There is a categorical distinction between space and time conceived, on the one hand, as cosmic bounds, and on the other, as variables x and t to be determined by measurement. It is a distinction, moreover, which the physicist is disposed to miss inasmuch as he is committed to the latter conception: physics is, after all, “the science of measurement.” Yet the distinction proves to be real: if in fact there were no “cosmic” time—which as such is unmeasurable—there could be no time coordinates t as well.
What, then, is that unmeasurable time? Strangely enough, it is something which itself “measures” in a very ancient and ontologically decisive sense: what it measures or “metes out,” namely, are events. It measures an event—not of course by assigning a number to its duration—but by defining its beginning and its end. And in so doing it gives rise to the event, causes it in a sense to exist. That beginning and end—so far from being mere attributes—are rather constitutive of that event, even as the spherical boundary of a billiard ball is constitutive of that entity. In brief: cosmic time gives rise to events through an act of “cosmic measurement”—which is the reason we refer to it as a bound.
It is to be noted that this conception of time as a “bound” differs from the more customary notion of time as a “container of events,” the analogue to the “empty container” conception of space. This is not to say that time has not also an “empty container” aspect, or that space may not have likewise an active aspect of “bound.” The point is simply that in speaking of cosmic as opposed to measurable time, we are speaking of time as an inherently active principle of cosmogenesis.
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It behooves us now to recall the concept of the intermediary plane,1Cf. The Vertical Ascent (Philos-Sophia Initiative, 2021), pp. 13-5. which in a way we all enter, for example, in the experience of dreams. It is hardly necessary to point out that objects perceived in a dream have no location in space: a dream castle has no spatial coordinates—which is of course why, upon waking, we regard it as “unreal.” But even though dream objects are not spatial—have no location in space—they prove nonetheless to be temporal: that is the crucial point. We have all presumably experienced the ring of an alarm clock interrupting a dream sequence at a moment which could indeed be identified within the sequence itself. The fact is that the dream state is subject to the bound of time even though its objects do not exist in the spatial or “corporeal” world. They pertain thus to an ontological stratum our sciences have left out of account, which we term the intermediary plane.
The contemporary reader is of course prone to “psychologize” that ontological realm: relegate it instantly to the limbo of res cogitantes or “things of the mind”—which is however to miss the point utterly. So far from reducing to something mental or imaginary, the intermediary plane is as real as the corporeal world—and in a sense more real inasmuch as it precedes the corporeal ontologically. It stands to reason, namely, that the imposition of a spatial bound does not bestow reality, but in fact restricts, and therefore in a sense abrogates a preexistent plenitude. There is in truth nothing in the corporeal realm which does not preexist ontologically in the intermediary. The latter is consequently not to be conceived as something “additional” to the corporeal: to restrict is not in truth to create something new.
It is crucial to regain clarity on these fundamental issues, which have been hopelessly misconstrued since the onset of what has been euphemistically termed the Enlightenment. It needs to be understood that whereas, in our culture, all reference to higher ontological planes appears “mystical” in the pejorative sense, this is due to the fact that our post-Cartesian Weltanschauung leaves no room for ontological height. An entire dimension—the vertical—has been, as it were, verboten. The objectively real world, according to René Descartes, is made up exclusively of res extensae, objects extended in space; everything else is supposedly a res cogitans. This is the cosmology that gained dominance during the seventeenth century, presided over the rise of physics, and to this day defines our ontological status quo: what needs to be grasped is that it proves to be misconceived.
What needs above all to be realized is that “extension in space” is by no means indispensable as a condition of objective reality: it turns out that time is more basic than space, and that in fact there exists an ontological stratum subject to time alone, from which the corporeal or spatio-temporal world is derived through the imposition of the spatial bound.
