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Does transcendence need a deity?

Does transcendence need a deity?

We have published a text which separates religion as an institution from hopes for transcendence. This can be found here. This note covers a different topic. It asks whether transcendence - finding "something more" to existence necessarily requires a deity.

We are going to take this in three steps. First, we ask what we mean by "transcendence", and what role a putative deity or spiritual realm may play in this. Second, we discuss what we call mundane transcendence, which consists of using well-understood building blocks to construct a phase change in human capability and existence. Third, we want to look at the necessary nature of any Theory of Everything, and ask if it offers room for a deity-free mechanism for sentient evolution.

What do we mean by "transcendence"?

In literal terms, transcendence means going beyond the reaches of current limitations to human cognitive and existential limits. Aeroplanes transcend our inability to fly, and transform life accordingly. Computers transcend our collective capacity to calculate and manipulate symbols reliably and quickly. However, to most people, a genuinely transcendental capability is one that is both generative - supportive of seemingly-endless variations and novel constructs - and also novel, as speech must have been to early humans. Such capabilities seldom arrive all at once, but are the product of accretive change: from gestures and grunts through a primitive grammar to fluent and diversified speech, for example.

This is a dry definition and not one that satisfies the romantic in us. Transcendence should be a fireworks display in which we become other than ourselves, better, broader, brighter. How might we achieve this? By tapping into a pre-existing structure, be it a spiritual world or a realm of magic and transformation. Thousands of years of cultural embroidery has taken this from the realm of the wannabe to the solemn gloom of the cathedral, but given it scant substance.

At the same time, insight into the workings of the universe and our role in this has utterly transformed many aspects of daily life. However, this same understanding does not offer much insight into questions for which it can find no handles, such as whether human existence has any significance beyond the mere facts of biology, whether our opinions and values count for anything and whether, indeed, there exist any benchmarks against which to set human affairs that are not self-referential or predicated on relative fitness in competition for resources.

A poll of North Americans showed that a significant number thought that emotions and motives came not from the physical brain, but from a 'spiritual' influence. God permeated the environment in which this spirit was embedded, and was the source of all positive thoughts. This is a fairly common belief pattern. The spirit is thought of in different ways - as an individual thing or a representative of a collectivity, as a sentient entity or as a kind of score keeping reservoir of experience.

The spirit's environment has been interpreted in many ways. It is simple a reservoir from which sentience is taken and to which it returns on the death (etcetera) of the body. It is a permanent destination or a place of passage, from life to life; to ultimate extinction. It is a vaguely neutral place - fields of asphodels and their wan attendants spirits' - to an environment filled with dangers and pleasures. It is also frequently arranged into a bipolar or hierarchical structure. Hierarchies tend to represent levels of perfection in a long-term quest for purification. They may also be a projection of social structures into celestial aristocracy. Bipolar structures tend to separate Heavens from Hells, but may also represent the in-group and the rest, the members of the tribe from foreigners and so forth. Finally, there are spiritual domains into which only virtuous, selected or strongly developed spirits - or those acquainted with the correct rituals, or dying in them - survive, and the rest are erased as of no value, or unable to survive.

Readers can no doubt think of more. The point is that whilst there is a longing for contact with something more than daily experience, human society has no common thread in its interpretation of this. The major world religions possess completely different views on this, and many have had views that vary widely throughout their history. A possible exception are the Abrahamic trio, which have recent and constantly refreshed common social roots. There is, therefore, no evidence whatsoever that the millennia of human experience has been filtered into a common, orderly spiritual "cosmology". Instead, the anthropology suggests that religious belief is as socially constructed as any other aspect of society that is not governed by the disciplines of scarcity or security. There are only so many ways of building a defensible fort, but a huge array of systems that can be constructed about the spiritual when there is no evidence base. This range is sharply curtailed when the needs or organised religion and secular power are taken into consideration.

