest incarnations. With some justification,
animism is abjured as a primitive prelude to more advanced
theological concepts. But when I think of fundamental particles and
the sense in which they are “aware”, I cannot help but speculate that

I The Dialogues of Plato, The Phaedo. Benjamin Jowett (Translator), 1952, 2007.
II Ibidem.

112
the self-imposed, minimalist mental state of meditation is somehow
akin to the primal, elemental awareness of elementary particles.
Clearly, conscious minds are capable of complex cogitation. But we
have the capacity to consciously, willfully, though admittedly
incompletely, suppress thought. Perhaps this ‘vacuous cerebration’,
this ‘mental mahapralaya’, enables one to glimpse, however vaguely,
the manner in which quanta are aware. It must be reiterated that our
minds, our brains, are composed of these individually proto-
percipient particles. Can we quiet the mind enough to apprehend the
emanations of their aggregate awareness? And is this aggregate
awareness, this collective quantum consciousness, singular in its
essence? Is this why fundamental particles are, in certain respects,
indistinguishable and intertwined? Is this why deep meditation
induces a simultaneous sensation of disintegration into an infinite
whole and integration into an indissoluble, infinitesimal One? Is this
the revealed meaning of the hallowed Hindu hypostasis, “Brahman is
Atman”—Brahman being the fundamental essence of the Universe,
Atman being the fundamental essence of the Self, the substance of
the Soul? Perhaps. But I shall desist in this discursive digression. The
major point is as follows. Meditation of the sort described above
approximates a state wherein consciousness is virtually devoid of
content. There is nothing mystical here as the same can be said of
deep sleep. What differ are the elements of awareness and willfulness.
Whilst absorbed in meditation one is aware that one’s mind is devoid
of images and ideas and it is the intent of the adherent to induce such
a state. As the practitioner expurgates ideas, images, and emotions
from her mind, awareness does not abate. But who is aware? Vedanta
maintains that the Atman, the innermost Self of the individual, is
aware. Moreover, Vedanta roundly rejects the equation of the
personality or psyche with the Self. Accordingly, it maintains that
when the person dies, when the body decays and the mind
disintegrates together with its memories, propensities and vagarities,
the Self survives. Thus the Atman persists while the personality
perishes. Let us not proceed without evaluating the merits of this
contention from the vantage of modern science and reason, if only in
a preliminary, perfunctory manner. The matter of which the brain is
presumed to be composed is in essence immaterial. The immaterial

113
particles of which the brain is composed are possessed of properties,
among which is the exhibition of awareness. Integrated, complex
consciousness and cogitation is contingent upon the interplay of
innumerable neural networks, composed of cells, which are
composed of molecules, which are composed of atoms, which are
composed of quasi-sentient subatomic particles. Death undoubtedly
disrupts this hierarchically ordered array but it does not destroy the
elementary awareness that is an irreducible aspect of “matter” itself.
For, as immortalized in the lucid lines of Lucretius, “…there must be
things possessed of an immortal essence. Nothing can disintegrate
entirely into nothing.”I This “immortal essence”, we adduce, is
irreducibly aware. In effect, Vedanta says to the aspiring ascetic,
‘identify with this, the elemental awareness, the Atman, for this is
eternal and indestructible’. Similarly, the Egyptian adherent who
identified himself with “the atoms of every god” gained “peace of
heart” by the realization that he would be reincorporated into the
primal Void from whence he emerged and to which all things would
return. As this treatise has attempted to demonstrate, what were once
the suppositious speculations of a few sapient seers now has an
empirical, rational basis. One needn’t have faith in the
pronouncements of ancient priests, philosophers or mystics; one
need only evaluate the rational, scientific bases of the claims
enumerated in this treatise. Confining our focus to the present
chapter, this is my major claim: The self is illusory. This is so because
our conception of self rests upon the idea of unity. Ample evidence
indicates that the self is a composite construction comprised of
multifarious modules that, through their intricate interactions,
collectively create the concept of self. Certainly we conceive of
ourselves as unified entities. I do not maintain that this perception is
false. It simply is not fundamental. In some sense, therefore, it is not
real. To perceive a pencil as bent when immersed in a glass of water is
not false, it simply is not fundamental. To regard it as issuing from
the alteration of incident rays of light upon the retina is fundamental
and intellectually satisfying. That which is fundamental, I aver, is

ILucretius(c. 98-c. 55 BCE), The Way Things Are. Rolfe Humphries (Translator),
1952, 2007.