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The reason we characterize the aforesaid domain as “intermediary” resides in the fact that, if time is indeed a bound, there must be something it bounds or acts upon: and this entails the existence of a primary cosmic domain not subject to time. This ontological fact is recognized in the great metaphysical schools of antiquity, in light of which that primary domain has been characterized as the aeviternal.2What distinguishes aeviternity from eternity per se is the fact that the former can be conceived in a cosmic—as opposed to a purely metaphysical or theological—sense. As St. Thomas Aquinas has put it: what defines aeviternity is the fact that “time can be adjoined to it.” I would add that the resultant conception of a cosmic trichotomy is apparently indigenous to the ancient metaphysical schools: we encounter that conception from Greece to India, where to this day one speaks of the tribhuvāna or “triple world.” It is, in particular, basic to Platonism, and accords moreover with the tripartite conception of man as corpus-anima-spiritus.3These are matters I have dealt with at length in other publications, notably The Vertical Ascent, op. cit. I have found it enlightening to represent the tripartite cosmos by a circle in which the center represents the aeviternal realm, the interior the intermediary, and the circumference the corporeal; and whereas it is unclear whether this representation was employed in the ancient schools, it strikes me as a veritable icon of the cosmic trichotomy.
This ontological tripartition is however invisible to the physicist for the simple reason that he looks upon the cosmos through corporeal instruments. What he observes is consequently subject to the bounds of space and time, which signifies that the corporeal realm is all he can “see.” Let us not fail to note, on the other hand, that by the same token he cannot conclude that the tripartite cosmos does not exist: as I have pointed out repeatedly, such a denial pertains, not to science, properly so called, but to scientism.
We part company, thus, with Bertrand Russell when he declares that “what science cannot tell us, mankind cannot know”—a dictum which proves moreover to be patently spurious inasmuch as science itself can evidently tell us no such thing. I maintain, furthermore, that a bona fide science of the intermediary realm is in truth possible, even though such a science cannot be based upon observation via corporeal instruments, the point being that the scientist himself can in principle serve as the instrument of observation. I shall in fact argue that the ancient sciences fall typically into this category.
It is of course to be noted that a serious inquiry into the nature of ancient sciences is hardly to be expected from our contemporary savants, who seem in fact to relegate these sciences a priori to the category of “ancient superstitions.” By way of response, let me share with you an anecdote which bears very directly upon this issue. It was my first visit to India—which now goes back more than half a century—and I had just arrived in New Delhi, when I received word that a personage whom I was very eager to meet was scheduled to arrive the following morning at 11 a.m. Highly pleased, I took a stroll through the city, and on my way back to the hotel was accosted by a fakir, who—out of the blue—informed me that something “very good” would happen to me “tomorrow at 11 a.m.” Since no one in New Delhi besides myself could know of this, I became interested. Repairing to a nearby garden with this individual, I wanted to put him to the test. He began by handing me a piece of paper, which he requested me to examine: I found that it was blank. He then asked me to fold the paper and hold it in my hand. Next he asked that I think of a number between 1 and 100. I did, choosing the number 36, as I recall. Then he asked me to examine the paper: and there, clearly visible, was the number 36.
What are we to make of this? I realized soon enough that the number 36 must have been inscribed on that slip of paper in so-called “invisible ink,” which turns visible when it is warmed—as presumably happened when I held it in my hand. Yet that number, it appears, must have been conveyed directly from the fakir’s mind to mine, a transfer which I presume can only be situated in the intermediary plane: that much is clear. It appears that this fakir was able to accomplish two things our Western savants believe not to be possible: first, to pick information directly out of someone’s mind (the “11 a.m.”); and second, to reverse the process by putting something directly into another person’s mind (the number 36).
What, then, is a “fakir”? Suffice it to say that he represents the lowest grade of a yogi: someone, that is, who has acquired some degree of proficiency in the ancient practice of yoga. The fact is, however, that this can only be done as a disciple of a qualified guru: there is in truth no such thing as a “do-it-yourself” yoga! Getting back to the fakir: to exhibit yogic feats of whatever kind for pecuniary gain renders him contemptible in the eyes of authentic yogis, who most assuredly are in quest of greater things. Yet, even so, that bit of “supernatural” know-how did not come cheap: that fakir too was obliged to pass through a novitiate of arduous practice under the tutelage of a qualified master. What is more—and hard for us to grasp—is the fact that “instruction” alone does not suffice: what is also called for as a sine qua non for the practice of authentic yoga is an initiation or dikshā, which itself transpires on the intermediary plane.4The Catholic reader may discern a certain analogy—distant though it may be—with the priesthood, which likewise hinges upon a chain of transmission through the intermediary plane.
