Music of the Spheres

Metaphysical Musings

Location: United States

I am a student of science and metaphysics and a practicing trial lawyer.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

An Elementary Dialogue

Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When? O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.
Thomas Wolfe

The advocates are Ronald Story, Armando Neri, Karl Bauer and Sarah Gold.

The location is Armando Neri’s apartment in NewYork City.

[Story, Bauer and Gold enter. Neri greets them, shaking their hands.]

Neri: Good evening, my friends. Great to see you again. Please come in. I have cakes and coffee—as usual, no liquor to dull the intellect.

Story: Sometimes, Armando, I think you should reconsider this practice. After all, a little alcohol loosens the tongue.

Gold: Your tongue hardly requires loosening.

Neri: Please sit down. As agreed, we will dispense with preliminaries and get right down to business.

[Story takes a center chair, as if presiding.]

Story: I see that Armando is anxious to begin.

1. Music of the Spheres

Neri: I am particularly excited this evening and have something marvelous to report. I want to say, no, declare, that last night I listened to Menuhin’s 1953 recording of Beethoven’s violin concerto and felt something quite extraordinary. I came to understand that beauty has profound implications.

Gold: Need I remind you, Armando, that beauty is totally subjective and cannot be part of the fabric of reality.

Neri: It is I who must remind you, Sarah, that we have not agreed on the ultimate nature of reality, nor indeed even if it consists of “fabric,” as you put it.

Beauty has been called by many names.
It is all the same:
the only real form and meaning
in the world.
Without it, all is dissolute and void.
Yet, amidst its manifestations,
beauty remains strangely hidden.
Art gives but a glimpse,
an intimation of something
beyond the power of words
to express.
We do not see the face of God in art
but only sense His presence,
as if He brushed our sleeves
and passed unseen.

Gold: You find a suggestion of the divine in a Beethoven concerto. Others may find it boring and prefer rap music. How can anyone say who is right? Beauty cannot be measured objectively. It simply does not exist—except in the … imagination.

Neri: Why not say,“mind?”

Gold: I prefer “imagination.” I might add that if beauty is the ultimate reality and is somehow equated with God, She must accept responsibility for all that exists and owes us an explanation for such things as war and famine–neither of which is beautiful by anyone’s reckoning.

Neri: Have you seen the Rembrandts in the National Museum?

Gold: I have.

Neri: Then, you must be aware that many of the paintings depict people who could be considered ordinary or even ugly. Yet, as revealed by the artist, they are hypnotic in their beauty. God is in everything, and everything is beautiful in His eyes!

Bauer: Does God see beauty in a starving child, or in pestilence, oppression, racism and social injustice?

Neri: There is a difference between beautiful things and beauty itself. What constitutes a beautiful thing is a matter of opinion, but beauty is more real than any object we call beautiful.

Bauer: Beauty, like God, exists only in the imagination. Mathematical relationships are the only concrete realities.

Story: I would say, because God is essentially metrical, that it is possible to perfectly describe Him mathematically (although, of course, the actual equations may be beyond human understanding). One may say, in a sense, that God is Mathematics Itself.

Neri: God is Beauty Itself.

Gold: It is true that beauty is essentially mathematical, in the sense that all notions of beauty are founded ultimately on mathematical relationships.

Neri: Beauty cannot be derived mathematically but is, in itself, only cognizable directly by the power of the soul. Beauty is divine, the object of all human longing, and not a matter of calculation.

Story: Can we not sense the divine in the truth of numbers? Can God not allow glimpses of His essence in elegant equations, as well as works of art?

Neri: The sense of awe one feels from beautiful equations surpasses the intellectual process which was the avenue to that experience. We feel an intimation of the divine through the equations not in them, the same as we do through works of art. This sensation is beyond the ken of form, number or logic. Indeed, it is beyond the realm of the material world. It is fear in the presence of God.

Bauer: However, if a particular method leads to truth, must there not be truth in that method?

Neri: The course cannot be equated with the destination, even if it is a true course. The New Jersey Turnpike truly leads to New York City, yet one can learn nothing about the City from a study of the Turnpike.

Gold: An intellectual journey is not like a journey over roads. In the former each new step depends upon the truth (not just the direction) of the preceding step. Each new step does not simply follow the preceding but rather is logically compelled by it. Thus, the journey is one of necessity and can, in no sense, be arbitrary. The intended destination is not a place but rather an ultimate truth compelled by the unfolding constituent truths. We have no capacity to know truth “directly,” as you claim, but are able to move in the direction of truth only by means of the intellect.

Neri: All of mathematics and logic is derived from first principles which are realized intuitively and are thus “known directly.” It must follow, therefore, that the first step in what you have called the intellectual journey does not arise from logical necessity. The logical process is itself rooted in direct knowledge.

Gold: The notion of a priori knowledge is unnecessary. The fundamentals of the human thought process are valid not because they are based on logic, or even divine infusion, but rather because they are rooted in experience—in hard lessons remembered from our free interactions with the real world. Experience has not taught us that the world is controlled by a conscious deity. Such an idea seems to be based more on superstition than on remembered interactions with observed phenomena.

Story: Our basic thought processes, though they seem at first to present a cold and indifferent reality, do, nonetheless, provide the building blocks of reason, with which we can erect the edifice of ultimate reality. This is a construction, not of experience alone, but rather of logic built upon a foundation of simple intuitive truths.

Neri: If beauty is the perfection of perfections and God is beauty itself, then God is the best of all possible beings. The very fact that we are able to conceive of such a being, means that God cannot exist only in the mind; for if that were so, then a more perfect being could exist outside of the mind. This conclusion, however, posits a being more perfect than a perfect being, and this is a contradiction. Therefore, a perfect being cannot exist only in the mind but must actually exist in itself.

Gold: The ontological proof of God’s existence ultimately fails, because it equates perfection with reality simply because perfection is conceivable. This betrays the fundamental prejudice of all Idealists, namely, that our ability to conceive of perfections somehow gives them concrete reality. Unless a so-called perfection can be established a posteriori, we are not justified in concluding that it exists. Simply conceiving of something in a way that disallows a contradictory notion, does not make it objectively real. Reality is found in actual experiences—in our observations of, and interactions with, the real world—not in daydreams.

Bauer: A being more perfect than a perfect being cannot exist, simply because this is a contradiction in terms. Logic itself forbids it. Therefore, empirical proof of its non-existence is not necessary. On the other hand, it is possible that a perfect being exists. However, because something can be, does not necessarily mean that it actually is. For this, proof is required. Absent convincing evidence, we cannot conclude that something that can possibly exist, does in fact exist.

Neri: Careful reflection will reveal that if we conceive of an absolutely perfect being, we are necessarily conceiving of something that exists. A being would not be absolutely perfect if it did not exist. Therefore, it is a logical contradiction to say that an absolutely perfect being exists only in the mind.

Gold: Power, expanse, virtue, beauty and the like, are qualities that can exist in varying degrees. However, there are no degrees of existence. A thing either exists or it does not. Qualities cannot exist in a vacuum; they must attach to an existent substrate. To put it another way, a quality can only subsist in a thing that exists; it cannot exist in itself. Therefore, that which does not exist possesses no qualities at all.
When we postulate a thing that has qualities of any kind, we are presuming that it exists. However, the mere presumption cannot make it real. For example, if one were to imagine the most-imperfect-being-possible, one would not be presuming that it does not exist. It would be incorrect to assert that the mere concept of an existing being necessarily means that it is not the most imperfect. If the most-imperfect-being-possible did not exist, it could have no qualities at all, not even complete imperfection. Therefore, postulating a totally imperfect being does not necessitate its non-existence, any more than postulating a totally perfect being necessitates its existence. Both only presume existence, in the sense that a being having any quality, whatever the degree, must first exist. It is not only the concept of a perfect being that presumes existence. The concept of any being presumes it, as well.
If one claims that a mere presumption necessitates existence, one is really saying that the mind can summon existence out of thin air, that speculation alone can generate concrete reality; and this, of course, is a statement of the absurd.

Neri: However, if God is the most perfect being possible, He must exist in Himself, and must therefore be uncaused and unique. He must be unbounded and timeless, as well, and must include within Him the perfections of all attributes, infinitely and eternally. What I call Beauty is the manifestation of those infinite perfections—the essence of the divine.

Story: That necessarily means that God is all that is, does it not?

Bauer: Obviously, if one believes, from the start, that an absolutely perfect being exists, his conception of it will be self serving. If, on the other hand, one “assumes arguendo,” as the lawyers say, that there is such a being, one would expect to find some indisputable manifestation of its existence.

Neri: Lawyers will never solve the mystery of God.

Gold: At last, something on which we can all agree!

[The others nod, laughing.]

2. The Meaning of Evil

Neri: If there is no God to determine what is good, how can we call anything evil?

Bauer: There is an odd feature of human nature, which is purely a matter of evolution. I refer to the instinct of the “us” and the “them.” In this respect, we are like our cousins in the animal kingdom, the great apes. The behavior of chimpanzees is particularly instructive. They dwell in social groups ruled by a dominant male. Within their society, they are quite kind and considerate. If a baby’s mother dies, other adults may adopt the child and care for it as their own. Chimpanzees spend hours carefully grooming one another. They comfort the sick and mourn profusely if one in their community dies. In other words, they show love to “us.”
However, if a foreign chimp trespasses in their terrain, he is very cruelly attacked, beaten and mauled. Apparently, in the estimation of the group, strangers are not entitled to love; for they are not “us” but “them,” who deserve only hatred and cruelty. Marauding bands of male chimps have even been known to attack, maim and kill outsiders.

Neri: Do you really think that humans are quite like chimpanzees?

Bauer: We must view ourselves in the context of animal behavior, to understand our natural inclinations. Love was naturally selected because it enhanced our prospects for survival. It inspired mothers to nurture the young and fathers to protect them. It created the family and motivated all to live in peace for the common good. It remains the glue that binds society.
Yet evolution has inclined people to give love freely only to “us.” How this is understood varies. It may be the nation, the tribe, the family, a social class or even a street gang. It may be based upon culture, race, religion or politics. To the criminal, there is no “us,” and all the world is inhabited by “them.”
In the Second World War, we so thoroughly “them’d” the Japanese, that any form of cruelty was acceptable, including the incineration of hundreds of thousands of women and children. Indeed, war is an expression of this behavior and, sadly, remains a natural condition of mankind.

Gold: Chimpanzees live in male-dominated societies. The aggressive and murderous behavior you have described is essentially masculine. The bonobos, on the other hand, live in female-oriented communities where harmony prevails. Empathy and affection are the currency of bonobo society.