We can, perhaps, derive some lessons from this. We transcend our former state through access to new capabilities. These arise gradually, chiefly through social cooperation and through the discovery, systematisation and application of knowledge. It may be that we are also permanently connected to "something other", through a spiritual connection to a wider reality. If this is so, then it is either a permanent condition - and thus not transcendental until death, or else it allows lapses in which individuals sense a wider reality. This last manifests itself very occasionally to a few individuals, people who seem to acquire no useful insight or capabilities as a result of their experience. Nevertheless, they report that their attitudes and values have been changed. There exist shamanic and more organised practices which are supposed increase the incidence of such experiences, perhaps with the help of mind-altering drugs. These, too, seem to yield little additional information that refers to anything but cloudy generalities or emotional states or, in the case of the meditation-focused disciplines, narratives about the denizens and by-ways of "over there". Unhappily, different schools have developed completely different (but highly self-referential and internally coherent) narratives about these experiences, putting them more in the category of urban myth than explorer's tales.

Set against this, we understand a great deal more about how the brain works, and what happens when it works imperfectly. Damage to the brain, chemically altered states such as anaesthesia, hallucinogenic chemicals and frank insanity give us a perception of common faults and how these present themselves. It has been argued - notably by Hinduism and Buddhism - that a well-functioning brain weaves a web of illusion, and that only through extreme states do we penetrate this web and see beyond. If this were generally so, then the weakening of neural coherence should express itself as a gradual dawning of another mode of perception, a different clarity. That does not seem to happen, at least to most people most of the time.

Where it does occur, it tends to be associated with the prepared mind. We know a great deal about how societies construct consensus myths, and how random events are translated into the terms of such a narrative. Witnesses will interpret the same data in completely different ways if the event is framed differently. If one expects to see heavenly glory when struck sharply on the head, then it is extremely probable that this is how you describe the random flashes and jerks that you experience. If you take a hallucinogen in a group that expects you to become a wolf spirit, see an angel or drown in the sorrows of the world, then you are highly predisposed to go along with this in how you interpret what happens to you.

There is, then, no coherent body of experience that comes from the global and historical community. Rather, there are local interpretations of experiences that are as open to explanation as physiological and socially-shaped events as they are spiritual ones. There is, however, an enormous appetite for there to be something "other". That may ultimately be delivered by more mundane forms of transcendence.

It is worth noting that there is no necessary connection between spiritual experience and the existence or otherwise of a God or gods. Shamanism, for example, but also Buddhism are happy with the notion of there being "another realm" without it necessarily having a ruler. What does a God add to the overall story? God(s) tend to be assigned a mixture of three roles. They are the creators and maintenance men of physical reality. They embody natural forces and abstract processes, as did Poseidon, Helios, the Fates and Graces in the Greek pantheon. Third, deities are, directly or through mediators and messengers, essential to the expression of human psychological tendencies, as represented to the Greeks by Venus, Hera, Apollo or Dionysus. The Americans who were discussed above, reporting that the spiritual dimension was responsible for all of their emotional life, emphasise this third category of belief.

Each of these individual roles is, of course, increasing constrained by our growing knowledge base. Green Men theories of reality are of their nature impossible to disprove, because the Little Green Men can always be assigned magical properties that get them out of any logical constraint. It is the utility of these theories that weaken as understanding grows. It may be that, perhaps in studying the brain, we arrive at an effect without a cause. That would give us pause. It may also be that when we study the brain, we find no events that we cannot explain: a clear understanding of what constitutes awareness and emotionality, identity and will. It would be hard to see how the Little Green Men could retain any credibility under such circumstances.

Mundane transcendence: going beyond the human experience.

Transcendence means achieving capabilities that transcend previous limits. Achievement on a broad front multiplies the affects of any one step. For example, rendering human populations relatively free from disease by public sanitation delivers a major change. Combining this with a novel ability to store food allows conurbations to develop. Learning how to defend the resulting wealth from marauders allows an economic surplus, from which flows everything from the decorative arts to scholarship and scientific investigation.

