Saturday, December 03, 2005

Philip K Dick makes my head hurt. In a good way.

Grey Lodge Occult Review :: Issue #10 :: If You Find This World Bad... :::
"Perhaps the pre-Socratic philosophers were correct; the cosmos is one vast entity that thinks. It may in fact do nothing but think. In that case either what we call the universe is merely a form of disguise that it takes, or it somehow is the universe -- some variation on this pantheistic view, my favorite being that it cunningly mimics the world that we experience daily, and we remain none the wiser. This is the view of the oldest religion of India, and to some extent it was the view of Spinoza and Alfred North Whitehead, the concept of an immanent God, God within the universe, not transcendent above it and therefore not part of it. The Sufi saying [by Rumi] 'The workman is invisible within the workshop' applies here, with workshop as universe and workman as God. But this still expresses the theistic notion that the universe is something that God created; whereas I am saying, perhaps God created nothing but merely is. And we spend our lives within him or her or it, wondering constantly where he or she or it can be found.

I enjoyed thinking along these lines for several years. God is as near at hand as the trash in the gutter -- God is the trash in the gutter, to speak more precisely. But then one day a wicked thought entered my mind -- wicked because it undermined my marvelous pantheistic monism of which I was so proud. What if -- and here you will see how at least this particular SF writer gets his plots -- what if there exists a plurality of universes arranged along a sort of lateral axis, which is to say at right angles to the flow of linear time? I must admit that upon thinking this I found I had conjured up a terrific absurdity: ten thousand bodies of God arranged like so many suits hanging in some enormous closet, with God either wearing them all at once or going selectively back and forth among them, saying to himself, "I think today I'll wear the one in which Germany and Japan won World War II" and then adding, half to himself, "And tomorrow I'll wear that nice one in which Napoleon defeated the British; that's one of my best."

This does seem absurd, and it certainly seems to reveal the basic idea as nonsense. But suppose we recast this "closet full of different suits of clothes" just a little and say, "What if God tries out a suit of clothes and then, for reasons best known to him, changes his mind?" Decides, using this metaphor, that the suit of clothes that he possesses or wears is not the one he wants. . . in which case the aforementioned closet full of suits of clothes is a sort of progressive sequence of worlds, picked up, used for a time, and then discarded in favor of an improved one? We might ask at this point, "How would the suddenly discarded suit of clothes -- the suddenly abandoned universe -- feel? What would it experience?" And, for us even more importantly, what change, if any, would the life forms living in that universe experience? Because I have a secret hunch that this exact thing does indeed happen; and I have a keen additional insight that the endless trillions of life forms involved would suppose -- incorrectly -- that they had experienced nothing, that no change had taken place. They, as elements of the new suit of clothes, would incorrectly imagine that they had always been worn -- always been as they now were, with complete memories by which to prove the correctness of their subjective impressions."

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