Neri: More like lust, I would say. The female bonobo does not come into heat at any particular time but remains wildly promiscuous throughout the year. Her “affections” are not limited to the opposite sex or even to adults. Not only does she have frequent sexual contacts with other females but also with young children. Of course, males do the same, but the females are, as you say, the dominant influence. Essentially, in bonobo society, sexual intercourse is employed in problem solving. Social conflict is placated by means of sexual gratification.
At the risk of sounding like a male chauvinist, I will say that this approach is recognizably feminine. To a lesser extent, we see similar behavior in the chimpanzees. The female chimp will use her sexual allure to obtain food and other favors from uncooperative males. As we know, this type of behavior is not unknown in the human female.

Gold: Without delving into the origins of your misogyny, I will take it that you do not subscribe to the adage, “make love, not war.”

Neri: What I am saying is this: we cannot rely upon a study of monkeys to explain our sense of right and wrong. We simply know evil when we see it. It is a priori knowledge, coming directly from God. It cannot be explained in any other way.

Gold: What could be more fundamental than the idea that an intentional killing, not in self defense, is evil; yet we know that, in time of war, unarmed civilians, including innocent children, are routinely slaughtered without the slightest regret. In ancient times, the Romans delighted in watching people kill each other. Apparently, they believed their need for entertainment justified this shameful practice. The ancient Incas sanctified murder as a form of religious worship. Princes of old, without remorse, used murder as a tool to advance their ambitions, even as male chimpanzees use brutality and murder to achieve a position of dominance.

Bauer: Hate is a product of evolution, and so is love. Aggression and brutality--although they certainly do occur within a society--are primarily extrasocial. On the other hand, love is essentially intrasocial.

Gold: Does this mean that any atrocity is permissible in war?

Bauer: It means that morality does not exist in the context of war. History makes this unpleasant fact abundantly clear. We cannot achieve the moral ideal unless all peoples are considered “us.” This requires general acceptance of the notion of a single community of all mankind.

Gold: Realistically, what are the prospects of achieving such a goal?

Bauer: It can never be fully realized, yet a good man or woman strives to achieve it.

Story: The behavior of chimpanzees is determined by instinct. Are you saying the same is true of humans?

Bauer: We are subject to instincts and natural inclinations, the same as the lower animals. The difference is, we may rise above them by acts of the will,

Gold: What about the Freudian notion that we are driven by unconscious forces?

Story: It is not possible to speak of morality in the absence of free will.

Neri: If hate is a product of evolution, it must stand on the same footing as love. Why, then, should we be concerned about war, brutality, social injustice, racism and the like—if they were naturally selected, the same as love?

Bauer: All products of evolution are not of equal value. Human nature contains anomalies that do not necessarily benefit our species. The fact that they are natural does not mean that they are good. For example, the urge to kill does not benefit mankind when humans are the victims.

Gold: Even if all peoples were united into a single “us,” the question would still remain, “how do we distinguish right from wrong?”

Bauer: The right is that which provides peace, security, sustenance and personal satisfaction to the greatest number. That which fails to provide these things, or actively opposes them, is wrong. This necessarily means that no one person is worth more than any other. These principles are the bedrock of democracy and socialism.

Gold: Slavery in America provided the advantages you describe, since the slaves (being black Africans) were a minority of the population and their forced labors provided a benefit to the majority. Until fairly recent times, any vote of the American population would have yielded a majority in favor of the oppression and enslavement of the Blacks. Nonetheless, slavery is wrong. It is a monstrous violation of human rights, which has understandably disgraced America in the eyes of the civilized world.
When we say that a man’s rights have been violated, we are saying that he has been treated unjustly. Where is justice in the Utilitarian equation? What about oppression by the majority? Ironically, the United States has redeemed itself precisely by not giving free reign to democracy. The mission of the U.S. Supreme Court, for example, has been to serve justice, regardless of either the majority will or what you have called “the general welfare”.

Neri: I would add that all people are not equally deserving. A peaceful, law-abiding citizen deserves more than a thief or murderer. If, for example, there were an island populated overwhelmingly by robbers and brigands, they would all together be worth less than the decent few.

Gold: Criminals, however despicable, are entitled to equal justice under law.

Neri: That begs the question. We do not know that a person is a criminal until he has been given equal justice in making that determination. However, once such a judgment has been fairly rendered, a criminal is determined to be less worthy (and, therefore, worth less) than a law-abiding citizen.

Bauer: The freedom to openly express one’s views is essential to any good and just society. Natural selection alone would render us rude and demonic savages. It is through social conflict and, more importantly, through the clash of opposing ideas that humanity advances in the direction of justice.Some suppose that the “groundlings” should be permitted to vent their folly only to guarantee that the all- knowing may continue to pronounce immutable truths. The reality is, we are all ignorant, more or less. Humanity depends upon the contest of ideas to enlarge its understanding of the world.

Neri: If you maintain that justice evolves through the clash of ideas, is it plausible to argue that the mind itself arose by chance?

Bauer: We do not have minds. The brain is the source of our consciousness. We were naturally selected, in all our capabilities, the same as other animals.

Story: From my own experience as a physician, I can assure you that we are justified in concluding that the brain generates thought and consciousness. How it can yield these insubstantial products, is hard to understand, yet we know it happens.

Neri: Did the brain come into being through evolution?

Bauer: To the extent that anything “comes into being,” yes.

Neri: Am I to conclude that one’s sense of right and wrong is a product of evolution, since it emanates from the brain?

Bauer: To a degree, yes.

Neri: Does it make sense to say that good, evil and the judgment that good is preferable are all products of evolution?

Bauer: In human experience, good and evil are never absolute. Actions that our grandfathers may have considered evil, may now be taken as morally indifferent or even good. Two opposing views on any moral point can, by a dialectic process, produce a third which distills the merit in both and yields moral truth superior to that in either. Thus, morality is continuously unfolding toward a perfect good that, unfortunately, will never be fully realized.

Gold: What about taking the merit out of four positions and chucking the rest?

Story: I suppose that is why we are here.

Neri: I maintain that justice is meaningless without an absolute being who is the very soul of justice. Good and evil can never be reconciled. The sense of justice cannot arise in a material object like the brain, simply because right and wrong are not physical properties.

3. The World Line

Neri: Is it not true that our minds (or “brains,” if you insist) present us with a world teeming with creation?

Bauer: Creation has nothing to do with the world.

Neri: Natural processes occur in time, do they not?

Gold: I suppose we may take that as a statement of the obvious.

Neri: I mean, is it not a natural law that physical systems degrade through time from ordered to disordered states?

Bauer: If you refer to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, this does hold true for isolated systems, but only if one accepts that time is unique.

Neri: Spontaneous natural progressions from disordered to ordered states are exceedingly improbable, are they not?

Gold: It depends on one’s definition of order.

Neri: Because evolution is temporal movement in the direction of greater self-organization and diversity, does it not violate this law?

Was not the music itself a violation,
like our growth autonomous
in the womb?
All the works of man are infractions.
We tread the road of dissolution,
but, while we thrive, we are pressed
in the everlasting mold.
We are the song of the world!

Story: According to the current view, nature seeks out opportunities to self-organize, because such highly potentialized episodes maximize the eventual rate of entropy. Thus, entropy is not seen as a rectilinear “arrow of time,” nor is time considered to be running backwards during such episodes. Entropy does not determine the flow of time but is itself bound by time, which maintains its unidirectionality without the help of the Second Law. This view, however, does not explain why the world should so vigorously seek dissolution and disintegration by the quickest means.

Gold: If entropy marks the direction of time, as I believe it must, then time will be oscillating and not rectilinear.

Bauer: More significantly, if time can extend in either direction, it is indistinguishable from distance.

Story; Time does not run backwards during episodes of self-organization. Quite the contrary, the unidirectionality of Happening is not in the least affected by entropy.

Neri: I see it this way.
The present is the ever-moving demarcation between the potential and the actual. Although points of time cannot be perfectly determined, there is only one now, in the sense that actual successions of events are irreversible. When a particular actuality first emerges in the stream of time, it is the immutable now, whether sooner or later perceived. In this sense, time is absolute. Everything that can happen does not always happen. The nows form paths of actuality through an immense range of possibilities. These paths constitute material reality.
The future may be predicted with certainty only when a very simple set of circumstances allows a single result. Classical mechanics can predict the motion of a particle of mass in a gravitational field, yet it is unable to predict human behavior or the weather. Such things are complex and allow a broad range of possibilities. Within this range, lies a hierarchy of probabilities. Although we cannot determine with certainty what the future holds, we can say that some events are more likely than others. Of course, once we know what has happened, it seems the inevitable result of a compelling cause; for causation can seem always positive only when viewed in retrospect.
We need to ask: when there is a wide range of possibilities, why does the now take a particular course? To put it another way, is there a source of happening?
In the progress of time, dissolution and chaos are far more probable than self organization. For example, if we cause an explosion in a brickyard, we should not expect the bricks to fall together to form a house. Yet, strictly speaking, this is not impossible, for given enough time and explosions, a house could emerge. However, the period of time necessary to do this would be beyond comprehension.
Therefore, if happening is undirected, we should expect to find a thoroughly disorganized reality. Yet we see exactly the opposite. It is extremely improbable that this world could have come into existence, had the now taken a random path.

Gold: What is order? Is it any more than beauty and any less subjective? Why should the particular assemblage of brick and timber we call a house, be superior to any other arrangement of these materials? There is no objective principle that renders the house-form superior. It is only the human appraisal that makes it so.

Neri: A house exemplifies the geometric principles that give it its special character, and which result from an idea of what a house ought to be. In other words, it reveals a conscious plan. The house is like the world, which also reveals the work of a conscious mind.

Gold: Dimensions and shapes are psychological artifacts having no existence independent of human consciousness—whether our thoughts impress them on a house or on the whole world.

Bauer: I would say that mathematical relationships have a more concrete reality than their physical expressions. Reality is quite literally mathematical.

Story: We can at least say that the universe is remarkably elegant.

Neri: Why has reality taken the improbable course that it has? Humans can direct the succession of events into the domain of the improbable, the world of order and beauty. This is creativity. Although some would dismiss us as insignificant, this power is quite special. We create because we are conscious and freely acting. We can steer the now.
If the steering of the now has occurred on a grand scale throughout the universe, does it not follow that an all-powerful consciousness has been continuously engaged in the work of creation?

Bauer: What you say does not prove the existence of God. Facts can only be established by convincing evidence. The existence of a divine being has not been shown in this way and is therefore insupportable.