The gestalt that arises when several transcendent steps are combined is extremely powerful. Technology without the institutions to harness and manage its application is largely useless; but when these things come together, civilisations are on the march. That said, the terrain into which they march is either relatively well-understood - man millennia of science fiction and futurism cannot be wholly wrong! - or uncertain to the degree that things may go wrong. Popular views of the future taken in the middle of the last century were optimistic visions of flying cars and moon colonies. Today, similar surveys report closing resource horizons, conflict, ecological catastrophes and a general bleakness that is belied by the explosion in growth, well-being and insight that actually characterises this century. Some aspects of this foreboding may well be justified, for the prospect of nine billion universally wealthy and healthy humans, living in peace and harmony amongst fearsome weapons, supplied by resources with indefinitely life spans is, perhaps, not the most probable of outcomes. If the highly critical global network of systems fails, it may well "fail big".

What is needed, then, is a step that goes beyond the mundane, and which evokes new ways of being. The Challenge Network scenarios, published in 2010 and referring to 2040, see three mix-and-match outcomes for the period. Fearsome Chaos is the outcome of a series of fumbled opportunities, leading to the big failure that was mentioned above. Yesterday's Future is a world of increasing scarce resources, constraints on individual freedom and state-mandated standards and technologies. Waking Up is consistent with precisely such a step change, although it is constrained to individual societies and institutions for the 2040 period.

Waking Up is based on the idea that information processing through individual human heads is going to be the chief constraint to transcendence. In place of this, organisations and networks begin to "light up", to become semi- or actually sentient, in the sense that they process all of the information available to the network and make use of it to evolving ends. It is almost inevitable that information technology, insight into cognitive processes, commercial competition and national and international security issues all push this situation into existence. The societies of the time will be extraordinarily complex and intensely reliant on their internal systems, and managing this complexity and defending critical and delicate structures will require such structures.

This situation may not be enough, however, to maintain peace in a very closely coupled world of scarce resources and dense populations. The real issue is that the human frame requires a great deal to sustain it, and that this supply chain grows exponentially with wealth and the opportunities that this brings. Yesterday's Future constrains and directs these choices into fulfillable goals. but it works towards delaying the inevitable against narrowing options. Stability requires a reduction in the demand coming from the human biomass: either less demands, or demands with a smaller physical or energy content, or simply less biomass. Transcendence requires that this is done in a way that increases options.

The galaxy has several hundred million stars, and astronomers have been able to detect hundreds of planets in orbit around these. The processes that form suns seem to require the parallel production of planets. Life arose on Earth only a few percent into its current age, and shortly after the seas stopped boiling. It took nearly three billion years for that life to become complex, and it may well have evolved several times in response to global disasters. It appears to have been extraordinarily resilient, surviving global snowballs and extreme heat, an atmosphere that switched from reducing gases to oxidising ones, oceans that radically changed their salinity, acidity, mineral content and aeration. Everything that we observe points to life as an inevitable consequence of any durably stable, marginally appropriate environment. Early experiments showed that precursor chemicals arose quickly in simulated early atmospheres, prompting the physicist Enrico Fermi to try to estimate the prevalence of life in the universe. This has given rise to further and more balanced estimates, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence SETI and speculation on why we see no signs of such life.

There are around six convincing answers to these speculations:

That we are wrong about the manner by which life is first generated.

That we are right about how life arises, but:

Discussion of this tends to emphasise the second point and the last one as being physically realistic. Dangerous or guardian external civilisations would leave traces, particularly the former. Universal self-inflicted catastrophes would have top replicate billion of time without leaving traces in this galaxy alone.

If the concept of contact with external civilisations seems improbable, consider the following mechanism. Solar systems are almost certainly surrounded by a mass of smaller bodies - and particles - which, in our system, is known as the Oort cloud. This is made up of much the same materials as the gas giants: water, methane, ammonia and other gases, all frozen. Consider a civilisation with a great deal of patience that wanted to know more about the galaxy. Whilst accelerating and then maintaining a full-sized body requires a ludicrous amount of energy, accelerating a bacterium-sized particle to near light speed can be done with a laser beam or similar electromagnetic tool. In principle, a society could set machinery to mine its Oort cloud, construct many tiny machines and blow them towards suitable destinations.