114
inherently intellectually satisfying for ardent seekers of Truth. So, if
the self is indeed illusory, what shall we do with this ostensibly
expendable construct? We should, I propose, do what the Ancients
instructed us to do long ago: dispense with it. Relinquish (or at least
loosen) our hold on our ephemeral, illusory identity. What then shall
we replace it with? Nothing. Or as close to nothing as one can
conceive. Imagine a mind devoid of ideas, sensations and emotions.
Imagine consciousness devoid of content. Embrace it, internalize it,
cultivate it, commune with it. This is the Void. This is the essence of
Being. Tat tvam asi (Thou art thus) says the Chhandogya Upanishad. The
extent to which one succeeds in equating one’s essence with the Void
is the extent to which one overcomes the fear of death. Solace in the
dissolution of the individual self unto the Universal Self is something
the sages of the Nile Valley and the Indus Valley shared and it is a
lesson that may ameliorate our ignominious age. But the abolition of
the fear of death may be a vapid victory for those who see such stoic
asceticism as espoused by dispassionate priests, yogins and
philosophers as vitiating the vitality of life. Admittedly, the thanostic
ramifications of this treatise are poignant but not entirely palatable
and therefore devoid of populist appeal. After all, though we have
made a defensible case for immortality, it is not analogous to the
immortality of the comparatively palpable Judeo-Christian “soul”. In
his Meditations, Rene Descartes wrote of his speculations regarding
the immortality of the soul:

…[T]hese arguments are enough to show that the


decay of the body does not imply the destruction of
the mind, and are hence enough to give mortals the
hope of an after-life, and…the premises which lead to
the conclusion that the soul is immortal depend on an
account of the whole of physics.

It was prescient indeed for Descartes to foresee that physics would


affirm the immortality of the soul. It is, however, doubtful whether
Descartes would have considered our conception of “soul” as
synonymous with his. I argue for the immortality of the innermost
“essence” of the individual—an essence that is ultimately identical

115
with the immaterial essence of the Universe, an essence so
elementary, so subtle that it is barely distinguishable from the
veritable Void from which it emerged and in which it is embedded. I
have invoked the idea of the modularity of mind to buttress my
allegation that the persona is a fictive construct that ought to be
abdicated. Who wishes to accept the veracity of this claim? Who
wishes to accept the superfluity and superficiality of their personality?
Who indeed wishes to accept the superfluity and superficiality of
matter itself? Who wishes to acknowledge that matter is as fictive as
the personalities with which we pathetically parade about? Who
wishes to undertake an austere exercise in systematic desensitization
through sensorial and cerebral deprivation in order to identify the
true nature of their being and commune with the Cosmos?
Acceptance and implementation of the ideas espoused in this treatise
would require substantial self-conditioning. One must condition
one’s mind in such a way that the ascertainment of fundamental
Truth is rendered resplendent in itself. As Epictetus instructs, “…we
need discipline, in order to learn how to adapt the preconception of
the rational and the irrational…conformably to nature.”I Arguably,
hedonism is a universal human imperative and the pursuit of
momentous knowledge cannot conceivably be justified if it heightens
rather than diminishes misery. But alas, the mind is malleable while
reality is resolute. It is better to conform one’s consciousness to the
constraints of Nature than rend reality in a vain attempt to suit
sanguine sensibilities. My importunate entreaty implores all serious
thinkers—philosophers, metaphysically-minded Osiriologists,
scientists and the elite Intelligentsia that invariably inhabit every land
during every epoch of history—to henceforth harken to the
arguments advanced herein and commit to contribute to the re-
conditioning of human consciousness in the old way—one worthy
adherent at a time. Each one ought to teach another deemed
deserving of this weighty, yet liberating, knowledge. Grief must be re-
conceptualized as an emotional reaction to the loss of nominally
nonexistent entities. It is to the essence of the beloved individual that
one ought to be attached and that essence, I maintain, is eternal and

IEpictetus (c. 60-138 CE), Discourses. George Long (Translator), 1952, 2007.

116
identical with one’s own. Similarly, personal death must be conceived
as the end of one’s perception of oneself as an integrated
individual—a perception that is, evidently, empirically erroneous.
This admittedly radical re-conceptualization of reality has, as we have
seen, cosmic counterparts. Matter is immaterial, mathematical and
rudimentarily aware. We are integral parts of this perplexing
Universe, not merely detached observers thereof. If the Universe is
not what it once seemed, then we cannot be what we once seemed
and death cannot be what we once conceived it to be. Some will
surely find solace in this new conceptualization of death, life and
Reality while others will eschew it. Whatever the case may be, if ever
the ideas presented herein penetrate the minds of men, a choice must
be made—a choice not unlike the one described in the Katha
Upanishad by Yama, the Lord of Death, in instructing his young pupil
Nachiketa:

The good is one thing; the pleasant, another. Both of


these, serving different needs, bind a man. It goes well
with him who, of the two, takes the good; but he who
chooses the pleasant misses the end.