Gold: Logic may permit a belief in God but does not compel it. If such a belief is not necessary, it is not justified.

Neri: Natural selection sought to explain evolutionary self-ordering as a mindless process, yet it never explained how dead substance could spontaneously transform itself into sentient, self-aware beings, or even, for that matter, how a single cell could flower into Charles Darwin.
Now we are told that the whole world exploded from a single geometric point. Because this “singularity” had no extension or duration, we are expected to believe that the whole of reality quite suddenly came into being, for no reason at all, out of nowhere and nothing, and outside of time. If this is not creation, what is? Surely, this violates both the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics.
It gets better still. Having had no reason to exist in the first place, this exploding material—rather than dissipating infinitely (or, at least, indefinitely) as one would expect—began (again for no apparent reason) spontaneously to arrange itself into galaxies, stars and planets, all dancing to the “music of the spheres.” Even this was not enough. On at least one of these planets (and probably millions more), the stuff of reality proceeded to fashion itself into living beings capable of reproduction, then into sentient forms of these beings and finally, into self-aware, rational creatures, such as those engaged in the present discussion. If the world did all this simply to hurry its own demise, why did it bother to create itself in the first place?

Bauer: Your analysis is inconsistent with scientific principles. According to General Relativity, time is equivalent to distance, as gravitational mass is equivalent to inertial mass. So-called events exist in a four dimensional continuum wherein time is just another direction. In a gravitational field, the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line. This necessitates the formulation of a complex geometric manifold, involving a kind of four-dimensional coordinate system which describes the structural quality of the gravitational field. The “world line” of a material point is nothing more than its delineation by intersections with the geometric points determined by the four coordinates. This expresses Happening as curved lines. When used as a reference-body, such a system provides general equivalence, regardless of the apparent state of motion of any place of observation relative to observed phenomena. What we consider Happening, therefore, is fundamentally static.

Story: Time is necessary for motion, and motion is essentially equivalent to energy. Do you really think that Einstein, as a physicist, was denying the existence of energy?

Bauer: He was concerned with discovering truth.

Gold: Let us start at the beginning. Does now have any duration?

Story: According to Euclid, a point has no expanse. If now is a point in time, its duration should be zero.

Bauer: How then can time advance in increments of naught?

Story: Time, like space, does not consist of parts.
Time and space are not separate entities but rather conditions of reality. Space would not exist if there were nothing to measure, and if nothing existed, nothing could happen. Time does not advance in increments of anything. It is a fundamental condition that we deduce from motion and change. That is why, strictly speaking, we cannot add up the nows to produce the history of happening. Time lies in the continuous unfolding of the interrelations and interactions of the whole of reality.

Gold: Time does not “lie in” those interrelations and interactions. It is equivalent to them, for in all happening, time dominates distance. The fallacy of Zeno’s Paradox, for example, is that it conspires to have distance dictate time. What I mean is this: if the distance x is the lead that Achilles gives the tortoise and Achilles is traveling at the speed of x per minute and the tortoise at the speed of ½x per minute, Achilles will never overtake the tortoise, so long as no second whole multiple of the arbitrary time unit (minute) is allowed to elapse—that is, if the second minute from the start never arrives. For, if a second minute actually elapses (as it always does) Achilles and the tortoise will then be side by side; and, consequently, at any time thereafter, Achilles will be in the lead. The paradox presumes to subjugate time to distance, when, in fact, the reverse is the case.
Any arbitrary unit applied to the flow of time (such as a minute) can only be meaningful if it is viewed as propagating itself incessantly. Points of time are equally arbitrary, not only because they define all temporal units, but also, more importantly, because there really are no unique locations in the temporal flux. That is why we cannot alter the progress of time, in a concrete sense, by devising a scenario that requires that time approach as a limit some future instant (such as “two minutes from the start”); for such a thing is no more than an intellectual parlor trick.

Bauer: Zeno would have agreed with you, since he believed in a continuous and unchanging reality. He sought to reduce to absurdity classical pluralism, which held that any distance is infinitely divisible. If one takes the position that space/time cannot be reduced beyond a certain interval, all of his arguments are answerable. On the other hand, if one concedes at the outset that motion is not real, Zeno would have no objections at all.

Story: Respectfully, you forget Zeno’s fourth argument.
As you will recall, it involved a situation where two objects, A and B, moving directly towards each other, are proceeding at the same speed relative to a third object, C. Zeno argued that, in such case, we are forced to draw the absurd conclusion that A and B cover any distance between them in half the time they traverse the same distance relative to C. In more recent times science has given us the Theorem of the Addition of Velocities, which holds, on the contrary, that, for any given time period, A and B move twice the distance relative to each other than they do relative to C. This, as Sarah says, gives deference to time.
However, if we place the objects in empty space and substitute a beam of light for either the object A, or the object B, the theorem is no longer valid. In such case, A and B travel at the same speed relative to each other as they do relative to C. That is, an addition of velocities simply does not occur. This is known as the constancy of the speed of light.
If space and time consist of rigid, irreducible units, as you maintain, this should not occur. Einstein confronted this problem in his Special Theory of Relativity and concluded that spatiotemporal units must have a certain elasticity to account for differing states of motion. Special Relativity involves only places of observation moving in a straight line and at constant speed relative to each other (inertial systems) and incorporates the speed of light in a mathematical transformation which provides metrical equivalence for all phenomena as gauged from such locations.

Bauer: However, in that transformation, the coordinate interval, which is indispensable to providing such equivalence, is invariant.

Story: This does not hold true for General Relativity, which embraces vantage points within gravitational fields. There, the interval is covariant with continuous transformations of the co-ordinates. The fact remains that, in both theories, units of time and distance do not appear the same to all observers but rather stretch and contract in obedience to motion, which, however relative, must be quite real. In no case does relativity theory permit fixed, irreducible space/time units, as you contend.

Bauer; However, the Gaussian co-ordinate system employed in General Relativity is valid only so long as very small regions of the gravitational field are viewed as Euclidean. This means that the field cannot be continuous, since it is an accumulation of minute rectilinear intervals. Therefore, reality, though it may be unified and contiguous, is fundamentally discontinuous.

Story: That co-ordinate system, like any measuring device, is only a discontinuous artifact set against a continuous reality. The gravitational interval is nonetheless variable and not static.

Bauer: All values of that interval (which, I maintain, are not infinite in number) along with the events they are used to gauge, exist in separate instances of space/time. The mind takes these separate instances and, like a movie camera, makes them appear continuous and unified. In reality, we do not have a single changing interval marking a changing reality but rather a great number of unchanging intervals marking a great number of unchanging “events.” Each of these is irreducible, and all of them together form a kind of mosaic, which is the real world.

Neri: I would put it differently. Any given duration or extension is a unified whole (gestalt interval). This means that it cannot be concretely realized by a process of accretion; since, as you have said, [nodding to Story] it does not consist of parts. Yet any interval can be conceptually divided or multiplied. This is the idea of number, which is the basis of all mathematical thinking. Mathematics, therefore, is a thing of the mind, but the interval is a thing of the world.

Story: However, if the world is spatiotemporal, it must itself be a gestalt interval and thus divisible only conceptually and not concretely. Therefore, any interval less than the whole world is purely conceptual.

Gold: This must mean that objective reality is utterly featureless.

Story: Because the world is unique and indivisible does not necessarily mean that it is totally undifferentiated.

Bauer: How do you account for speed?

Story: Any given speed may be regarded as a gestalt, but only conceptually. The world seamlessly incorporates all speed, motion and happening.

Bauer: Does the same apply to acceleration?

Story: Of course.

Bauer: But General Relativity equates acceleration with gravitation, thereby taking all the motion out of acceleration.

Story: Acceleration implies motion relative to space itself. However, this is unsatisfactory, because it elevates space to the status of a concrete reality. Einstein resolved this by elevating the field to that status.

Bauer: Are gravitational fields concrete realities?

Story: Yes, but they are not gestalts. The only gestalt field is the world itself.

Bauer: Is it not a contradiction to argue that motion is continuous when speed can only be comprehended discontinuously?

Story: There can be no perfect speed, simply because segments of time and distance cannot be perfectly determined. This suggests that discontinuity is not real.

Bauer: On the contrary, it suggests that spatial discontinuity is the only reality.

Story: I maintain that mathematical systems, wherein time is equated with distance, are purely conceptual. They employ coordinate systems which are applied to the continuity of happening by calculating it in “freeze frames” (points of space/time). These cannot be physically assembled to produce the stream of happening but can only represent it graphically. By this method, time may be equated with distance only if one imagines that time stands still at these locations. Time is essential to motion, and all motion is both spatial and temporal.

Gold: However, according to General Relativity, even an object we may consider “at rest,” is actually moving relative to the four-dimensional reference body.

Story: You mean it moves solely in the direction, time, in coincidence with that coordinate in the reference body?

Gold: Yes.

Story: Ordinarily, motion means covering distance in time. Since, in this reference body, time is equated with distance, what is the meaning of such movement? Distance is being covered in what? Apparently, the motion of which you speak is of an unusual sort, to say the least.

Gold: Time moves of itself. That is what makes it time. Since time is dominant, all things are compelled to move in the direction of time. In this motion, the Gaussian time co-ordinate is really Cartesian—that is, in General Relativity purely temporal motion is rectilinear. However, the Principle of Maximum Entropy allows that time moves to and fro and not just straight ahead.

Story: If such purely temporal motion is real, does it produce kinetic energy?

Gold: Theoretically, yes.

Story: How does it manifest itself?

Gold: It cannot be realized unless force is exerted against the course of time; and this is not possible.

Story: Why not?

Gold: It appears that we cannot hinder the “march of time.”

Story: Yet “marching” can be halted completely as to the other three coordinates?

Gold: Yes.

Story: Why?

Gold: It appears to be a condition of reality

Story: Can a material particle move relative to any of the other three coordinates without moving relative to the time coordinate?

Gold: No.

Story: Yet, the reverse is allowed?

Gold: Yes.

Story: Does this not suggest that motion solely along the time coordinate is imaginary and that actual motion is both spatial and temporal, with time as an absolutely necessary ingredient?

Gold: Pure duration is real. Our deepest intuition is that of temporal flux. Indeed, this may be the very foundation of reality.

Bauer: Time, as we understand it, does not exist. What we call time is just another spatial dimension. As a consequence, motion, of any sort, is imaginary.

Story: If time is only spatial, why do we not perceive it that way?

Bauer: Sensations are not reliable gauges of reality. Things do not happen. They simply are. Reality is fundamentally numeric. It consists of irreducible quantities.