Most would miss. Still others would be destroyed on collision. One or two would, however, lodge undamaged and then begin to unbundle themselves. In the 1950s, Van Neumann suggested the idea of a self-constructing robot swarm as a means of exploiting inhospitable terrain, such as the Moon. A simple robot would construct some helpers, and between them, they would use local resources to build something even more complex. Some months later, the area teems with robots, now of considerable sophistication.

Consider our target Oort cloud. Months or years later, an energy source is powering what is, in effect, an observatory. It examines the system. If there is nothing of interest, it begins construction of a launcher and the microscopic seeds. It sprays them towards likely systems until the Oort cloud is mined dry. It sends back information to its home system. It does the same if the solar system shows promise. However, it now builds modules designed to explore the system, and delays the construction of its launcher.

Such modules are unlikely to look like flying saucers. They might, after suitable sampling and research, resemble infectious organisms. The system would use the living organisms of the system as its probes, collecting data from their nervous system and collating this for transmission. You, Dear Reader, may be due to feature as a simulation on the galactic equivalent of an immersion soap opera. More practically, an exact simulation of human (and canine, equine) psychology could be transmitted, plus the state space that this is able to explore. (That is, the definition of the limits to and combinations amongst all of the thoughts and emotions that a human, dog or horse is able to experience: a soap opera engine, so to speak.)

All of this would be very slow. However, a society that decides to stay in biological form, and which has cracked the issues of science as far as they are able to take them, is necessarily a patient entity. The scope of such a system would also grow exponentially, or as close to an exponential as the planar nature of the galaxy would allow. If one civilisation started such a process it would have contacted all systems in the galaxy within a few tens of millions of years. Even allowing for it taking a billion years, we would be under this form of contact and scrutiny.

None of this is new to science fiction. Brains have been down-loaded into machinery for many decades, and the trope is a degree tired. A much more interesting step is to go beyond machines and into a substrate which is quicker, unbreakable and unlimited. This is the subject of the next section. However, before we get into this, there are thoughts to be harvest from the fertile set of issues that this set of ideas tend to raise.

Copying data from a computer is straightforward, because the device is designed to store information, and to store it in an unambiguous fashion. Brains are not like that. We do not understand what constitutes consciousness, and we do not know very much about fairly basic cognitive processes. What we can say, however, is that the brain architecture is strongly consistent - that in the absence of injury, this or that part of the structure performs a common task in different individuals. Lesions in the tissue cause predictable losses. Cognition is associated with dispersed activity in these modules: imagining a throwing a ball for a dog fires up much the same tissue as involved in actually doing this. Thinking about "dog", "ball" or the act of throwing fires up subsets of tissue used in that task. In other words, how we recall something, how we imagine it, how we conceive of it and how we carry out the task use overlapping modules that have learned to specialise in that or that component of a task schedule. What fills the schedule depends on circumstances, but how we execute the task is fairly stereotyped.

Individuals share a similar architecture. Acquired skills are physically located in much the same places in this, particularly the basic capacities such as motor skills, sensor abilities such as sight and hearing, associative capacities that allow the higher animals to learn and expand their repertoire. Unlike machines, our operating systems are not all identical, but vary between individuals. Nevertheless, there is probably a clean "cut" between the set of capacities that constitute the equivalent of an operating system and learned skills and knowledge.

The basic human operating system does not need to be down-loaded, therefore, although estimates of its individual balances would need to be conserved. If such a system were to be run "blank", then it (he or she) would probably feel a sense of personal identity. Although this entity would lack all experience and memory, it would nevertheless be far closer to the experience of an adult human than is that of a newly born infant. The reason for this is that the major neural centres have connect together in the infant. Indeed, they do not completely connect until we are in our late teens or twenties.

