An Exegesis to the Sentient Universe

         While astrology today is not of mainstream interest in Western culture, it does seem to be flourishing in its own right. Given its murky past from before the time of Abraham, it eventually became a significant religion, as exemplified by the Magian and Sabean belief that stars and planets held a divine influence. Under the Roman Emperor Aurelian, homage was paid in festivals to Sol Invictus, although eventually giving way to the rise of Christianity. Little changed for millennia until scientific enlightenment broke down age old beliefs with new knowledge. Modern science, in the meantime, continues to reveal facts that defy both religious dogma and philosophical speculation.

          Most cosmologists have theories about how the universe came into being; the following scenario represents a good possibility for our purpose: Within the field of physics there is a group of what are called String theorists; many think the mathematics of their theory is the most elegant they have ever worked with. It even does away with the biggest problem in physics, that is, the union of relativity and quantum mechanics, although not without certain inconsistencies in other areas. Much work still needs to be done. Some scientists within string theory postulate that universes “bud” off from other universes through the mechanism of enormous stars called Black Holes; at some point their gravity becomes so intense that not even light can escape. At the center of these stars is what’s called an event horizon, a point where matter is pulled in and converted to energy that doesn’t come back out. Most physicists now think information can pass through too. Some believe that on the other side of Black Holes are White Holes, maybe one from which our own universe began the process of budding off, or being born. In other words, energy spews out from a point of infinite density, or singularity, together with a certain level of information. That information would relate to how matter forms through what we know as ‘The Laws of Physics.’ From a White Hole the birth of our universe began with what is now dubbed the Big Bang, which marks for us the beginning of time and space.          

         Pure energy channeled through that singularity began converting back into a few simple particles through basic underlying laws, but where do the laws of physics come from and how do they operate? Every physical object in the universe, as far as we can tell, is put together in a way that conforms to certain laws expressed in the language of mathematics, but the laws have no material objectivity, they only have meaning as mental content when applied to the physical world. The laws of physics exist in the mind, and are considered fundamental to everything else. At this point it is important to begin thinking of mind and intellect as synonymous with, or an aspect of, Spirit. Spirit is the animating principle of life, and as such rightfully claims divinity for itself.

          Now we have a new universe that is mostly empty and expanding rapidly, but as the energy expands along with the mental component (the laws), being of its own ethereal nature very uniform, begins to clump. Scientists have discovered this stuff and call it Dark Matter, but they cannot find any physical basis for it, although galaxies are surrounded by this strange material. The clumps have only one characteristic and that is gravity. From these clusters of gravity matter takes greater shape into newer forms, and soon stars are born. This is probably a necessity because Sentience as a factor came through the singularity as energy, and most likely requires an equal amount or more to sustain itself. As the initial energy of the Big Bang dissipates (the cosmic microwave background radiation is a remnant), stars take over the job, and fledgling sentience becomes self-sustaining. That is, all stars through their interconnected energy patterns form a unified field that envelopes the expanding universe as a single entity. For physicists, the basis of that unity might be found in a particle called the Higgs Boson. The Higgs field, being theoretical, is assumed to have certain properties, like mass and an affinity to gravity, but it’s never been detected. Without it, Einstein’s equations don’t work in explaining things like the Big Bang, but hundreds of experiments have shown that it does work.

           Theoretically, this stage of early sentience carried only the laws of physics, and because of the forces that brought them through at the birth of the universe, the laws acted pretty much on their own; in other words, there was no thought process going on (unconsciousness). It might be called brute mind or ontological mind or primeval mind, which is virtually empty of any other content. Whatever plan there was for creation came from within the laws themselves. Even first generation stars, although concentrating a bit of primordial sentience, had no elements to speak of, and many exploded under their own weight and temperature. But the remains of those stars provided new material that future stars could synthesize into more complex atomic structures.  

         Stars began forming concentrated Mind ‘stuff’ through gravity, although not directly with matter; that is, gravity is likely the physical force that the mental component works through, or is a part of, or a manifestation of; it is difficult to characterize exactly. Galileo was the first to build an experiment that led to the early laws of gravity; Isaac Newton expanded on them, and Einstein revolutionized them. Now we know that gravity is directly related to mass, and mass to energy. Very massive objects such as galaxies and stars have such powerful attractive forces that they warp space and time around them. Very small Items with little mass barely have any pull at all. In the mathematics of String Theory, what they call quantum gravity is almost nonexistent within the supposed ten dimensions of reality at the subatomic plane, but is actually required by the theory. Derived from the Planck length, the String is the smallest unit of “space/Mind” that can be defined mathematically, and is considered collectively the very fabric of the universe itself. The String is thought of as a two dimensional vibrating unit of energy that is the source of what may be likened to notes on a musical scale; their pitch and arrangement results in all the various components that make up the physical universe: “music of the spheres,” perhaps?