Story: You equate time with the clock and space with the yardstick. Seconds and inches are only conceptual overlays applied to the stream of happening. The same may be said of coordinate systems—Cartesian or Gaussian. The graph cannot be the world, for the world is a seamless flux.

Bauer: On the contrary, reality consists of irreducible expanses in four dimensions. The sum of these is all that is.

Story: If such quantities existed, they would indeed be signposts against which the dynamics of mass/energy could be perfectly judged. However, they would not be the whole of reality.

Bauer: What you call “dynamics” is not real. The constituent world units are material arrangements and not purely metrical. Each is unique.

Story: If the units differ, the differences must, to some extent, be spatiotemporal. This can only mean that they are reducible.

Bauer: They are not concretely reducible but only conceptually so, in the way you have already described.

Story: In that case, each unit would be a microcosm of the world, and the fundamental problem would only be postponed by a process of miniaturization.

Gold: More significantly, your view excludes energy.

Bauer: Energy is a psychological phantom.

Gold: Tell that to the residents of Hiroshima.

Story: Indeed, you render meaningless the “incinerations’ you complained of earlier.

Bauer: Perhaps, but only in an absolute sense, never in a moral sense.

Gold: But how can that which never actually happens have consequences of any sort, moral or otherwise?

Bauer: I believe that what I have already said on the subject will stand close scrutiny. I will have more to say about it later.

Story: You give great deference to the equations of General Relativity, but are they not only tools of thought? A mathematical construct does not have a concrete existence simply because it resolves a perplexing problem. You cannot turn Pinocchio into a real boy.

Bauer: Both Pinocchio and what you call “a real boy” are only real to the extent that they reflect the unchanging principles of nature. These are the only concrete realities. All else is illusory—a dream fashioned by the senses.

Gold: I take issue with your disdain of the senses. To say they do not provide the fullness of reality, misunderstands the nature of perception, which must be viewed in conjunction with locomotion and memory.
Awareness is not immanent to the brain. No matter how well-formed and normally functioning, the brain cannot become aware of its own existence without a memory of external stimulations. Consciousness cannot result unless--through a freely moving body providing continuous sensations--the brain interacts with those aspects of the real world which can affect its survival and well-being. Further, the brain must remember these experiences, for consciousness is nothing more than the accumulated memory of these interactions. This is the unifying principle; for, without memory, there could be no sense of self. If the brain were not affected by something real outside of it, it would never become conscious in the first place. If the brain could create its own world, it would not make one in which its very survival depended on the correctness of its decisions. We know that wrong decisions can result in death; and who would say that death is illusory?
While it is true that the senses do provide such information as is necessary for survival, the brain—once rendered conscious by its experiences—gains vast powers of analysis, enabling it to understand more deeply what it perceives. For example, we now know that sound is nothing more than atmospheric waves and that light, which gives us vision, actually consists of electromagnetic waves of certain frequencies. However, light and sound are real, regardless of how they are understood. The brain cannot conceive of things in themselves. It needs a comprehensible format. Sensations are the forms provided by nature. They are unique. How can we explain to one who has never seen, what it means to see—or to one who has never heard, what it means to hear? These things can only be experienced.
Our quest to understand what lies behind our perceptions likewise requires a meaningful structure. Mathematics falls into this category. In all, we understand only aspects of reality, because to the brain, reality can consist only of aspects. From the human perspective, there can be no such thing as absolute reality. Although an objective world exists, the brain cannot comprehend it in a vacuum but needs sensations and psychological constructs to give it meaning.

Neri: How then can we know the true form of reality?

Gold: Reality does not consist of forms. They are inventions of the brain. Yet the world itself is not undifferentiated. It consists of events in time, which may be understood in different ways. Light actually falls on the earth at dawn, whether it is appreciated as sight, or understood as a waveform or a stream of particles.
The brain orders its perceptions so that one is understood as occurring before or after another. This, however, is real. Temporal ordering provides something necessary for survival, namely, predictability. This is the brain’s reality test, and it is a good one. It finds its way into every human endeavor, including science, and gives rise to the concept of natural laws. Predictability, of course, refers to things that have not yet happened but, it seems, will happen, given certain conditions. If all things have already happened---in the sense that the present cannot be distinguished from the past or future—predictability would have no meaning. Yet this is not the same as necessity, for causation is nothing more than a remembered association of events. The same applies to natural laws, which are only mathematical delineations of conditions attending certain phenomena. For example, Newton did not explain how gravity is able to act at a distance. He provided equations for predicting the motion of bodies under its influence. Einstein concluded that mass alters the geometry of space/time, producing a gravitational field, so that events predicted by his equations are the only ones allowed by the field. However, Einstein did not explain how mass generates the field. Neither of these great men really explained what gravity is; yet, we are justified in concluding that it is real, regardless of the form it may take in our consciousness.

Story: I quite agree with your appraisal and would add that “causal relationships” should not be regarded as positive, for we cannot be certain that a temporal contiguity involving only two events must mean that one necessitates the other. Yet we are justified in presuming such necessity, so long as that unique connection persists through time. However, this is always provisional. We cannot insist that reality is bound by laws, because nature can be quite innovative.
On the other hand, beyond the scope of observed phenomena, lies the realm of pure reason. This embraces ideas that do not require experimental confirmation, simply because they are compelled by logic—that is, their denial results in contradictions in the reasoning process itself.

Neri: Respectfully, this discourse has not addressed the issue at hand. Of course, if we can stomach the conclusion that nothing has really happened in the world--including the Big Bang and everything that seems to have followed—there is no issue. However, if one accepts that time is real, then one has Happening to contend with. The questions remain: Why did the world bother to create itself? What is the source of happening? We cannot erase purpose from the world, however hard we try. Science tells us this every day.
Quantum Theory has revealed something quite extraordinary. Not only is the world uniquely accessible to conscious observation but also, as Quantum language would put it: “observations collapse wave functions, which can only be uncollapsed by observation.” This means that consciousness is required to make things happen, for a decision to behold is a decision to create. This is the Anthropic Principle. In other words, the will is the source of happening. Therefore, temporal unfolding is the result of conscious decision. The Anthropic Principle disallows the very positivism which has, thus far, been the hallmark of science. Further, it cannot be that humans are the only conscious observers, because the very creation of our kind through evolution depended itself on the collapse of a series of wave functions. As a consequence, the existence of the human race must be the result of an extra-human will.

Bauer: You neglect to mention the most important principles of Quantum Theory. If, on the subatomic level, Happening (Energy) is real, it is not continuous but instead consists of separate bursts or leaps. These are the quanta. Since the world is nothing more than an accumulation of subatomic particles, all Happening (whether labeled Motion, Change, Evolution, Action, Interaction, or any other such thing) is not perfectly smooth but consists of little jumps, like the frames of a motion picture. This bespeaks the fundamental discontinuity of the world. Even more significantly, for every subatomic particle, there exists a corresponding antiparticle. When the two meet, they annihilate each other. This “annihilation,” however, is really a kind of transformation. In mechanistic terms, it may be viewed as “matter exploding into pure energy,” or, more simply, as energy of one sort being transformed into energy of another sort. The most cogent and plausible way of viewing antiparticles mechanistically is to consider them energetic entities whose motion is backwards in time. The energetic condition of their union is the Now. However, the notion of moving backwards in time takes all meaning out of the idea of motion, since it erases the uniqueness of time. That is, if time can be extended in two directions, it cannot be distinguished from distance; and, if this is so, all happening is only a fiction.

Neri: However, if this were so, the energy of the matter/antimatter combination (the now) should be nil; and this is hardly the case. It would be like two men pulling with equal force on opposite ends of a rope. Each man could be viewed as producing negative energy equal to the energy produced by the other. The net result would be no motion and therefore no actual energy, since the energy of both men would be completely potentialized.

Gold: Scientific theories concern themselves with observable phenomena, not pure logic. By that standard, both the Relativity and Quantum Theories are valid only so long as they are corroborated experimentally. Indeed, these theories are mutually contradictory and logically irreconcilable. Further discoveries may well prove that both are wrong. I am sure that you recognize, Karl, that physics has advanced the notion that subatomic particles can also have the properties of waves. From this, one may conclude that a physical entity can be, at the same time, both continuous and discontinuous. Since this is quite illogical, it must be that our understanding of subatomic happening is fundamentally defective.
There is an odd feature of science that is deeply perplexing. Physics has given us mathematical formulas that not only possess internal logical consistency but also, more importantly, are able to predict with great precision observable phenomena in nature. Surprisingly, however, these formulas are, more often than not, based upon assumptions that seem patently absurd. Newton’s gravitational equations, for example, are truly brilliant. They are used to this day in space exploration to determine the trajectory and orbits of space vehicles—the equations of General Relativity being far too cumbersome for this purpose. Yet, these formulas are based upon the apparently preposterous notion that ponderable bodies in open space can exert force upon each other, at a distance—that is, with absolutely nothing intervening between them. It seems that Newton himself was well aware that this idea was problematic, although it did not appear to trouble him greatly. He maintained, with complete justification, that his formulas had to be tapping into some aspect of reality, else they would not work so beautifully.
Some, including Einstein himself, have taken the position that General Relativity eliminates this problem by introducing the idea an intervening medium—namely, the gravitational field. In reality, however, this only substitutes one absurdity for another. The field, as so conceived, has no material existence, as such, but is instead a purely geometric condition of empty space. Can we have shape without substance? Can bodies in empty space somehow change the geometry of space itself? This raises an obvious question--what is space? If everything that exists is erased, only empty space would remain, simply because empty space is itself nothing at all. In other words “space” and “nothing” are one and the same. Shape (Geometry) is a quality. As I said before, a quality can only subsist in an existent substrate; it cannot exist in itself. The idea that one can, in a concrete sense, give shape to Nothing is really nonsense. In General Relativity, if one removes the function of the coordinates which determines the field, what remains is absolutely nothing. So that, while Newton maintained that bodies can exert force at a distance, even though nothing lies between them--Einstein insisted that bodies in open space do not exert force directly upon each other but rather “shape the nothing that lies between them” in such a way that that any given course of motion is determined by the “shaped nothing” itself. Is one point of view any less absurd than the other? I think not. Further, one can hardly imagine a more preposterous statement than, “time is equivalent to distance.” Indeed, such a declaration, if taken literally, could only mean that the world is totally unenergetic, that nothing actually happens. If nothing happens, what are Einstein’s equations trying to explain?
The bizarre notions built into Quantum Theory, particularly the Anthropic Principle and the alternative Parallel Worlds Theory, are well known to all.
Certainly, chief among all absurd scientific ideas is the so-called Big Bang Theory, which maintains that the world exploded from a geometric point. We know that the geometric point cannot possibly exist as a concrete reality, simply because, by definition, it has no expanse (in the case of space) and no duration (in the case of time). Neither can it be said, in a general sense, that the point represents a unique location, concretely real, in either time or space. This is because Happening is a flux that does not wait for geometric points. Further, the only possible sense in which a point can be determined is by locating it relative to something else. If, at the inception of the Big Bang, the universe consisted of only a single geometric point, it could not, as a consequence, possibly have any location whatsoever.
The reality is, the point exists only in the mind. This is not to deprecate the notion, for it is a tool of reasoning having enormous practical utility. However, to say that the whole of reality emerged from a geometric point (meaning that it sprang up at no particular time, out of nowhere and nothing) is to pronounce the purest rubbish.
With all this said, the question remains: If scientific formulas are based on rubbish, why do they work? This is a great mystery. It may be that in mathematics we feel pulses of a hidden reality—shadows, aspects or analogues of something otherwise totally beyond our grasp. No one really knows.