In parenthesis: awareness is a generic solution to a control problem. A robot mouse without consciousness would need programs that detected threats and potential, and guided the structure accordingly. There would need to be a meta-programmer, writing new code to incorporate new insights. It is far "easier" to have a central engine representing "me", for events and locations to have emotional connotations. "Big rushing dark thing" is easily seen as a threat, and the instinctive "run for cover" a general response. Doing the same in software is, we know, and extraordinarily complex task, even when the environment remains constant. Yet a three week old animal with a brain the size of a small pea can solve such issues, running on neurons that are geologically slow as compared to electronic processors.

If this is so, it has a number of implications. First, the steak that you had for dinner came from an individual that, in regards to its deep being, felt just like you. Second, the state of "being me" will always feel broadly the same: you sense of being you is pretty close to my sense of she being her. How much respect should we give to billions of copies of the same state of mind? Does the tendency for individual copies of 'me' to proliferate carry quite the same sanctity that we assign to humans, seen as individuals? In other words, there is a new morality that is waiting on the science to be born.

The human operating system may run to several terabytes when fully unwrapped, although obviously, it compresses into much less in the genetic code. It is, however, well within the scope of current technology to store, if not to run. The data that lie over this structure constitute the core individual differences. One can guess at the scope of this, and several commentators have suggested that the data would fit on a DVD, if not a CD.

Given that we have discovered the nature of the operating system, how might we capture individual differences: memories, skills, idiosyncrasies? The answer probably lie sin reported cells, immunologically-blank glial cells that are introduced into the brain to migrate within it so as to establish as wide and even a coverage as possible. These could operate in two ways. They might respond to electrical stimulus by high frequency oscillations, adding a unique signature. A "cap" worn for a month or so would capture and store these data. Equally, they might "log" stimulus against a clock mechanism - perhaps a light flash at a suitable frequency, which is exactly what retinal cells do, for example - and then, on a signal, reverse their migration to a collection point. The coding these data would show contingent relationships between bits of tissue, the weights and direction involved, the events and hormones that stimulated these. Added to the operating system, this would be highly differentiated and would feel as similar to the individual as does a body waking after an anaesthetic.

People often respond that such a construct would no be me. If there is a soul attached to a given body, then no, it would not. If there is not such a thing, then - issues of the former body aside - yes, it would. Few atoms in your body are resident for more than a few years, bones aside; and the brain is constantly rewiring itself. You feel consistency and continuity, but there is really very little to connect you as a child with you as an adult save some rather poorly conserved data.

Why would anyone want to do this? Three reasons: back-up, functional immortality, transcendence. If your data are stored, you cannot be killed. If your body wears out, you can transfer to a new one, perhaps biological, perhaps not. If you get bored with the world, or if extraordinary new options becomes open to you, it may be that you will transfer your data into a completely different sphere. That might be a world simulated within a computer-like structure, perhaps offering a universe of quests and fairyland, omnipotence and challenge. Equally, it might be a framework in which you can think about problems in tens of dimensions, handle complex mathematics in your head and oversee vast tides an oceans of data from the perspective of intimate acquaintance. Cognitive enhancements are essentially unlimited - unless extremely augmented minds split into sub-groups and squabble or fission! - and one could see the development of new kinds of competition and collaboration take off with extreme suddenness and speed once the technology is in place.

There is a school of thought that sees the physical universe as a data processing structure, essentially as a simulation running on itself. This is discussed in the next section. If this has any truth to it, then there is no conceptual difference between what we call reality and life in a simulation of our own making. If the universe has hidden regions that permit of technologies that are not limited to our experience in spacetime, then a transfer to this would be transcendence indeed.

The necessary nature of a Theory of Everything

Any theory of everything must, by definition, have no outside influences. "Little Green Men" theories always have the green agents outside of the theory. That is not allowable: a theory of everything must include itself.

