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The Metaphysical Derb


I get a lot of emails from people asking about my own ideas on
metaphysics. Goodness only knows why; I have no academic training in
philosophy and no impressive qualifications in any of the fields of
knowledge adjacent to metaphysics (neurology, cosmology, particle
physics, etc.) Nor is my life an advertisement for anything much
worth emulating. Still, readers want to know, and it’s the season of
giving, so I’ll take a shot at it.

Bear in mind please that I come from the strongly empirical,
anti-ideological Tory-Brit-Anglican position that disdains all isms
and all claims to capital-letter Truth, and that nurses low
expectations of human life, human knowledge, and the human race. It
seems absurd to stick a label on the clutter and ambiguity of my own
thoughts, but if you strap me down to a rack and apply the electrodes,
I’ll call myself a Mysterian. Feel free to google that to your
heart’s content. I picked up the term (though not the idea) from John
Horgan’s 1999 book The Undiscovered Mind, where you’ll find it in
Chapter 8.

I confess I haven’t kept tabs on the Mysterians since reading Horgan’s
book. The book sold well, so very likely there are now a hundred
schools of Mysterian thought–paleo-Mysterians, neo-Mysterians,
Judeo-Mysterians, nude rock-climbing Mysterians and so on. Good luck
to them all. I am not a joiner. I do think, though, as Mysterians
do, that our existence takes place between two poles of unfathomable
mystery: the Big Bang, and human consciousness. Science can get us
closer and ever closer to these mysteries, in the style mathematicians
call “asymptotic,” but it can never finally resolve them. Our
understanding is not capable.

And while I don’t think our intellects are up to encompassing either
creation or consciousness, I do think that our intuition offers
glimpses into them. There are odd parallels between the two things.
Both, for example, emerge from formlessness. Babies cannot
distinguish between their own selves and the rest of the world; in the
early universe, there was no distinction between energy and matter.
There is some very deep connection here. The fundamental religious
(at any rate, Western-religious) understanding that ascribes creation
to God, consciousness to the Soul, and places the essence of both
beyond space and time, expresses, I think, a kind of truth, but not a
kind that can be, or ought to be, intellectualized. It can’t be made
to work. We’re not smart enough. A rat may intuit the fact that if
it chomps down on an electric cable, it is going to suffer a nasty
fate. However, the rat is never going to understand Maxwell’s
equations. It’s not capable.

It follows from that ineffable truth though, that there is a Creator,
and I do have a Soul, and–in some sense I can most likely never
apprehend–they are in touch with each other. The Creator is, as the
Old Testament says, “mindful of me.” That’s about as much as I would
care to say, and probably more than a wise man should say.

“Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darueber muss man schweigen.”

Merry Christmas!


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