Metaconsciousness: Mythology for a Post-Civilized World
II.3 | Contents | II.5
Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space.
—The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy1
There is a widespread myth among humans that the universe in which we live is infinite. Of course, no one has any means of knowing this for sure, yet there are persuasive reasons for believing it. So an infinite universe is one among any number of myths that many people believe without any doubt; and some of whom might even bridle at the suggestion that it is a myth at all, and not a "scientifically proven fact."
Contents of this section:
The Large and the Small
Perhaps the most persuasive reason for believing that the universe is infinite is the difficulty one faces by supposing it not to be infinite. That is, if the universe is not infinite, it must be finite; and that immediately raises the question of what, if anything, may lie beyond its finite margins; and the corollary question as to whether that, whatever it may be, is or is not infinite. If whatever lies beyond the margins of a finite universe is also finite, what lies beyond that; and is it finite, or infinite? And so on, ad infinitum.
And so, more or less by default, we are left with the myth of an infinite universe as the least implausible of our available choices; even though, ourselves being finite, we cannot "prove it," and ultimately have no realistic conception of what an infinite universe must actually mean. Fortunately, it is not necessary for us to "prove our myths," or even to fully understand them, in order for them to be of vital importance to us. In fact, a living myth – that is, one in which we actually believe – is for all practical purposes indistinguishable to us from a "hard-edged fact." We routinely and with little thought entrust our very lives to the reliability of our myths, and our myths in turn usually bear our weight – unless they don't! – without complaint. That is, whether they are true or not, they usually seem to work, which in turn strengthens our belief in them, and encourages us to propagate them from mind to mind, and generation to generation.
The myths of all human cultures, in all times and places, have shared this property of being self-evidently plausible to those who have believed in them; which is doubtless why some people may object to having their myths spoken of as myths. For many, a myth is something someone else believes, or has believed in the past, and is never something oneself believes right now. For these, what one believes right now is a fact, not a myth. So be it. So it has always been, with people and their myths.
Thus if we accept the myth of an infinite universe as for all practical purposes a "hard-edged fact," there follows from this, as from all human choices, certain consequences – in this case, logical consequences. If an infinite universe is taken as a "hard-edged fact," then it must also be a "hard-edged fact" that infinity is the absolute scale of the universe. Now if infinity is the absolute scale of the universe, then it follows that all finite entities, such as galaxies and atoms, must be alike infinitesimally small. This is the basis, in part, for the alternative meme we proposed earlier, that
Nothing that exists is any more important or wonderful than anything else that exists. The least and the greatest are alike miraculous, and sacred;2
Which was elaborated further by the observation that
Because of the infinite spectrum of relative scale within the domain of Isness, it cannot truthfully be said that "big" things are any "greater" than "small" things. There is, in other words, no hierarchy of "value" in the domain of Isness. A galaxy is no more or less significant than an atom; a horse is of no greater significance than a horsefly. Different scales present different environments for Life to explore and experience; none of which are intrinsically any "better" or "worse" than any other, and each of which presents a thoroughly absorbing environment for the agents that inhabit it. Thus it is an error for humans to make the presumption that they are the most important life form in the universe. There is no "most important" anything in the universe. Or put another way, everything is the most important life form; everything is alive, and all are One.3
Which was summed up in turn by the statement that
There is no hierarchy of value in Cosmos: all entities are in the largest possible context peers, simply by virtue of existing.4
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There is no Hierarchy
It follows that the hierarchical basis for "civilization" is fundamentally flawed – inasmuch as the "civilized hierarchy" have often attempted to justify their status on the basis of "absolute principles," such as that the Pharaoh, or the Emperor, was a God, or the Son of a God; or have invoked the "Divine Right of Kings;" or the "infallibility of the Pope;" or the absolute authority of the "True Faith," or the "True God," and especially, the absolute authority of the "True Priesthood." This in turn has justified the annihilation of all incompatible myths as "heresies," "paganism," "Satanism," or "worse;" and intransigent adherence to the principle that Our way is the only right way to live, and all people should live as we do (or we'll kill them). Of course, there are at this time still a number of competing "our ways," whose respective partisans are playing desperately to "win all the marbles,"5 with the intended end result that there will eventually emerge only one right way to live, and everybody who lives otherwise must either conform or perish.