            Second generation stars are able to form from within the debris fields left by the explosion of first generation stars; this includes all the elements necessary for life such as carbon. These stars concentrate the mental element to a much greater degree with all the potential information needed for developing consciousness to perpetuate itself as in a plan, but it’s not organized or categorized at this stage. We might say that thought thinks itself, but doesn’t know who or what it is; in fact, we can’t really say anything about it. Plotinus would call such a star “unknowable.” This is where Neo-Platonic philosophy begins. His system describes a process that moves from the infinite to the finite, from the Idea of creation to creation itself. The concept unfolds in stages from the sun to the planets, and to life on Earth.

                      Plotinus lived during the third century AD, and nobody knew how the universe was constructed at that time; his system was not based on observations, but on his mystical experiences. One common feature reported by mystics is the feeling of merging with a creative power through a point of dazzling light that might be considered the source of the soul. It is possible that Plotinus based his theory on a visionary experience of this sort. That is why he, not knowing about solar systems or galaxies, had no other way to understand his system except as a principle encompassing the entire universe, and believing that this was our ultimate reality. Could that point of dazzling light be of solar origin? For Plotinus, the first principle in his system is called the One. It is an Absolute Unity without any distinctions. It cannot be known, only inferred, and imperfectly at that. We can only say what it is not, not what it is. We will see later that this would quite literally put the One outside the universe because everything in the universe including ideas, thoughts, and things, represents his Second Principle, which explains multiplicity. This will not work for us, primarily because there is no reality outside the universe: no time or space, nothing physical or mental, therefore nothing spiritual. He could see many stars and planets, but not clusters of galaxies, or satellite galaxies, or the billions of stars strewn through our own Milky Way galaxy. On the other hand, his theory makes perfect sense thought of as centered on our solar system, and his philosophy is still viable even though the sun is in motion around the galactic center (This will be brought up later). Now we can discuss the system as described by Plotinus; not from an absolute perspective, but rather a relative one, even though his language suggests otherwise.

         The system that our ‘immediate’ reality participates in is a graded structure of three hypostases, or principles. The ultimate principle is called the One (the Supreme, the Good) and is the source and center of the system. The intermediate or middle hypostasis is referred to as the Intellectual-Principle (Divine Intellect) where distinct ideas take form from within unity to outward multiplicity. The last principle, the World Soul, while contemplating the One from the Intellectual Realm, manifests from its material base the living spiritual beings of this planet. Think of the system as a complete unit; the three divisions within the system are not separate from each other because each is contained within the others, with the One at the center manifesting from the physical power of the sun, and expressing itself from the Intellectual Realm, the planets. From this principle, contemplation gives rise to the generation of a living world, the Earth, through the third hypostasis, and through time–you and me.

         There are two movements associated with the system, an emanation or outpouring accompanied by a return or reversion to Source. They can also be characterized as contemplation of the highest principle, and generation toward the lowest. All forms of existence flow from this trinity, and all strive to return, from the lowest level in matter to the highest in the Divine source.

         In the One all thought is summed, there is no distinction between ideas, and contains potentially all that can be thought. Its nature is not known, nothing can be said about it, all description fails. In Plotinus’ words, “We can only state it so as to be able to speak about it, unable to state it, we may still possess it. . . . We hover about it, drawing near and falling away in our perplexities about the One.” (The Enneads: VI.9.3.) 1

         We are also speaking of a star, in our case, the sun. Where there is physical power, and potential, and the possibilities suggested within the laws, there is a movement as innate intelligence reaches out from within itself. Plotinus states that “the One goes out of itself into its Otherness,” but loses nothing, like perfume from a flower, or heat from fire. It is an emanation or overflowing, and the source of all that is Good, from the movements guiding the system to the highest Ideals in living Beings.  

         Because Thought is an active process seeking to express itself, the process creates a field of tension that finds release in the generation of its ‘abundance’ outwards to the intermediate hypostasis. Thus, turning back in an act of contemplation from the Intellectual Principle, the One comes to Know itself. The second principle is then the Intellectual Realm, which we identify with the planets circling the sun, and the plane where Divine Ideas take on meaning as unique individual entities.  