* * *
I have related this anecdote to point out that there exist sciences that enable its practitioners to transcend the corporeal realm, which differ fundamentally from our own in that they not only presuppose powers on the part of the practitioner which need to be acquired by rigorous disciplines practiced over extended periods of time, but hinge upon an “initiatory” transmission, an authentic dikshā. An element unknown in the modern world comes thus perforce into play: discipleship, that is. The sciences to which we refer are therefore traditional not only in the sense of being “handed down” from master to disciple, but also in that they are initiatory. Only thus, namely, does a controlled penetration into the supra-corporeal planes become possible: the fact is that to enter upon the “supernatural” one requires ultimately “supernatural” means.
To be sure, the origin of such “initiatory chains” is for us mysterious in the extreme—which should however come as no surprise: how could it be otherwise, given what has already been set forth! The Christian reader, on the other hand, recalling the Adamic Fall, needs hardly to be surprised. The fact, in any case, is that empirical science can transcend the corporeal plane only to the extent that the scientist himself has done so, which entails that a “religious” element—in the broad sense of re-ligare or “binding back”—enters necessarily into the picture.
As to our fakir who can pick information out of someone’s mind as well as implant ideas therein: if the lowest grade of a yogi can perform such feats, what then is to be said of those who have devoted themselves fully to yogic practices over the better part of a lifetime? I have personally witnessed yogis seated motionless in deep meditation for most of their days and nights, and have sensed upon their return to normal consciousness that they came as it were from afar. I doubt not that their objective is to transcend the intermediary domain, which in keeping with Vedic tradition they regard as no more than a corridor to be crossed in quest of their proper destination. It appears moreover that even as there are means of horizontal locomotion, there are means of vertical “journeying,” unknown though these be to contemporary civilization. It needs to be realized that there is in truth no common measure between the two: for whereas horizontal locomotion transpires within a given ontological stratum, the vertical brings you face to face with “things undreamed of in your philosophy.”5The full quote from Hamlet being: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
This brings us to the question whether there exist bona fide empirical sciences transcending the corporeal plane: and let me say that, for my part, I believe there are. I am fully persuaded, for example, that alchemy is in truth a case in point, and that its two basic operations—the so-called solve and coagula—constitute indeed transformations from the corporeal to the intermediary and the reverse, respectively. Having caught glimpses—though for the most part vicariously—of higher ontological strata, I rank alchemy among the things “not dreamed of” in our present-day philosophy.6On the subject of astrology—another science which hinges upon higher ontological planes—I refer to The Vertical Ascent, op. cit., ch. 7.
It is time to break the confines of the Cartesian Weltanschauung: time to rediscover the integral cosmos, the world which cannot be measured in light-years. Our current Occidental provincialism was in a way excusable during the glory days of physical science, when each new triumph was followed by another more astounding yet; but now that fundamental physics has entered a state of manifest chaos, the picture has drastically changed. Today the notion that the cosmos in its totality may comprise additional ontological planes—so far from being unthinkable—has in fact become eminently plausible: when the physics of so-called fundamental particles has turned into an ugly mess and no one admittedly understands7I am referring to Richard Feynman’s justly famous assertion that “No one understands quantum theory.”the one theory that actually works—it is hardly the time to reject alternative conceptions out of hand.
* * *
The existence of the intermediary plane—or more precisely, the tripartite nature of the integral cosmos—has profound implications for physics, beginning with the recognition that inasmuch as causality originates on the aeviternal plane, the primary causation must in fact be vertical. What I showed in the context of the quantum measurement problem is that a causality operating in time cannot account for the collapse of a wave function; and what emerges now from the tripartite nature of the integral cosmos is that the primary causality is perforce vertical.8Vertical causality—which operates not in time but “instantaneously”—is differentiated from what I term horizontal causality, which operates in time by way of a physical process.
It is evident that physics, as “the science of measurement,” is restricted to the lowest stratum of the cosmic trichotomy: the corporeal plane. It deals thus with entities subject to both space and time, and “has eyes” only for quantities: what it “sees”—or better said, can see—pertains to the quantitative side or aspect of corporeal reality. The very fact, however, that this quantitative content arises from bounds imposed upon a pre-existent reality implies that corporeal reality as such does not reduce to the categories of physics. It follows that physics is unable to know the corporeal world, another recognition at which I had originally arrived in the context of the quantum measurement problem.