Bauer: I would add that we may exclude the possibility of the so-called Big Bang by the simplest possible logic. When we speak of the Universe or the World, we must mean the totality of existence—in other words, Everything. Therefore, to ask, as some scientists do, where the universe came from, is really to ask a meaningless question. Plainly stated, Everything itself cannot have been caused, simply because, by definition, nothing lies outside of it to cause it. The very nature of its all-inclusiveness insures that it must always have existed. Further, it must follow, that if anything at all exists, Everything must exist, since there will always be a totality of anything that exists. This may be One, Infinity or anything in between. If Everything is finite, nothing lies outside of it. If it is infinite, the very concept of Nothing is disallowed. In either case, Everything—the Universe, the World—must be uncaused and everlasting. From this it follows that anything that exists must have always existed in one form or another. If time exists, the Forms change. If time is illusory, as I maintain, the Forms really never change.

Story: What you both say has some merit; but one cannot exclude the possibility that, at some point in the evolution of science, something truly profound will be revealed. Of course, we can never know this for sure, but we cannot deny that the Anthropic Principle is deeply evocative. Indeed, its full implications have yet to be realized.
I would also add, Sarah, that your statements regarding space are not quite correct. Indeed, without the field there would be nothing at all. However, there is no space without field. Reality itself is a ubiquitous field, and there is no such thing as “empty space.” In Newtonian mechanics, acceleration was considered absolute movement—that is, movement relative to space itself. It is this view that confers objective reality to “nothing,” as you call it, for it regards empty space as a fixed frame of reference. So-called Euclidean space is really a field of a special sort. Although irreducible, the field is static only conceptually in its mathematical rendition. In reality it is continuously evolving. This means, in a concrete sense, that time cannot be equivalent to distance, for time is the unique concomitant of energy. Without time there is no energy. Without energy there is no field. Without field there is absolutely nothing.

Neri: I think it important to distinguish the philosophical from the scientific method. Philosophy has as its object the discovery of Truth as such—pure timeless Being. Science, on the other hand, limits itself to the temporal world—to happening, phenomena. Science does not even seek to probe the essences of phenomena but rather satisfies itself with a consideration of their metrical aspects. Every natural happening is thereby reduced to a mathematical problem, the solution of which is thought to be the only real statement that can be made about that phenomenon. The validity of any given solution is confirmed not by its logical probity but rather by actual observations of the results it predicts. Predictability is thus the measure of scientific truth. In science, a thing is no more than what it does. To take Sarah’s’ example, physicists do not bother to tell us what gravity is, for they believe it is defined by the way it acts. Some have said the same about us, claiming we are no more than the sum of all our deeds. Can Happening really be the same as Being? Although we may wish to reject it, our deepest instinct is that of the purity of our own being—our timeless, singular essence, our very soul. This is not to deny the reality of Happening. Indeed, our bodies are themselves a part of the temporal realm.


Can you not understand
that motion is illusory,
that nothing really happens,
that all that was or will be,
that continuity is a dream,
that all the world is
fragmented into episodes,
minute and motionless,
that there is no becoming,
nor any single enduring self,
but only innumerable
separate ones,
dwelling in the hollow stillness
of space?

Gold: It would seem to follow from your theory, that if a man stands in front of a speeding train and is run over, nothing has really happened. The exertion of force and the man’s apparent death are imaginary, for he must be alive and dead at the same time.

Story: Like Schrödinger’s cat.

Bauer: No, a very great number of men, both alive and dead, exists in separate intervals of space-time.

Gold: However, the intervals of living men must somehow be distinguished from those of dead men. All living interval-men (which seem to be the same man) should be able to communicate with each other in order to achieve the “illusion” of integrity through time. Yet, any communication would constitute a happening, and this is forbidden by the postulate. In none of the intervals could the men be conscious; because this requires thought, which is mechanistic and therefore presupposes motion and happening. A living man in a never-changing interval could not think, for every thought would be a change. He could not have but one thought—“I am”—for this could not arise in a vacuum but could only be deduced from his remembered interactions with the world. The interval-men, by definition, are not allowed interactions and are unable to observe. These require sensory and motor mechanisms. Thus, the interval-men are denied reactions, interactions, changes or movements of any sort. Without time, they could have no sense of duration. They are, therefore, denied awareness, in any sense of the word.
Ultimately, we are faced with the most fundamental problem of all: because life itself is a mechanism, all interval-men must be dead. It seems, therefore, if you assertion is true, that our hapless man before the train had nothing to fear. He was dead all along.

Bauer: All your objections will be satisfied if you realize that the psychological processes through which we attempt to understand reality, including the temporal ordering of events, are, in some fundamental way, deceiving us. I maintain that there is a more profound reality underlying what we comprehend through the brain’s filter.

Neri: I would suggest that such a view strains credulity far more than the notion of the divine, for it compels the conclusion that we are utterly incapable of knowing anything at all. More importantly, why have a conscience, if it is not within our power to make the world a better place--if all good and evil are already written in the geometry of being? Why concern ourselves with social injustice, cruelty, bigotry, oppression or hatred, if these will exist unchanged forever?

Bauer: Morality is not absolute truth, yet it is an experience shared by all mankind. It is not purely personal but has a degree of objectivity to the extent that it is shared. Even if it is not part of the real world, it is part of the world we experience as humans. Good, therefore, has meaning in social terms as behavior directed toward the general welfare. This involves rules of universal application that are not intended to profit any particular individual but rather to benefit society as a whole--that is, to provide peace, security, sustenance and personal satisfaction to the greatest number. This necessarily means that one person has no greater worth than any other.

Neri: Why do you give concrete reality to mathematics but not to beauty and goodness?

Bauer: I make a distinction between—on the one hand—indefinable psychological impressions, such as beauty, which are purely a matter of opinion, and—on the other—scientific formulations which correspond to physical phenomena in a way that is verifiable experimentally. The latter elucidate some fundamental reality. The former are imaginary. The Good, however, is not entirely a matter of opinion, for it springs from a shared human feeling of what ought to be. Although not purely real, the Good is not subject to individual whim.

Neri: Yet, even though the Good may be “partially objective” and “not subject to whim,” all good deeds and all bad, according to your view, are already written in the manifold of space/time. Indeed, “the general welfare,” or the lack thereof, must already exist in every possible context. Therefore, what is the point in striving to do good?

Bauer: It only makes sense in the world of our thoughts, yet this is the world we live in.

Neri: However, your theory forbids free will and erases accountability.

Gold: It erases more than accountability. It erases consciousness. Our free interaction with the environment generates the conscious intellect. Free will produces consciousness--not the other way around.

Story: I quite agree with Sarah. If time is imaginary, so is this discussion.

Neri: If we have free will, do we not, as a consequence, transcend natural phenomena and will we not, therefore, in some form, persist for all time?

Gold: My position on this may be stated plainly: we are complex biochemical machines, nothing more. We will decay and inevitably cease to be.

Neri: What about our immortal souls?

Bauer: The soul does not exist.

Gold: Such a concept is rooted in the supposition that thought and awareness are produced by something extra-physical. However, it is well understood that awareness may be temporarily or permanently lost by trauma to the brain. We are made unconsciousness by a blow to the head, not by an insult to the soul. Damage to particular areas of the brain results in predictable neurological deficits, including the loss of rational thought. Like any mechanism, the brain degrades with time. Our cognitive faculties decline in old age. Brain cells die and are never replaced. The physical abnormality causing Alzheimer’s disease is evident on dissection of the brain. This disorder produces loss of memory and awareness. The syphilis spirochete was not a spiritual being; yet, when it infected Nietzsche’s brain, it not only obliterated his philosophical powers but all rationality, as well. Consciousness results from purely physical interactions in the brain and has nothing to do with a mind or soul. Therefore, death is forever.

Story: Regrettably, I must agree.

Is there nothing that transcends
the world of interaction and decay?
Where is the magic,
where the beauty and mystery,
in such a forbidding place?
We reach for heaven,
longing for the divine,
because we are human.
Otherwise, we might as well
crawl the earth like slugs!

Gold: We are not diminished by our mortality. We need not be imperishable to be grand in character and achievement. Our humanity is cause for celebration, not despair.

The beating heart,
not dreams of the divine,
is the measure of our lives.
As to heaven,
we need not strain
to touch its borders.
It is here!

We sought God in space,
as He lived in our dreams.
And then, one day,
we stood in awe
before the universe,
knowing, at long last,
that we had been in heaven
all the while.

Bauer: All things are immortal. What we think of as a single entity spanning time, is, in reality, a pattern of separate entities arranged only in space. Time is but an illusion.

Gold: It is true that individual immortality would be possible only if there were no motion, change or happening—and, therefore, no time. In the final analysis, however, all reasonable persons will, I believe, concede that things do actually happen—that the world is indeed an incessant flux. All things have a beginning and an end, however continuous the transition. For example, I will tell you—since I have no self consciousness on the matter—that I was born on September 15, 1957. This fact has profound implications. It means not only that I was not, in any sense, alive until my conception about nine months earlier, but also, more importantly, that I did not, until then, exist in the preceding infinite expanse of time. I came into being because certain conditions, in the course of happening, converged to allow my existence. Therefore, my being is contingent and not absolute. An instance of sexual intercourse between my parents resulted in the implantation of one of my father’s spermatozoa in one of my mother’s eggs, and the condition of my mother’s health was such as to permit me to come to full term within her and to emerge into the world without significant injury. At that point, I was entirely helpless and depended upon others to provide sufficient nourishment, care and protection. Absent the satisfaction of any of these conditions, I would not now exist. However, my existence remains a contingency. I am an intricate mechanism. To persist, I depend upon the proper functioning of my body in all its exquisite complexity. Of course, even now, I remain dependent upon sufficient nourishment and shelter. I am also subject to physical traumas of all sorts, any one of which can, at any moment, abruptly end my existence. Further, since time is incessant and change inevitable, the conditions permitting my existence are bound to change, and I will eventually cease to be. Indeed, there is a natural impetus that guarantees my ultimate non-existence. It is entropy. The entropy of my body, like that of other closed systems, will increase with time, until the energetic condition called “life” is no longer sustainable. This will end my existence forever.