One of the things which a theory of everything must contain is an explanation of spacetime, and most specifically, time flow, sequentiality and causality. Most current physical theories either take spacetime as a backdrop (special and general relativity, the standard model, super symmetry and M theory) or else try to evolve it from some other system - for example, loop quantum gravity. Clearly, models that take spacetime as a given cannot aspire to be theories of everything. However, ambitious models cannot appeal to other complex underpinnings.

What would a completely self-contained system look like? It would have N properties.

  1. It would generate its own dimensionality.

Let's unbundle that somewhat cryptic sentence. First, how do we describe something not as being "like" something else, but in absolute terms? Essentially, by pointing to ways in which the "something" that makes it up differs from the "nothing" which is not it. In physicist-speak, the symmetry of "nothing" - which is necessarily just the same everywhere, whatever is done to it - is 'broken' by a characteristic that serves as a marker for change. If you have two such markers, then moving one of them changes its relations with the other. That is not at all true of "nothing". So, it follows that broken symmetries are the basis of description of any "something".

Most "somethings" are embedded in a number of independent broken symmetries, and we call these "dimensions". Dimensions are just ways in which useful variation occurs in whatever we are discussing, and which are independent of each other. That is, you can characterise all the behaviour of the system in terms of its states within these independent dimensions. Dimensions describe a space, and the behaviour of the system is a trajectory through that space. For example, the electrical states of pins on a simple digital microchip are usually referred to as 0 or 1. Three pins can represent eight states, and no more than eight states. If you draw the state of each pin as an independent line running from zero to one, then these eight states are the points of the cube that the three lines trace out.

If you are counting in binary, however, an extra dimension appears, because the points are addressed in order: 000, 100, 010, 110, 001 and so on to 111. Where has this extra information come from? Well, of course it is imposed from outside the system, Green Man style, and not intrinsic to it. However, there are many systems which are perfectly described by a model which they proceed to smash when large numbers of instances of the system are allowed to interact. A single gas molecule in a perfect is highly predictable. The same model with predict this, that or the other particle. However, allow the particles to interact and they show all sorts of "emergent" phenomena, from thermodynamics to the propagation of sound waves. However, the original model in which the molecule was previously entirely predictable does not contain these emergent dimensions, potential for variance, and is voided by them.

Emergence is a universal and extremely important property of existence. Simple things, once connected together, may show regularities that exist only in their interaction, not in their innate "being". A theory of everything has to exploit this, for only through emergence can something - a broken symmetry - come from undifferentiated nothing.

  1. It would generate its own dimensionality in an emergent ring.

Imagine an emergent system that created the framework from within which another emergent system was able to emerge. For example, a meadow ecology allows the dimensionality of "ant social systems" to be generated. Consider a more abstract structure, in which exists a system that we will call A. Let there be another independent system, which we will call B. (Never mind what A and B rest upon. We will get to that.) At the interface between A and B there is interaction, generating, through emergence, a system we will call C. C has an interface with A, and it is here that B is generated. And B has its interface with C, where interaction makes A. Thus A and B make C, C and A make B, B and C make, of course, A.

This structure creates "something" from "nothing". There is nothing beyond A, B or C. Each is predicated on the other two. Here, we have a model for a theory of everything. However, it is a model with a flaw, for whilst space is not required in this flow, time most certainly is. Verbs such as "makes", "implies" or "generates" all require the symmetry to be broken in a time-like manner: on one side this, on the other, that.

Naturally, it does not have to be like that, but if it is not so, then yet another layer has to be evoked. Ultimately, one has to end with a "just is", in the sense of arriving at a law-making Deity, or a system such as the ring emergence that has just been discussed. Unhappily, both of these back stops have a major problem with time, for time has to be a part of a Theory of Everything. It has to arise from it. However, how can anything arise in the absence of time flow? How can any conceivable engine do anything without a flow of this sort?