In more recent times, many of those active in the hierarchy have attempted to attach the hierarchy's validity to abstract principles, such as "democracy," "the will of the people," "equality,"6 "justice," etc. However, in an infinite universe, all kings, pontiffs, and members of the "ruling class" are (like serfs, savages, elephants, dragonflies, and fleas) infinitesimally small, and the logical basis for an absolute human hierarchy vanishes in the immensities. In consequence, and in practice, the justification for all human hierarchies defaults ultimately to preemptive force, or war; which results infallibly in an ever-narrowing spectrum of richness, diversity, variety, complexity, and liberty upon planet Earth; and the resultant obstruction of metaconsciousness.
Now this is not to say that all possible hierarchical arrangements are fatally flawed, and indeed such arrangements are often indispensable tools in aid of human creativity. The simple act of counting, 1, 2, 3, 4, ...etc. is a hierarchical arrangement: 2 follows 1, and precedes 3, which in turn is followed by 4, ...and so on. The same is true of arranging names, words, or other items in alphabetical or numerical order, which is often a useful tool for organizing collections of numerous elements, such as dictionaries, telephone directories, and inventories. Yet in such a context, it is not reasonable to suppose that there is anything "absolutely superior" about Bob, just because his name appears before Charlie's in a list.
It can be useful to view almost anything (such as a tree, for instance) in hierarchical terms. A tree has a trunk, or main stem, from which a few major branches grow; each of which supports the growth of smaller branches, which support successively smaller and smaller tiers of branches, twigs, and individual leaves. And a single leaf is laced with a fine network of veins that echo the pattern of branches on the parent tree. A tree can thus be usefully seen, under some circumstances, as a hierarchical structure; yet this does not imply that a tree is a hierarchical structure; or that the whole tree is of intrinsically greater (or less) significance in the infinite universe than is a single leaf; or that a single tree is of less (or greater) significance than an entire forest. Each finite item in the Cosmic inventory of "All That Is" takes its relative position somewhere on a scale that, in an infinite universe, has no "smallest" or "greatest" terminus – because it has no terminus at all, but goes on "forever," without "beginning" or "end." That's what infinity is, by definition; and every finite thing on that endless scale, including "a long way down the road to the chemist," is alike infinitesimally small.
Thus it is not the act of devising hierarchical structures for the purpose of conceptually organizing numerous elements of an assemblage that has derailed human civilization into a collision-course with catastrophe. Rather, it has been the insupportable claim by the self-anointed "ruling class" that there is something absolute and intrinsic to the Cosmic Scheme from which their conception of social hierarchy springs. Over the course of millennia and centuries various myths have been deliberately inculcated and nourished among all civilized populations, to the effect that for some reason or other the civilized hierarchy is somehow absolutely rooted in the Cosmic Scheme, and forms the bedrock upon which all "civilizations" have been, and must be built. This false claim has been justified in many different ways in many different times and places – yet always to the same invariable effect: It is in the Cosmic Nature of things for "inferior beings" to bear the burdens of their "superiors." In all its disguises and masquerades, this has always been an intrinsically false claim; because in an infinite universe, there are no "superiors" and "inferiors;" and every finite being is alike infinitesimally small. Those who involuntarily bear the burdens of their peers are infested by parasites.
In sum, the myth of human hierarchy has been deliberately and dishonestly promoted for thousands of years in a succession of acts of war7 in furtherance of somebody's agenda to "win all the marbles" and either annihilate or enslave everyone on Earth not a party to their warlike agenda. As already mentioned, any myth, firmly believed, is indistinguishable to the believer from a "hard-edged fact." Whether a myth is true or not has little or nothing to do with its power. The decisive factor is whether is is believed or not; and humans are capable of believing anything. "There's a sucker born every minute," and evidently this has been so for at least the past several thousand years. Today, however, those who persist in believing the myth of human hierarchy will eventually either be enslaved or annihilated by it, ultimately both; and with the best of sincere intentions will continue to assist the agenda of narrowing the spectrum of richness, diversity, variety, complexity, and liberty upon planet Earth. Which is to say in a single word, the agenda of war.