Neri: I must insist that I have demonstrated to a virtual certainty that a conscious being is responsible for the extraordinary elegance evident throughout the universe. God has directed the creative unfolding of reality through time. The beginning of the process was the beginning of time. Since the divine consciousness existed before time, It had no beginning. Nothing created the divine life and nothing can take It away. God has always existed and will exist for all time.
We are made in God’s image, in the sense that He gave us awareness, thereby bestowing upon us meager powers of creation. This, however, was sufficient to breathe into us an imperishable essence. Our souls are God’s everlasting progeny, and our bodies only the corruptible vessels that permit our brief encounter with the world.

4. A Natural God

Story: The order we see in nature is quite remarkable and does suggest the existence of something like a God. However, I do not agree that such a being must be extra-physical. We are conscious yet quite physical. Therefore, consciousness does not require spirituality. There can be a purely natural God.

Neri: What could possibly be the nature of such a god?

Story: First, we must ask: what makes a thing whole, like the earth, and why is one thing not another?

Rhythms of night and day,
of hot and cold,
of life and death:
Ponderable Earth,
mother of her teeming life,
seething, balanced
and One,
as much alive as those
she spawned in death—
sad, incalculable.
Yet, she herself must die
in utter cold,
like the sun and all the stars—
relentless turning, turning,
like her dying winds.

The whole of reality is physical. God is Nature Itself. If He were less than all things, He would surely possess unique physical qualities allowing Him to direct all happening. If such a condition actually existed, it would have been noticed by now.

Bauer: That is what I have been saying all along. There is no God.

Story: There may well be a God, although one of a most unusual sort. For, if there were but one God whose total substance constituted all of reality, He would have no location in time and space. We would not be aware of such a divine presence, for we would be like insects, absorbed in leaves and branches, yet unable to grasp the forest itself.

Neri: Do you claim that such a God is all-powerful?

Story: I spoke of a natural God. He can do almost all things, but He cannot do the impossible. He cannot make something from nothing, nor even make something from a condition without potential for change.
The age of the Natural God is the age of the universe. If the universe is immortal, so is the God. If the universe dies, the God dies with it. If dissipation through cosmic expansion, results in “heat death,” (which disallows motion and change), this will be the death of God.

Neri: If, like Sarah, you maintain that human consciousness results from remembered interactions with the outside world, how can God be conscious if nothing lies outside of Him?

Story: God is a conscious unified field who controls, at will, the Form of His being (which is the whole world). God is continuous but not uniform. His variability defines His existence at any given instant and makes him a conscious whole. God never is but always becomes. His interacting regions induce the consciousness that, in turn, alters the interactions themselves.
God’s consciousness differs from ours. He is the subject of his own thoughts. Objective thinking has no meaning for God, because nothing lies outside of Him. Our consciousness derives from our body’s free interaction with physical phenomena and is basically objective. We are also capable of introspection. In this respect, our thoughts mimic those of God.

Neri: When you refer to interacting regions inducing divine consciousness, you must be speaking of cause and effect. Since, you have already denied the positive nature of causation, how could God have become conscious in the first place?

Story: One may say that the continuity of happening (motion or change) is the essence of God’s awareness. Strictly speaking, the divine transformations do not cause God’s consciousness. They are equivalent to it.

Gold: There, you “lift yourself by your own bootstraps.” No one, not even God, can just think. Thought, by its very nature, must indicate an object. That is, one cannot think without thinking about something. For example, a person with a normally functioning brain but none of the five senses could not think, simply because she would have nothing to think about. Therefore, such a person could never become conscious of her own existence.

Story: God has something to think about--the manifold aspects of His ever-changing self.

Neri: God is perfect. Why should He change?

Story: For God, perfection is death. Change is the essence of reality, and motion (energy) is the essence of the divine. God continuously strives for perfection but never achieves it. If He did, He would die. Without the possibility for change, there would be total entropy, a condition equivalent to universal annihilation.

Neri: What is the meaning of good and evil for such a God?

Story: The Natural God is everything we call good and evil, kind and cruel, loving and hateful, beautiful and ugly. God is as much in a compassionate society as in the ferocity of war—as much in a mother’s love as in a madman’s hatred. We cannot make God an angel or a devil, for He is all that is.

I would spit in the face of such a God!
Where are goodness, love, and beauty—
the perfections we long for?
In my God, there is no evil.
In yours, good and evil stand as equals.
Your God is as much a devil.
My God is a God of the heart!

Story: You only postpone the question by insisting that God is the personification of good and the devil the personification of evil; for if God made all things and is purely good, why should He create a devil or even allow evil in a world He created?
If one maintains that good and evil are absolute, it must follow that God is decidedly malevolent. This would be so whether He made all things or is all things. If God made all things, He made all evil. If He permits mankind to act freely, the acts of man are not the acts of God. However, God would be complicitous if He permitted men to do great evil. If God permitted the Nazis to perpetrate the holocaust, for example, He should share culpability. Further, since such things as plagues, floods and earthquakes are not the work of man, they must be God’s doing. Therefore, if evil is evil, however conceived, God must be quite nasty indeed. If, however, what we believe is evil, God thinks—for reasons incomprehensible to us—is good, the matter is quite different. In that case, all things are absolutely good if God is perfect. If God is natural, He is evolving continuously in search of the perfect Good. In neither instance would God be creating or permitting what we call “evil” simply to inflict suffering on mankind.

5. The Forgotten Language

Neri: What, then, is the significance of our lives?

Story: As God Himself aspires to the perfect good, He has instilled in each of us individual aspirations directed toward self-realization. To the extent that we are true to ourselves, that we pursue our dreams, we will lead a meaningful life. The principal obstacle to this is fear.

Neri: Why should we fear self-realization?

Story: The fact that we are quite free makes us not only realize that we are responsible for our actions but also makes us fear that if we follow our dreams, we may somehow disturb the universe. Yet we only disturb God by our timidity, for if we follow our dreams, we will be in harmony with nature, and all the world will conspire with us in our quest. Our dreams may not always be realized, but our strivings will provide enlightenment and satisfaction along the way. This is the meaning of a good life. As to our responsibility to others, Shakespeare said it best: “This above all,--to thine own self be true; and it must follow, as the night the day, that thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Bauer: Such an approach does not take into account the fact that morality necessitates rules of universal application. Your view places the individual good above the general welfare. Each individual cannot carve out his own moral code. This will result in chaos. A good life is neither completely self-indulgent nor entirely self-sacrificing. A balance must be struck between the two. In the final analysis, however, some element of self-sacrifice is an essential ingredient of a good life.

Neri: Indeed, Christ sacrificed himself for all mankind.

Story: If Christ believed his destiny was to be king of the Jews and to free his people from oppression, he did not succeed. Yet in following his dream, Christ led an extraordinarily meaningful life. His journey of discovery in pursuit of his destiny has been an inspiration to millions. He did not shrink from his quest because of its perils or because it might be disruptive to those close to him. In the truest sense, therefore, Christ did not sacrifice himself but only lost his life in the course of personal fulfillment. God did not forsake him. Rather, in his steadfastness, Christ became one with God, as do all who lead a good life. Thus, there was no need for a resurrection, for the glory of Christ’s life will resonate forever in the transformations of the world and remain always in the thoughts of God.

Gold: What about Adolf Hitler’s dream?

Story: I spoke of goodness. Now I will speak of evil.
God is continuously transforming Himself in search of the perfect good. That is, He wants to make the world (Himself) better. This is the essence of goodness. A human dream is in touch with the divine, because it also seeks to make things better. It is a positive force rooted in the consciousness of God. When we pursue our dreams we are one with God.
Free will is an awesome power. It makes almost all things possible. Indeed, it transformed an obscure, uneducated workman into an absolute tyrant responsible for the slaughter of millions. It is not only the good who dare. The evil do it, as well.

Gold: Yes, but what constitutes evil?

Story: As I said, a dream seeks to improve the world. Unbridled ambition, on the other hand, seeks self-aggrandizement at any cost. It is the desire to make oneself a god. It creates a profound dissonance in the current of happening. It is at odds with the divine transformations of the world and is the essence of evil. Those possessed of such a vice separate themselves from God and seek to create worlds of their own. They cannot succeed; for, however proud, they are transitory, like all things of the world. Yet, in their time, they can do great harm. Such is the power of the will, even when used in furtherance of evil.
There are times, however, when the realization of a dream of essential purity requires the acquisition of power. But power is seductive and inflames suspicion in those who possess it; for others seek it as well, and not always with good intentions. Thus, a dream can become a nightmare. All who seek power are sorely tested, for power obscures the threshold between good and evil.

Gold: You make no clear distinction between dreams and ambitions. It cannot be seriously maintained that Christ’s admitted desire to be king of the Jews did not amount to political ambition. Certainly, the Romans, with some justification, viewed it that way. Christ was one of several Galilean revolutionaries of the period, who claimed to be the messiah. A Roman governor of Judaea, with the collaboration of the temple high priests (who were little more than Roman stooges) ordered the execution of this particular messiah. The great historic irony is that a rough approximation of Christ’s vision of Judaism, became--little more than two centuries later--the religion of the Roman Empire and was thus officially propagated throughout the known world for more than a thousand years. The Romans, in their wisdom, first executed Jesus, afterwards decided to spread his religion, and then blamed the Jews for his death—ignoring the obvious fact that Christ himself and all the early Christians were devout Jews.

Neri: Certainly, one cannot take the absurd position that all Jews are complicitous in the death of Christ, for this would mean that Christ himself is guilty of his own murder. On the other hand, it seems that many Jews have been more reluctant than Christians to accept Christ’s ethnicity. For example, neither Christ nor his family gave his name as “Jeshua ben Pantera.” Jewish orthodoxy provided this appellation after Christ’s death, in a transparent attempt to label him a half-Roman bastard.