What proves moreover to be invisible to physics are not only attributes—so-called qualities, such as color for instance—but substances as well: it turns out, namely, that the very notion of substance has no place in “the science of measurement.” What this ultimately entails is that, “on its own level” so to speak, physics reduces necessarily to a quantum mechanics; as Sir Arthur Eddington observed at the outset of the quantum era: “The notion of substance has disappeared from physics.” And I would note that the overwhelming emphasis upon what is actually measurable—an emphasis characteristic of early twentieth century philosophical movements such as logical positivism—has rendered that disappearance virtually inevitable. As in the case of qualities, the idea of “substance” had to go, not because there is no substance, but simply because it proves not to be measurable.
In a word, “unmeasurables” of every description were officially relegated to the limbo of res cogitantes in a relentless campaign to render the cosmos fully “measurable.” In addition to sensible qualities and substances, however, there are yet other “unmeasurables” which likewise “carried a price on their head.” The most basic among these is evidently the distinction between the bounds of space and of time, which clearly does not pertain to the quantitative realm. And I would note that it was Albert Einstein who apparently accepted the task of its elimination as his personal mission: it is this that characterizes Einsteinian physics in its totality and separates it sharply from the non-Einsteinian.
The first thing to note, in this regard, is that the tripartite cosmology not only distinguishes categorically between space and time, but in fact assigns ontological priority to the bound of time. How, then, does this ontological priority impact physics: what physical consequence does it entail? It impacts physics, I say, by the fact that it entails a globally defined simultaneity, a notion incompatible with the Einsteinian reduction of time to space. This means that Einstein could achieve his objective only by formulating a mathematical physics in which there is no global simultaneity. And therein resides the endemic error of relativistic physics per se.
The recognition, on the other hand, that there does exist a universal cosmic “now” is consonant with classical (Newtonian) mechanics. To comprehend ontologically what stands at issue, let us reflect somewhat upon the act of imposing spatial separation upon a domain in which there is time but not space. It is clear, first of all, that this act must take place instantaneously: that it cannot, in other words, be conceived as taking place over an interval of time. But inasmuch as motion presupposes an interval of time, this in turn implies that what is thus imposed cannot itself depend upon motion. Now, even as the bound of time gives rise to duration, the bound of space engenders distance. It follows that distance does not depend upon motion, contrary to what Einsteinian physics affirms.
One sees, finally, that Einstein’s error was not scientific, but philosophical: it was his unbending logical positivism that led him astray. Given the—erroneous—assumption that the unmeasurable does not exist, his work proves however to be impeccable.
* * *
At this juncture I would like to interpose a brief digression referring back to earlier work.9Physics and Vertical Causation (Philos-Sophia Initiative, 2023), ch. 5. The fact remains, namely, that whereas the equations of mechanics transform according to the Galilean rule, the equations of electromagnetism do not: what does this imply, what does it signify? In contrast to an Einsteinian Principle of Relativity, what stands at issue is actually a Principle of Immobility which singles out a special class of inertial reference frames as immobile or at rest: those, specifically, that are stationary with respect to the Earth. And shocking as it may strike the physics establishment at large, this fact provides a rigorous basis for a revalidation—yes, of geocentrism no less! That long-abandoned and much-maligned notion may yet replace Einsteinian relativity in the end.
Let me note in passing that the authentic “Einstein story” has yet to be told—and the more carefully one separates the facts from the myth, the more amazing that story becomes. Whatever facet of “relativistic physics,” namely, one chooses to examine from an empirical point of view begins, upon close enough scrutiny, to disintegrate. The single exception, to be sure, is the fateful formula E = mc2, which proves to hold its ground: the catch is that this formula has nothing whatsoever to do with Einsteinian relativity!10It can be derived namely from classical physics and is in fact on record in the nineteenth-century journal literature. I am personally persuaded that what might not inappropriately be termed the “Einstein mania” has from the start been driven by ideology: what ultimately stands at issue is the complete quantification of cosmic reality, which constitutes after all “the holy grail” of the scientistic enterprise.
In conclusion I would add that I nonetheless hold Albert Einstein in high esteem. The fact alone that in the year 1905, in which he inaugurated his special theory of relativity, he published two other papers—one on Brownian motion and one on the photoelectric effect, either of which is richly deserving of a Nobel prize—this in itself ranks him as a consummate master of his discipline. His shortcomings, therefore, reduce to the limitations of physics per se.
