I’m 28. A sensation has come over me. It started a few years ago, has continued since, and about a month ago it reached a point of culmination . The sensation is this: it’s as if one day I woke up into a life that was not mine, with memories that were not mine, with a residue of tendencies and habits that belonged to a a former tenant whose place I now occupied. This former tenant was a dumbass. I’m not him, and yet I am. I sense something that is a feeling before it is a thought, that who I am now is not equal to the step-by-step sequence of the past, and the person of that past whose place I have taken. It’s like some calculus was occurring alongside the additive accumulation of time, a calculus that was multiplicative, and with an exponent involved whose value is some unknown X .
The only comparison I can think of is to imagine what it would be like for a butterfly to consider its former condition as a groveling caterpillar. Better yet, as I don’t presume to be quite the butterfly or moth equivalent to my former self, consider that the caterpillar suspects it is something more before the physical transformation begins. That sense of a radical alteration from one phase to the next -the former inferior to the latter, with some tenuous identity binding them – is what I am trying to get at. A toad, or frog wouldn’t do this situation justice, to me anyway; I do not see these as symbolic of any magnificence. The transition from the tadpole to the toad/frog is the progression of an idea that may be necessary to the ecosystem, but poetically conveys the elaboration of an already ugly idea… the Kafka kind of metamorphosis. Cicadas can fly, but their alien chittering disqualifies them.
Anyway, while I do not presume to be quite so magnificent as the butterfly equivalent of my former caterpillar self, this sense of being something more, of someone who looks at my preceding self, a former self who fumbled about and whose sole purpose was only to carry across a latent possibility and to enable the conditions for that possibility to come forth…there is something in that description that rings true. At least, it feels true. I am reminded of Corinthians 15, but perhaps it is just my mind trying to right my wrongs, or the foibles of my former self:
It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
Interestingly, the caterpillar digests itself when in the chrysalis. If you were to tear a chrysalis open at the right time, the contents would be all ooze except for a collection of cells called imaginal discs, which I do not believe are visible to the naked eye (not entirely sure on that). Just a clump of goo, it reverts back to an amorphous state….there’s something about that.
In Jacob Boehme’s alchemical text, The Signature of All Things, the idea of rebirth is presented as the result of a process that entails – among other things – a reversion to the primordial state. This primordial state is the chaos of the philosophers, the cosmic analogue of the chrysalis’ amorphous clump of ooze, and similarly encapsulated in a cosmic envelope or egg; Boehme says in another of his writings that the chaos or first matter is nothing and all things, thereby qualifying the negative term of nothing as indicating something more than absence; not specifically anything so much as matter prior to form.
This is important, as Heisenberg indicates that quantum physics suggests an Aristotelian conception of matter as potential; Aristotle described the physical world of objects as a compound of matter and form – thus matter in this conception is not form, but a substrate. This also clarifies Heienberg’s statement about a strange reality between idea and occurrence; indicating a classical tone to the word idea, which is wound up with the classical notion of form (the nuance of form in this case means something more than mere shape).
Perhaps the reader would be left wanting for explanation, but the leap is intuitive enough to assert that form is limit, and thus matter – which is not form – is unlimited. Therefore, the pure potentiality of matter without form is unlimited….chaos, indeed. When the “anti theist” Lawrence Kraus asserts in his book A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing that the universe arises as a fluctuation out of a quantum vacuum (the scientific-nomenclature equivalent of a catholic priest speaking in latin to the layman), it isn’t apparent that he comprehends his argument as being the same as the occult physics of alchemy, cobbled in a clumsy empirical version of platonism:
We have discovered that all signs suggest a universe that could and plausibly did arise from a deeper nothing—involving the absence of space itself—and which may one day return to nothing via processes that may not only be comprehensible but also processes that do not require any external control or direction.
For more about what this statement actually means, see my article entitled Magic Mirror. The take-away is that the nuances of non-spatial platonism, and Aristotelian potentiality (which is also similar to the physics of space in Plato’s Timaeus, by the way) are necessary to actually understand the implications of modern physics. Philosophy has been disparaged by people like Krauss ands Hawking, but the theoretical issues of motion through space, describing change, and the properties of matter on a fundamental level have not been solved; contemporary physics and its challenges lead back to the alleged origin of physics in supposedly less sophisticated attempts by Thales, Anaxagoras, Parmenides, Plato, Pythagoras, and the like. Our empirical bent for quantitative evidence has afforded us much by way of technology -be it well or ill, however applied – but we have yet to distinguish ourselves with regard to the these theoretical issues except in returning to them. And yet for all of that, our approach may be a more cumbersome method for experimentation after all.
We claim to have better proof for ideas Aristotle merely asserted with logic and more limited means; non-spatial features as Plato champions are still persistently implied in our inferences of the natural world, but if he was able to describe fundamental laws of physical systems through observation indeed, yet without a slavish recourse to sensible experiment, to claim that it was mere educated guessing is just an assertion of confirmation bias to vindicate ourselves of our method. We’re special, we’re number one, blah blah blah. Nah-nah-nah-nah boo-boo, my god is better than your god, my dad can beat up your dad….these are all the same. Scientists are no better than preachers with regard to ideology.
This crutch of needing everything spelled out in a total and complete proof is not only tedious and infantile, but also impossible. This has been apparent since Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, but if they taught Gödel and David Bohm alongside our aggrandizing of Hawking and Einstein, the facade of modern “progress” wouldn’t be such an easy commodity to consume. So much is just smoke and mirrors, at least the magical theory of nature tells you as much. There’s also a humorous side to just how ironic it is that modern progress only verifies really ancient thinking, and how if they wanted to disprove God or a transcendent reality beyond the physical, they did a really bad job. Of course most people don’t know this, not because it so very difficult to convey, but because education fails to communicate it, accidentally or conveniently, however the case may be.
Anyway, back to rebirth. In alchemy, the return to the primordial state is considered a return to the material womb. The poet-painter William Blake succinctly puts it in his Milton: A Poem like this:
Is this the Void outside of Existence, which if enter’d into, becomes a womb?
Jesus telling Nicodemus that a man must be reborn, and Nicodemus’ question in reply as to how a man being old is to go back into the womb, followed by Jesus saying that no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit, is taken to mean something a little more than most people suspect, unless we want to trivialize scripture in the same way we have trivialized ourselves and the world around us. Thomas Vaughan wrote the following in the 1650s:
But my question is : What was that nothing out of which the first something was made? Can you tell me ? It may be you think it is a mere nothing….It is nothing as Dionysius saith: it is nothing that was created, or of those things that are, and nothing of that which you call nothing – that is, of those things that are not, in the empty destructive sense. But, by your leave, it is the True Thing, of Whom we can affirm nothing. It is that Transcendent Essence Whose theology is negative and was known to the primitive Church but is lost in these our days.
If it was lost then, I leave it to your own ingenium to determine whether it has been found since. The consolation is that our method of trial and error has afforded us a glimpse into the threshold of sensible experiment. To proceed further, I leave you to consider the physicist Max Planck’s assertion, that science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature, because in the final analysis we ourselves are part of the mystery we are trying to solve.