Contemporary physics views anything unique - any instance that is interacting with nothing else - as being essentially undetermined and vague. Anything that breaks this symmetry has to be an interaction with something else, and what we refer to as forces lie between entities undergoing mutual perturbation. There are no universal clocks, space time, forces; only relationships that have conserved dynamics to them that for reasons of convenience we refer to as laws and forces.

There are two "deep" polarities in our view of rerality. One is the Platonic shadow play, that reality as we perceive it is a projection of something else that is going on in an inaccessible arena, and that we are and see the epiphenomena of this. The other is that everything is emergent on simple properties, and that insofar as there are hidden zones, they are in no sense privileged in being more "real" or lower down some hierarchy of fundamentality, where the "turtles go all the way down". The emergent ring that was discussed above is an example of this second perspective.

Turtles: Hindu cosmology has the universe resting on four elephants, themselves suppported on the back of a turtle. More here And what happens below the turtle? "It's turtles all the way down".

This seems to be a later European graft on the essential Hindu cosmology. In this, the lesser gods are divided into two groups, fighting amongst each other. The Adityas were sons of the Sun, whilst the Asuras were the dwellers in darkness, similar to the Titans in Greek legend. The battle for supremeacy rocked Brahma's creation.

A sage, representing harmony, curses the Aditya Indra as a representative of heavenly discord, saying that that the gods will lose their power. They appeal to Brahma for the nectar of existence, which will restore their strength. Brahma requires them to churn the ocean of existence with the snake Vasuki (eternity) with the mountain Mandara, signifying reality. The mountain sinks into the ocean, so the Aditya Vishnu - incarnated as a turtle, kurma or the ineradicable consequences of action - supports it. The churning at first creates not the required nectar but rather halahala, a substance deadly to everything. The Aditya Shiva (embodying creation and destruction) ingests this and neutralises it, turning blue in the process but saving creation. The true nectar then appears and full creation begins: people and animals, plants and the necesities of life. The Adityas were able to monopolise the nectar by distracting their rivals when Vishnu turned from a turtle into a beautiful woman, drawing them away whilst the nectar was consumed. The Adityas thereby grew into full godly power. A single Asura was able to take a sip before Vishnu cut off his head. This, immortal, still floats about in space, and is responsible for eclipses when it tries to eat the moon.

Which of the two visions of reality is correct? Is there a second physical reality, of which we are a protrusion or shadow-like projection, or is there a sequence of domains between which transactions create what we see as reality? How could one possibly tell?

Special Relativity has been set hundreds - thousands - of tests and has never failed any of them. It basic message is that separation in space and time is predicated on limits to the pace at which information can be transmitted. We see this limit as light speed, which simply means that light is the least limited transmitter of information that we can readily measure. We assume that the strong and weak forces, gravity and whatever gives mass and inertia - the maybe Higgs field - also propagate at this speed. Nobody has the means to measure this, however, andit remains an assumption. They do not, however, propagate instantaneously. That is, spacetime exists as manifest by lag between the interactions of agents; strictly, by the cardinality of that lag. That is, something that is "closer in space and time" is something which has an interaction lag that is shorter on a long, long list of such interactiosn than some other, between objects that are "further away". How do we measure "lag" without evoking time? We do not. We evoke the cardinal list, in which nothing is exactly the same as anything else and so everything is either less than or more than a given entry.

That describes life on a line or, more strictly, a duration.

 

 

Einstein evoked a principle of equivalence, whereby local effects of fields - Higgs, gravity; electrical or magnetic - can be noted from unique local effects but which remain dual. That is, in isolation, you cannot tell whether a mass is being accllerated in a Higgs field or whether it is in a gravitational field in resopect fo which it is changing nothing.

 

 

 

apart the affects change of a mass in a Higgs field from the affect of a gravitational field on a mass undergoing no accelleration in respect of it. (Here "Higgs" is used in lieu of an agreed mass and inertia generating mechanism.) The same is true of a magnetic and electrostatic field.

 

 

 

An ecological niche for awareness?

Our perception of "what is" can be shown to be a subset of what actually is the case, as the preceding section shows. What exists needs to invet