* * *
Getting back to the tripartite cosmology and the emergence of vertical causation, let me recall that three years following the publication of The Quantum Enigma—in which I introduced that notion—a mathematician by the name of William Dembski published an epochal theorem proving that wherever there is “design” manifesting as so-called “complex specified information” or CSI, there VC must be in play. It follows, thus, that VC is operative not only in acts of quantum measurement, where it was first identified, but in creative activity of every description: in every process, that is, which results in the production of CSI. And this includes the better part of normal human activity, which in fact is human precisely by virtue of not being robotic.
The production of CSI is not however limited to conscious human endeavor, but is operative throughout the biosphere. What defines a living organism is a wholeness not reducible to the sum of its parts. It happens, moreover, that such an irreducible wholeness is in principle productive of VC.11What stands at issue is an ontological alternative to Dembski’s information-theoretic approach which vastly generalizes his theory. See my recent article, “Irreducible Wholeness and Dembski’s Theorem.” And this recognition brings traditional metaphysical doctrine once again into play: let me explain.
That IW definitive of the biosphere proves namely to be none other than what is traditionally termed the soul or anima of the living organism; and what renders that soul irreducible to the sum of its parts is the fact that it pertains to the intermediary domain, and consequently has no (spatial) parts! The crucial point, now, is that whereas this anima is itself an effect of VC12This follows from the generalized Dembski theorem, published in the aforesaid article.—primary VC one can say, what St. Thomas Aquinas terms the act-of-being—it is yet capable of exerting a vertical causality of its own: it happens namely that an IW has in principle that capacity.13I refer once more to the article cited above. And this VC emanating from the anima constitutes the vertical causation definitive of the biosphere, what in times past was sometimes referred to as élan vital. The point is that a living organism does not reduce to a mechanism, and cannot therefore be understood in terms of horizontal causation.14Cf. footnote 8 above. Contrary to what Western savants have believed since the days of Galileo and Descartes, biology does not reduce to physics.
It appears that physicists as well as biologists engaged in fundamental research are beginning to realize this fact, which is to say that we are entering a new era in which a partial rediscovery, at least, of the ancient cosmological wisdom seems destined to take place. Notwithstanding the attendant uncertainty, the period known to historians as the Enlightenment—what René Guénon designates more soberly as “the reign of quantity”—is coming to an end.
Dr. Smith’s latest book, Physics: A Science in Quest of an Ontology, is now available, as is our feature documentary chronicling his life and work, The End of Quantum Reality.
|↑1||Cf. The Vertical Ascent (Philos-Sophia Initiative, 2021), pp. 13-5.|
|↑2||What distinguishes aeviternity from eternity per se is the fact that the former can be conceived in a cosmic—as opposed to a purely metaphysical or theological—sense. As St. Thomas Aquinas has put it: what defines aeviternity is the fact that “time can be adjoined to it.”|
|↑3||These are matters I have dealt with at length in other publications, notably The Vertical Ascent, op. cit.|
|↑4||The Catholic reader may discern a certain analogy—distant though it may be—with the priesthood, which likewise hinges upon a chain of transmission through the intermediary plane.|
|↑5||The full quote from Hamlet being: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”|
|↑6||On the subject of astrology—another science which hinges upon higher ontological planes—I refer to The Vertical Ascent, op. cit., ch. 7.|
|↑7||I am referring to Richard Feynman’s justly famous assertion that “No one understands quantum theory.”|
|↑8||Vertical causality—which operates not in time but “instantaneously”—is differentiated from what I term horizontal causality, which operates in time by way of a physical process.|
|↑9||Physics and Vertical Causation (Philos-Sophia Initiative, 2023), ch. 5.|
|↑10||It can be derived namely from classical physics and is in fact on record in the nineteenth-century journal literature.|
|↑11||What stands at issue is an ontological alternative to Dembski’s information-theoretic approach which vastly generalizes his theory. See my recent article, “Irreducible Wholeness and Dembski’s Theorem.”|
|↑12||This follows from the generalized Dembski theorem, published in the aforesaid article.|
|↑13||I refer once more to the article cited above.|
|↑14||Cf. footnote 8 above.|