Gold: The child of an unmarried Jewish woman was not considered illegitimate under Jewish law, especially if she had been raped or seduced.

Neri: Even so, this calumnious design to reduce Christ’s Jewishness by fifty percent bespeaks a palpable animus. Further, if what you say about gentile Christians is true, they should have welcomed the notion that Christ was half Roman.

Gold: Yes, but that would have made it difficult for them to maintain that he was divine. Although no one knows the exact details of Christ’s parentage, I frankly think it more likely that he was conceived by a Roman soldier than by a ghost.

Neri: Christ’s divinity did not erase his humanity. To the extent that he was human, he was Jewish.

Story: Elementary biological considerations dictate that Christ was no more conceived by a divine spirit than Alexander the Great was conceived by Zeus.

Bauer: Why then do you not admit that Christ was motivated by ambition?

Story: Because, by “ambition” I mean an obsession to gain power for its own sake, or to possess wealth because it provides power. By a “dream,” I mean a desire to rise to a higher level of awareness through personal fulfillment. The two are quite different. An ambitious person is fundamentally disdainful of others, because, in his mind, people have value only to the extent that he can use them. The dreamer, on the other hand, remains deeply empathetic to others, whether or not they advance his quest. That is why Christ preached love and the brotherhood of mankind, for he was a dreamer and not an ambitious man. In modern times the same empathetic outlook is found in such men as Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer and Martin Luther King. You will remember it was Dr. King who said he had a dream. Of the great philosophers, the one who epitomizes this beneficent outlook is Benedict Spinoza. He wrote: “I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.” It was no accident that Spinoza, like Christ, was a Jew.

Bauer: I would suggest that to be a good person one should ask: “How will my actions affect the general welfare if everyone did as I?” The deeds of all men and women are inextricably intertwined. Our actions are not just a matter of self-realization, because what we do inevitably affects others. Despite what you say about empathy, to give the self full autonomy in the way that you suggest, is to value it above all else. This is not to say that every situation presents a moral choice that is crystal clear, yet a good person is one who strives to do good in the universal sense. Unfortunately, in life there are broad expanses of moral obscurity.
For example, a married man who is not getting along with his wife and falls in love with another woman, has a moral choice. If he leaves his wife, she will be heartbroken, and his children will suffer because of the breakup of the family. On the other hand, if he remains with his wife, he and his lover will be miserable, and his relationship with his wife is sure to deteriorate even further. This will no doubt have a bad effect on the children, as well. Even where there is a sincere desire to do “the right thing,” some men will leave, while others will stay. There are good faith moral arguments in support of either decision.

Neri: A husband swears an oath before God to forsake all others until death. Adultery violates this oath and is, therefore, an affront to God.

Gold: I would say that all such “moral arguments” are either pretexts for yielding to passion; or the husband presumes to make his own morality, as a matter of convenience. A man is defined not by his professed motives but by his actions. He creates himself by his own choices. The same may be said of women.

Bauer: I maintain that every person has a certain responsibility to fashion his own ethical standards--but this holds true only in the domain of moral obscurity. There is, however, also a human experience of moral clarity.
Let us, for example, take the same case of the married man and his lover. This time we have a husband who resolves to leave his wife but, because he does not want to suffer financially, decides to have her killed. Obviously, by such a decision he has concluded that his wife has no value in se. He thinks only of himself. Indeed, his lover should also beware, for her safety is guaranteed only so long as he finds her useful. Such a scoundrel may, by some twisted thinking, rationalize his actions. What he does not do, however, is ask himself what the general effect would be if everyone did as he. Indeed, the answer would not suit him, for he knows that the universal effect would be disastrous. But he does not care. In fact, he cares even less about the universal good than he cares about his wife. We cannot erase the evil of such a man by saying he has created his own morality out of the chaos of the world—unless, of course we take the absurd position that only his life matters. If he does kill his wife, the law, quite properly, will impose the severest punishment; for to do otherwise would be to countenance the destruction of the social order.

Gold: The adulterer also devalues his wife. He only does so to a lesser degree than the murderer.

Story: God would not put in any man’s heart a dream of adultery or murder, for a dream is a desire to make things better and takes into account the value of others.

Bauer: What about a man whose ardent desire is to create paintings of surpassing beauty in the seclusion of an island in the West Indies. This sounds very much like a divine dream. There is only one problem. He lives far from the West Indies and has a wife and children who do not support his dream and who would be destitute if he left; for he lives in a country having no institutions of social welfare. Does this situation fall within the province of moral obscurity or moral clarity? If the man is a great artist and if one values art above all else (for example, as an expression of the divine), I suppose his wife and children will have to starve. If, however, one values human beings above wall decorations, there will be a different result; for if this one man asks what would happen if all men left their families destitute in pursuit of dreams, the answer would be obvious. Thus, dreams can be like poison.

Story: A dream is no longer a dream if it requires the destruction of innocent lives. In a sense, I agree with Sarah. Our lives are circumscribed by choices made. A real dream could not have arisen in the artist’s heart only after he married and brought children into the world. If he really possessed great talent, he must have known it when he voluntarily assumed his family obligations. At that point, he took a road from which there was no moral return and forfeited his dream. He bears as much responsibility for this, as he would if he abandoned his family. Of course, if he had no real talent to start with, his dream was merely a fancy. In that case, if he leaves his family to starve, he is not only a villain but a fool, as well.

Gold: But, how does one tell the difference between a real dream and a mere fancy?

Story: It is simply a matter of good faith, of honestly searching one’s heart.

Gold: A meaningful life does not involve incessant preoccupation with right and wrong. We may also enjoy the pleasures of life. The profound satisfaction in gaining knowledge gives significance to our lives. None of us would deny this. I would say that we may enjoy the pleasures of life and the pursuit of knowledge to the extent that we do no injustice to others.

Story: The aimless pursuit of pleasure or knowledge gives no more meaning to our lives than the aimless doing of good deeds .Certainly, if a person did nothing in his life but manage to avoid evil, no one would say that his life had significance. To be meaningful, our lives must have direction, a goal deeply felt, a dream instilled by God.

6. A Walking Shadow

Gold: If there is a God, why could She not be a disinterested one, who simply established laws of nature, then gave the world a great push, allowing things to take their own course?

Story: That only makes sense if one accepts that there really are laws of nature—that every effect has a blind cause. If Nature (God) is freely acting and creative, these “laws” ultimately are not real. God cannot stand outside the world to give it a push, simply because He is the world. If reality possesses order, it is only because God wills it in Himself.

Neri: Have you not considered that the world is the physical expression of a divine spirit that transcends it? We now know that unending cosmic expansion cannot be accounted for physically. More than sixty percent of the necessary energy is missing. What is this mysterious power and where does it come from?

Bauer: I believe that Neri refers to “dark energy.” If this is an aspect of the material universe—as I believe it must be—it could, arguably, be your Natural God. However, in that case, He would not be all things, as you claim, but only a part of the whole world.

Gold: If we describe the Big Bang and its aftermath as the force of creation, “dark energy” must be the force of entropy--the inevitable plunge into motionless frigidity, a state disallowing order, creativity and life. If God is the creative force, “dark energy,” is the antithesis of creation.

Story: Perhaps, the world is not as we suppose.. What if what we call “the universe” is but a small part of the whole?

Bauer: Do you refer to the Theory of Parallel Worlds?

Story: That idea flows from the unjustified premise that all possibilities have been realized and seeks to refute the Anthropic Principle.

Bauer: That is correct. According to this theory, there are no collapsing wave functions, simply because “everything that can happen has happened.”

Neri: Where are these parallel worlds supposed to have come from, in the first place?

Bauer: They are only the branching patterns of a contiguous but static reality.

Neri: How can anything happen in a static reality--let alone everything?

Bauer: It is only a kind of metaphor to say “all that can happen has happened.” There really is no Happening, only the unchanging patterns themselves.

Story: Where did the patterns come from?

Bauer: The nature of reality is to be differentiated yet interconnected. If the world were only a featureless mass, it would be virtual nothingness.

Neri: What dictates the interconnections?

Bauer: All that is possible.

Neri: Possibility refers to that which is allowed to happen. Without Happening, “Possibility,” is devoid of meaning. Causation too is rendered meaningless and the world becomes completely incomprehensible.

Bauer: The branching patterns of Being are the ultimate character of the world. Reality does not need to justify itself.

Story: That really begs the question.
However, when I spoke of the larger extent of the universe, I was not referring to parallel worlds but rather to multiple interacting universes joined by a common principle of happening.

Bauer: Indeed. What would that principle be?

Story: Awareness.
Looking beyond our own galaxy, we realized that this cluster of stars was not the extent of all things. We saw millions of other galaxies separated by vast distances and concluded that these were all that was.
The deeper we looked into space, the further we looked back in time.
If nothing exists beyond what we call the universe and nothing existed before its birth--when our telescopes can look beyond its borders, we should see absolutely nothing. Suppose, instead, we see a space full, not merely of galaxies, but of countless universes in addition to our own, some expanding, others contracting, and still others in equipoise. The vast distances between them would be staggering. Yet, the event horizon of any one of them would extend to the others. (The universes would have existed long enough to be bathed, however faintly, in each other’s light). The birth and death of stars—including collapses to singularity—would be echoed in the birth and death of galaxies and in the birth and death of universes—while the whole of reality would persist eternally. The fundamental process would be one of continuous and unending transformation.
Yet the whole world need not consist of only a single cluster of universes but may include a very great number of these. If we could look beyond the primary grouping, we would see a space full of additional clusters of universes. These, in turn, would form a larger cluster, which likewise would have a very great number of companions of similar magnitude, which together would form a cluster of enormous proportions. Such a super cluster, together with companions of similar breathtaking magnitude, would form an accumulation of even greater expanse --and thus the process would continue to some finite, though incomprehensibly huge, extent. The world space, so formed, would eventually turn upon itself, becoming both boundless and finite; for, in God, time itself has an added dimension, which allows it to stray from the Euclidean.
If we were able to behold the world in its entirety, we could no more distinguish it from “the space outside of it,” than we could distinguish it from “the space it occupies.” Discontinuity would vanish, and all things would seem as one. All of the universes and clusters of clusters of universes, all of the galaxies, all of the stars and planets, and every single thing down to the smallest part of every atom would seem unreal, as if we were waking from a dream. All would be revealed as energy itself, motion, change-- indivisible thinking and becoming without end.

Bauer: But why should this be so?