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The Infinite and the Infinitesimal
That the myth of human hierarchy is false is not the only logical consequence of the myth of an infinite universe. In an infinite universe, we, finite beings, may be infinitesimally small – yet nevertheless, we're here. We, like the infinite universe, exist, and have the volition, and the power, to do things, to make decisions and choices which have manifest consequences within the matrix of the infinite universe. This, when one stops to think about it, is nothing short of astounding! We're infinitesimally small, yet we have a part to play in the whole of infinity. Extraordinary! Yet this is our experience, every day. We're here; we do things; and the things we do have consequences, to ourselves, to our fellow beings, and to our planet – and who knows how far the ripples we set in motion spread, and what effects they may ultimately have?
Our local experience is (or can be viewed as): Everything within our limited horizon seems to be linked together in a seamless web of mutual interrelationship, in which cascades of "causes" and "effects" constantly radiate from, and to, every locus of change in a ceaselessly dynamic net. How far does this net extend? Is it, like the universe, infinite? If not, where, short of the infinite universe, does it come to an end? The logic that spawned the myth of an infinite universe seems to apply here as well, and yields the reply, "Nowhere."
Nowhere do the consequences of our choices, decisions, and actions cease cascading in the form of chains of "resultant" and "causal" changes that stretch to "the ends of the universe;" and the universe "has no end." In other words, we infinitesimally small beings, every time we make a decision, "large" or "small," and act upon it, set in motion an infinite cascade, the effects of which never cease, and ultimately touch everything in the infinite universe. Thus we, who may consider ourselves "finite," turn out after all to be inextricably linked with every other part of the infinite – and so, are we not justified in identifying ourselves with That?
From contemporary chaos theory comes the well-known "butterfly effect," in which it is said that a butterfly flitting through a garden in China may stir currents of air whose effects cascade weeks later into a hurricane along the Carolina coast of North America. For infinitesimally small beings in an infinite universe, there is no way of distinguishing between "large" or "small" anything, in terms of their ultimate effects. Everything has an effect on everything else, everywhere, all the time; and "All Things" are indivisibly bound together as One. In other words, there is only One here, and "Thou art That" applies alike to every infinitesimally small being in Cosmos. Some have called this the "holographic universe," because, like the parts of a hologram, every infinitesimally small being duplicates "in small" the entire Cosmos – "All That Is." The "part" and the "Whole" are the same, and "large" and "small," in the context of "All That Is," have no meaning.
Just as the swarm of individual neurons in a human brain combine in the metaconsciousness manifest as a human mind, so the swarms of infinitesimally small beings throughout Cosmos – including, but not limited to ourselves – manifest as the Metaconsciousness of "All That Is;" which is limitlessly aware, intelligent, and creative, and must indeed "embody," on an incomprehensibly higher arc, every quality found in every infinitesimally small being in Cosmos.
Such thoughts are components, possibly, of a post-civilized mythology from which, if they are "fruitful, multiply, and fill the Earth," may someday manifest in a post-civilized world inhabited by people who remember our contemporary dramas, if at all, as but the growing pains of a primitive and infantile race.
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1. Adams, 1980, p. 76.
2. Fatal and Nonfatal Memes, in the Prologue.
3. Section II.1, pp. 140-1.
4. Item 1, Conditions for Social Success, section II.3.
5. See The Games of Life, and "Win all the Marbles" in section II.3.
6. "Equality," yes – so long as "some are more equal than others."
7. Acts of war are discussed in Conditions for Social Success, The Wider Dimensions of Warfare, Warfare and Predation, and The Games of Life, and "Win all the Marbles", section II.3.
Metaconsciousness: Mythology for a Post-Civilized World
II.3 | Contents | II.5