         The Intellectual Principle is also the realm of Plato’s Ideal Forms, but rather than being a static universe of ideas, they are all “awake and alive,” Plotinus says. And being actual existing entities, they can be described mathematically. Take the archetypal form of Music, Pythagoras found that music is based on certain laws as exemplified in the harmonic ratios of a harp string. He believed the whole world is mathematically structured, and many physicists agree. Plotinus taught that the soul naturally seeks union with the One, and acts through an ascent in the mystical experience, although held back by matter; it is also a journey within, to that source at the center of the soul. We humans look upwards to our physical origin, but inward to our spiritual essence; they are different aspects of the same thing.   

         The last and lowest stage of the triad Plotinus calls the World Soul. Keep in mind that the planet Earth is still a part of the Intellectual Realm in orbit around the sun with the other planets. In contemplating its source, the One, the World Soul generates the Ideal plan into physical actuality. All the elements and material for life are here, they just need to be acted upon, and the laws of physics guide the act. Our sense of time is fixed by the rotation and orbital path of the Earth around the sun. Matter has formed as building blocks through laws that dictate what is possible to what is actual, such as water, air, earth, and fire. How and what living forms are to become is pretty much an experiment, although there is a guiding principle inherent within the process that goes way back in time. It began as a vague undetermined plan that can now take a definite direction and become fully realized. Creation is an act in progress, although universes come and go, as all things do, the process appears to never end.  

         So this should be an idyllic place to live, but Plotinus realizes a problem that isn’t so good. Yes, matter is the source of evil, but he also thinks that the world is essentially good, and only accidentally evil. He believes that it is the degree of our participation in the material world that can lead to evil activities, besides being an impediment to spiritual growth and progress. The soul is held in bondage by matter, all the while yearning for union with the One. Plotinus taught that we are all a part of the Creator seeking wholeness in the return to our source, attainable in the mystical experience.

            At this point in time the universe is probably about as perfect as it can get, and maybe half way through its own existence. What happens from here on into the future? If we ask cosmologists, they will give us three possibilities. The universe will collapse through its own gravity after the initial expansion slows down (Big Crunch), or it will stay in a perpetual steady state (eternal), once believed by many modern scientists including Einstein in his early days, or it will continue to expand forever.

         Astronomers looking out to the edge of the universe with powerful telescopes do not see any slowing down as expected, but rather just the opposite. The universe is apparently speeding up for some unknown reason because of a repulsive gravitational force called Dark Energy, probably because it is still young and growing. Some scientists paint this picture of the far future: just as there was utter oblivion before the Big Bang, utter oblivion will eventually come with the end of the universe. Slowly over time we will see the stars at the edge of the universe disappear because expansion will move them farther away from each other until their light no longer reaches us. (Think of numerous dots on the surface of a balloon being blown up). At some point we will see only the stars in our own galaxy, but they too will eventually be gone. All the stars will cease to shine when their nuclear fuel runs out, and their small heavy dead hulks come to a freezing halt as space drops to absolute zero where nothing moves. It is possible that there will never be an end in the spiritual sense. If in the beginning universes “bud” off from each other through Black Holes, then universes are continually born and die in a process that never ends.

         But what kind of medium do universes bud off into? Now it gets tricky. This all happens in an absolute void, utter nothingness; there is no beginning and no end, no time or space, no laws of nature. No matter how many universes are spawned, they will never fill the void, because there is literally nothing to fill up. Our poor human minds have trouble with this concept because it turns into a paradox that philosophers have been grappling with from ancient times. Parmenides first asked if there could be anything like nonexistence. Descartes grounded his whole philosophy on the famous dictum: “I think therefore I am.” Phenomenologists make statements like: “It is not possible that IS is not, because IS is.” Our own minds struggle with the thought that an Absolute Void is not possible without mind to create the idea of an absolute void, and this leads to an infinite regress, such as an idea of an idea ad infinitum, which in the end may be as good as it gets.  

          There is no reason to believe that everything is not just fine the way it is. Mind is fundamental to this universe, and all the others too, and since they all come and go, they still remain connected, like in a family way. We are mental entities in temporary bodies; nothing can take away what we fundamentally are, just expect it to take other forms in other places. Our universe is 13.7 billion years old, and will probably last just as long, so there is no logical reason we will not be moving on long before this universe winks out of existence. Physicists are already talking seriously about the idea of worm holes that connect universes, and actually being able to use them. Some deep esoteric sources indicate that very highly evolved souls have been moving between universes for a very long time through manifestation and change–always have and always will.


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