Story: Let us imagine minute intelligent creatures dwelling in the human body. They are smaller than molecules but can travel freely throughout their realm. From their point of view, the distances between the bodily organs would be vast.
Assume that these tiny creatures engaged in many years of exploration and study, from which they were able to conclude (correctly) that the human body is a universe consisting mostly of empty space. Assume further that they formulated what were called “natural laws” governing the dynamics of their world. We would say that these “laws” were only descriptions of biological processes, for we know that their myopic viewpoint could not yield a true understanding of human nature.
What these little thinkers would fail to understand is that their “universe” is really a single conscious being. They could not see the “big picture,” even as we fail to see it on a grander scale. Indeed, if we could perceive the universe on the level of its fundamental integrity, we would know God, and see ourselves, and all things, as one.

Gold: Your theory is neither compelled by logic nor established by fact and is, therefore, rank speculation.
Further, it must follow from what you say that the integrity of all separate events and things is illusory. This must include our conscious states. For if these are distinct from God’s consciousness, reality, by that fact alone, must be diverse. If we have separate wills, this means that reality is motivated by separate intentions and cannot be unified. In the final analysis, your pantheism demands that we have no free will. Yet, if this were so, we would not be conscious in the first place. The existence of human consciousness and free will is, therefore, inconsistent with your theory.
However, free will does not prohibit the existence of unconscious transitions. To say that time moves towards entropy tells only half the story. There is an opposing tendency that is just as real. In this discussion, it has been called the “creativity” or “innovativeness” of nature. This is neither chaos nor divine purpose. It is a natural impetus only. It does not direct happening towards a goal. The natural inclination to self-organize ceases only when it gives way to the opposing pull of entropy, which it approaches as a limit. Having reached almost total disintegration, the disruptive force gives way to the opposing impetus, and the creative unfolding starts anew. Although this process has produced conscious beings, it is itself unconscious.

Bauer: What you say is rank speculation by your own definition.

Gold: Consider this: natural selection alone cannot account for the proliferation of species. Primitive life forms, such as bacteria, have quite successfully survived to the present day, despite drastic changes in the environment. If they had already met the test of survival, why should they have evolved further? If some evolved by chance, why did these not spontaneously devolve to the simplicity of their earlier state, since it had already assured survival? There must have been a motive force beyond that of survival to account for the thrust in the direction of greater complexity and diversity. Indeed, this was not a linear bursting forth but a brachiated eruption. Each new branch of the evolutionary tree gave forth new branches, and these, in turn, newer ones still—producing a panoply of creatures of every description.
However, this impetus affects not only the living. Self-organization is a fundamental inclination co-equal with the pull of entropy. The world moves through time in the directions of both disintegration and self-organization, in endlessly fluctuating opposition.

Story: But, where do these compulsive forces come from?

Gold: They are the first principle of reality—time itself.

Story: They may be expressed through time, since they promote change, but how can they be time itself?

Gold: The very nature of reality is an oscillating flux.

Story: God is not pure duration, but energy subsisting in time and space. He is Conscious Happening.

Neri: If God is all things, one and continuous, how can any event be said to precede or follow another? If God is boundless, He cannot move as a whole. If He does not consist of parts, how can anything happen? What moves relative to what? Without parts, God must be timeless and perfectly static. Nothing can happen if God is everything. Therefore, conscious states, as you define them, are prohibited.

Story: The unbounded expanse, which is God, is not material, as such. Matter is only a psychological impression. God is a field. He is, in a sense, heterogeneous to the extent that His various regions differ from each other at any given instant. God is continuous and unified, because the boundaries of these regions are in constant transition while retaining a unique topology.
It takes little reflection to realize that the world is fundamentally energetic. This simply means that it is continuously changing. When we use words such as "change,” “evolve,” “transform,” or any other such verb, we are really talking about motion, which, of course, necessarily includes time. This condition is called energy. However, energy is not really a manifestation of physical entities. The reverse is actually the case. Energy, as expressed in the field, is itself the ultimate reality.

Neri: What do you call motion? Does it not require things that move?

Story: Not necessarily.

Bauer: Let me say at this point that it is possible to envision bounded spaces moving relative to each other. However, if two such spaces are viewed as moving at a constant acceleration with respect to one another--from the point of view of either, the other may be justifiably considered a motionless gravitational field. The same applies if the spaces are occupied by matter. This accounts for the equivalence of gravitational and inertial mass and strongly implies that reality is fundamentally unchanging.

Neri: In such case, we may well ask what happens if the two bounded spaces are moving directly towards each other. We certainly know the answer if the spaces are occupied by matter. From the point of view of either space, the other could be considered motionless only until the ultimate collision. At that point, because of a release of kinetic energy, one would be forced to admit that motion was indeed at work. If the same spaces are not occupied by matter, the question remains: what happens when they collide?

Bauer: They can never actually collide.

Neri: Why not?

Bauer: Because they are not really moving.

Neri: It would be nice if the world were free of collisions. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Story: I would say that we should address the issue by first asking if integrity and discontinuity really exist. If the demarcations among apparently separate entities cannot be maintained, it must follow that the world is continuous and one—a kind of grand field. However, as I said earlier, fields are continuous but not featureless. They have a kind of topography.

Neri: Fields themselves are diverse and numerous. Are they not?

Story: If the demarcations among apparently separate fields likewise cannot be maintained, it must follow that the world is a single unified field. In such case, what we call, “things,” “mass,” “matter,” “substance,” and the like, would be only field-regions of a particular topography. These would be locales where motion is restrained and potentialized to such a degree that the senses appreciate them as ponderable bodies. To put it another way, these locales are intensely non-Euclidean. We ourselves consist of such locales.

Neri: However, you have yet to explain how motion itself can exist without separate things that move.

Story: Simply put, motion may be viewed as continuous topographical changes in the world field. God is One in the sense that He is all-inclusive and homeomorphic. In other words, although God is the whole of reality and constantly evolving, He maintains a kind of geometric integrity.

Neri: But, what accounts for what you have called “topographical changes?”

Story: Conscious decision. Reality, as I have said, is self aware.

Neri: How did these changes originate?

Story: They had no origin. They always were and always will be. We must recognize that if the world were fixed, rectilinear and unenergized, it would not be a field but absolutely nothing.

Bauer: To borrow a variation of one of Neri’s arguments, force may be applied to increase or restrain motion. To the extent that motion is restrained, there will be negative energy; and to the extent that it is increased, there will be positive energy. If all the negative energy in the universe equals all the positive energy—as appears to be the case—the total energy of the universe is nil--a condition equivalent to absolute stillness.

Story: This would be so, only if what you call positive and negative energy were uniformly applied throughout the world, and they are not. That is why the world (God) is manifold but not diverse. What you call “force” is nothing more than the manifestation of God’s conscious decision making.

Neri: But if God is limited by time and space, He must be all things except time and space.

Story: Time and space are not themselves independent realities but only necessary conditions of reality. This simply means that God is continuously evolving.

Neri: If you claim that space and time are included in God, and you continue to maintain that God is one and all-embracing, it must follow, despite what you say, that space is equivalent to time. If this is so, there can be no motion in God, and He must not only be unconscious but quite dead.

Story: Space and time, as dependent conditions, cannot increase or decrease the totality of God. They do, however, place certain limits on Him. This is what I mean when I say that God is a topology. That is, God is not free not to be God, even as he changes.

Neri: If space and time are able to restrain a cosmic deity, it can only mean that they are dominant and thus more concrete than God. A being bound by geometry makes an unconvincing claim to divinity.
Any attempt to make God all things, inevitably results in the conclusion that He is nothing at all. Sarah, on the other hand, would have us believe that reality consists of motive forces without a motivator. Creation cannot occur in a vacuum, and the Maker of All Things cannot be equated with the world He made.
These errors are rooted in the false belief that the mind is fully explained by physical interactions in the brain. This presumes that a brain unstimulated by sensations is unconscious. The brain, by its control of the body, expresses consciousness through action. However, the expression does not equal the thing expressed. Although a mind deprived of sensations has no memory of action, it is nonetheless conscious. If it is aware of the passage of time, it is aware of itself, and this is consciousness. Duration is not the ultimate reality. It is the naked essence of thought.

Awareness, though unexpressed,
dwells in the privacy of the mind,
our purest and truest self.
We trudge the world of happening,
yet, our home, almost forgotten,
lies elsewhere—
in the realm of beauty alone—
devoid of earthly corruption.

A melody, half remembered,
strange and beautiful,
touched us in ways we cannot say.
We did not see the maker, then,
but only heard his song;
and, ever since, its intimations
have drifted in the shadows
of our minds.

7. Dreams within a Dream

[It is raining and the sidewalks reflect the glare of the street lights, as Neri looks from his window and sees his friends walk to a nearby car. “They will return next Tuesday, as always,” he thinks.
[He turns on the stereo and sits in an easy chair. His eyes grow heavy, as the sound of rain on the window blends softly with the music that fills the room.]

Neri stirs and wakes.
Rising from a bed,
he sees he is alone and naked,
in a room without doors or windows.
He walks about the room,
but his footfalls are silent.
He cannot speak.

A woman’s voice is heard:
“I love you. Can you not see?”
Silently, Neri descends to the floor,
drawing himself up against the cold.
He hears a newborn’s cry.
“It is I,” he thinks,
as he sinks into darkness.

Awakening in a familiar room,
Neri now lies fully clothed
on a tattered sofa.
“It was but a dream,” he says,
as he walks to a window
and sees the green hills
of his native land.
Birds are singing,
as the voice again implores,
“Can you not see?”
Neri walks to the door
and leaves without a word.
The room is silent.

In a place far away,
or so it seems,
a single tear escapes
the woman’s eye.
Before her, in a vat,
with rich blood and electrodes
in every cognitive zone,
lies the brain of Armando Neri.
A man in thick-rimmed glasses
sits before the screen
revealing the green land
of Neri’s mind.
Turning to the man, she asks,
“Can you not form my face
for just a moment in his mind?”
“I dare not,” he replies.

Above all this, the Manager sits
at the great console,
fashioning the woman’s tear
and the man’s turning of the dial.
The synthesizer intones her voice
with sorrow
and makes the man’s response
seem grave.
With a crooked smile, the Manager
forms images on the lesser screen—
two mourning doves
with plaintive sounds—
as Neri walks the virtual lanes.

Her Body twisted by disease,
the Creator, with subtle changes
in the graphics engine,
makes the Manager seem real.
A concerto plays in the room,
as She closes Her eyes,
imagining worlds that never were.

[Morning light from a window shines in Neri’s eyes, and he hears the sound of horns and motors and the bustle of the city in the street below. Smiling broadly, he rises from his chair. “This is a fine day for a dream,” he says.]

A.N. (2004)