And for many, eschatology, the “End of ends”, is not at all pleasant.
Armed with iron-clad knowledge conferred by modern science, we
can foresee the end of the Universe itself. The Osiriologist, indeed
the modern man of learning, must come to terms not only with his
own mortality and all it entails but with the finitude of the Cosmos
itself. What of the fate of the Universe, what has modern cosmology
to say of it? The consensus in this, the first quarter of the 21st
century, is that the Universe is expanding and it is expanding at an
ever-accelerating rate. There is, moreover, nothing—no matter, no
energy, no force—sufficiently strong to halt its headlong hurtling into
oblivion. Inevitably, the Cosmos shall dissipate, dissolve, disintegrate
and humanity, perennially preoccupied with pretentious, profane
pursuits, shall have long since perished. And yet for those who
identify not with the impotent, perishable, phenomenal, personal self,
but with the very essence of the Cosmos, that ultimate destruction
causes little concern—it is simply the re-equilibration, and re-

117
unification of the fundamental Self. For this self is one with the
Cosmos and there is no other Reality. The resurrected Egyptian, the
man made god-like through secret knowledge speaks thus:

I am the lord of eternity….Speaking and silent I


maintain an exact balance. Verily my forms are
inverted. I am god…from season to season, what is
[mine] is in [me]. I am One coming from One.I

I believe that we can create an assuaging unction from the amalgam


of ancient wisdom, rigorous science and sober philosophy. This is the
humble hope of a natural philosopher and Osiriologist.

IThe Egyptian Book of the Dead , XXXII.

118
A POPPERIAN PERORATION

______________________________________

In affirmation of my intellectual allegiance to the ideas of the


inimitable philosopher of science, Sir Karl Popper (1902-1994 CE), I
herein offer a succinct summary of our metaphysical system—what I
immodestly call the Amen Theory of Metaphysics. More specifically,
I wish to delineate simply and explicitly what our theory explains and
how, by virtue of this explanation, it arguably supersedes prior
theories in being more exhaustive, more rigorous, and more
momentous. Moreover, I wish to relate why our theory of
metaphysics has a higher “truth content” insofar as it accords most
harmoniously with certain observed phenomena and explains
disparate data with a paucity of postulates. The elements of the
analysis are as follows.

I. If fundamental particles are indeed infinitesimal, it follows that they


are immaterial.

II. If fundamental particles are immaterial, it follows that matter is


nonexistent.

III. If matter is nonexistent, then dualism is destroyed and therewith


the alleged irreconcilability of matter and mind.

IV. If fundamental particles are admitted to exhibit an element of


awareness, the evolutionary process can be conceived as conducing
to the accretion of awareness in certain organisms, culminating in the
creation of consciousness.

V. If matter is nonexistent, this comports with the observation,


estimation, and theorization of the net-zero mass, energy, and spin of
the Universe.

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VI. If matter is nonexistent, this comports with the observational
evidence and theoretical reasoning that the Universe began as a
singularity and that the “matter” strewn about billions of light-years
had its origin in a single infinitesimal point—a problematic postulate
if “matter” is accepted as material rather than immaterial.

VII. If the nature and behavior of fundamental particles is


exhaustively explained by Quantum Mechanics and its
wavefunctions, and if fundamental particles and their wavefunctions
are identical or inextricable, then Atkins’ Deep Structuralism and our
own Constitutionalism—the reducibility of Nature to mathematics—
is arguably affirmed.

VIII. If the essence of the mind is identical with the elementary


substance of which it is composed and if this same substance is in
some sense sentient, it explains our inextinguishable intimation of
ultimate immortality.

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AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL ALLUSIONS

As I expressed in my inaugural book, Evolutionary Nutrition, I regard


myself as a natural philosopher in the archaic vein—a thinker who
cannot conceive of creating a complete philosophical system that is
not lived by its originator, that is not pursuant to the practical task of
defining and determining how one ought to live one’s life. Some say
such systematic philosophizing is dead. If so, it is an opportune
occasion for its resurrection.
I neither dread death nor loathe life. I bow before no gods
nor fear the might of men. I am an avowed ascetic who fasts for 23
hours each day and I forswear feeding upon the flesh of animals,
partaking purely of plants and other vegetative organisms. I venerate
my body and cultivate its health and strength, though I know it to be
corruptible and ephemeral. I subject myself to intense mental and
physical discipline in order to promote perseverance and longevity.
Why longevity? Because I love life and the few individuals I choose
to share it with. I love the Good and consider the pursuit thereof the
sole justification for the conscious continuation of my existence. My
conception of the Good encompasses Truth, Justice, Beauty, Love
and Serenity. To love life and the Good and yet to look at Death
unflinchingly, devoid of self-deception, requires fortitude. Such
fortitude can come from knowledge or practice or both. Thus, while
my ceaseless pursuit of the gratification that is the acquisition of the
Good make me a thoroughgoing Hedonist, my asceticism affords me
the temperance to endure the innumerable tragedies of life, the
inevitable estrangement from all that I love, and my ultimate End. If
a single individual could have bestowed upon me the precious
wisdom that has taken me a lifetime to gain, I would hold her in the
esteem appropriate only to a Goddess, owing to a sense of gratitude,
not servitude. Heartily, I grant the keys to this wisdom to all who
deign to walk with me or as Rene Descartes would say, “to meditate
seriously with me.” Alas, I cannot bequeath to you my wisdom; I can
only confer the keys that will unlock the doors thereto. This book is
one such key. If I have my way with Fate, there shall be more.

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THE AUTHOR

Dr. N!N S. AMEN-RA, Dr.PH, MA

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