Editor’s Note: The Initiative wishes to express its deep gratitude to the Australian artist Betty Davies for her magnificent and profoundly expressive portrait of Dr. Smith featured in this article, which she has graciously donated to the Foundation.
We have spoken at length of the “tripartite cosmos” as envisaged in the sapiential traditions of mankind,1Physics and Vertical Causation: The End of Quantum Reality (Angelico Press, 2019), pp. 101-22. See also my article, “The Tripartite Wholeness.” which relegates the corporeal world to the lowest of three ontological tiers, characterized by its subjection to the bounds of time and space. I would like now to point out that this traditional ontology entails the very opposite of what our contemporary civilization believes on supposedly scientific grounds: for in the tripartite cosmos, space and time cease to be the container and become themselves the contained. One of the two opposing sides has evidently stood the world on its head: and I shall argue that it is in truth our own. It is our vaunted science, I contend, that has misled us; and I propose to examine the current impasse of physics in light of this ontological claim. It will prove expedient, moreover, to approach the issue from an historical perspective by situating that present-day quandary within a great arc associated — “in descending order” — with three illustrious names: Plato, Aristotle, and yes, Galileo.
We begin with the observation that the aforesaid distinction between the supra-temporal and the temporal domains accords with the dichotomy between the intelligible and the sensible worlds definitive of Platonism: everything ontological hinges ultimately upon that recognition! The fact, moreover, that we divide the latter into two subdomains — a corporeal or “gross” and an intermediary2This ontological domain is subject to the condition of time but not of space, and is consequently situated “above” the corporeal. or “subtle” — accords likewise with the sapiential traditions, beginning actually with the Vedic.
A glimpse, at least, of what the Platonist “primacy of the intelligible” entails may be gleaned from Plato’s celebrated “myth of the cave”: picture a group of prisoners in a cave, constrained to gaze upon shadows projected upon its wall by objects “outside the cave.”3Readers acquainted with what I term the “cosmic icon” (a circle in which the center represents the intelligible, the interior the intermediary, and the circumference the corporeal world) will recognize that the circle bereft of its center is also in fact symbolic of this “cave,” the circumference representing its “wall.” Certainly the objects thus perceived are, in a sense, unreal. Yet this is not actually the point: the decisive fact — definitive of Platonist ontology — is not that the sensible object is unreal or illusory, but that in truth it has no separate existence of its own. The “shadow” has after all a connection with the “original,” a nexus which actually supersedes its aspect of difference. One may say — following the French philosopher Jean Borella — that the sensible object constitutes a sign signifying an intelligible referent, which as such has a reality sui generis: namely a semantic reality, properly so called. In this optic, which I take to be authentically Platonist, a corporeal entity is not simply a “thing” — does not reduce, in other words, to its manifestation in space and time — but, like the “shadows” in Plato’s cave, points beyond itself to a referent transcending its spatio-temporal bounds. In the fullness of its being, thus, that sensible object is more than simply “corporeal” by virtue of the fact that it transcends its spatio-temporal locus semantically. It has thus become apparent that Platonist ontology entails a “vertical” dimension invisible — “by definition” one might say — to physics as such.
Let this much serve as a first exegesis of Plato’s “myth”: that incomparable icon of the sensible vis-à-vis the intelligible tier of the integral cosmos. A “first exegesis,” I say: because of course there is always more! Authentic myth speaks to us, if you will, of the ineffable in that it “embodies the nearest approach to absolute truth that can be stated in words,” as Ananda Coomaraswamy apprises us.4Hinduism and Buddhism (Greenwood Press, 1971), p. 33.
* * *
The founding revelation, thus, of Platonist ontology is that the sensible object — though but a “shadow” — “presentifies” its intelligible prototype. And whereas the senses as such apprehend no more than these outer manifestations — the “shadows” as Plato has it — the intellect5Pneuma as opposed to psyche, corresponding thus to spiritus in the traditional corpus-anima-spiritus trichotomy. has the capacity to “penetrate” the sensible image as such, and thereby attain to the apprehension of the intelligible object itself: for it happens that intellect likewise transcends spatial and temporal bounds. It thus corresponds, in the human being, to the intelligible realm of the integral cosmos: we must remember that, according to the Platonist anthropology, the anthropos himself constitutes a tripartite microcosm, culminating in pneuma: intellect, that is.
Two comments are called for at this point. First, that this “pneumatic” apprehension of the intelligible world admits of countless degrees, and cannot as a rule be achieved in its higher levels without a prolonged askesis, accessed through initiatic means. And the reason for this incapacity, let me add, has in fact been clearly given by St. Paul when he refers to man in his present state as a psychikos anthropos,61 Cor. 2:14 the point being that he has forfeited the full and proper use of his highest faculty. The task of authentic philosophy may thus be conceived, in light of sapiential tradition, as a restoration of man to the full use of his native faculties: and on this point, at least, the savants of Platonism and of Christianity appear to be in full accord.7It is obviously needless to point out that this makes no sense whatever from a Darwinist point of view. But then: neither does Darwinism, from a Platonist!
My second comment pertains to Jean Borella’s symbolist or “semantic” interpretation of the sensible in relation to its intelligible prototype. It appears to me that this in a way explicates what in the Platonic dialogues is conveyed implicitly by two complementary means: first by way of a dialectic, in which the Platonist conclusion is implied through a reductio ad absurdum of the opposing view; and “allegorically,” as in the “myth” of the cave. It is of course to be supposed that more than this was revealed “inside” the Academy; my point, in any case, is that Borella’s explication of the sensible object as a sign — connected semantically to its intelligible referent — may help to open doors closed for a very long time.
* * *
The reality of the perceptible cosmos — the corporeal world, first of all — proves thus to be inherently iconic. Remember: it is the conditions of space and time — “the wall of the cave” — which, in a manner of speaking, convert the intelligible into the sensible. In this optic the corporeal proves thus to be indeed a semantic as distinguished from a substantial reality: a sensible sign expressive of an intelligible prototype.
And therein lies the categorical difference between the Platonist and the Aristotelian ontologies. What in a way replaces the intelligible world in the philosophy of Aristotle — which already includes what may rightfully be termed a physics — is the idea of substance, based upon the concept of substantial form. It needs thus to be understood that the Platonist and the Aristotelian worldviews differ to the point of constituting two distinct “perspectives” or darshanas, as the Hindu philosophers would say. But whereas both have undoubtedly their place and their validity, it is undeniable that, as an ontology, the Platonist takes precedence over the Aristotelian. And let us note, at the same time, that the Platonist ontology comes within a “hair’s breadth” of the Christian, which perceives the visible cosmos inherently as a theophany: “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made…”8Rom. 1:20. There is a distinction, to be sure, between the Platonist and the Christian understanding of cosmic reality; yet I venture to say the Platonist comes closer than any pre-Christian ontology — even I would presume, the advaita Vedantic.
The reality of the “visible” world — be it corporeal or subtle9In the sense of the Vedic sukshma: i.e., as pertaining to the intermediary domain. — is thus conceived in both traditions as inherently semantic: visible entities are, fundamentally, signs signifying an intelligible referent. And no philosopher in our time, I surmise, has understood this Platonist truth more profoundly — nor written on this subject with greater perspicacity — than Jean Borella, whose lead we follow in regard to this fundamental issue.10An excellent place to begin the study of Borella’s writings, for the English-speaking reader, might be The Crisis of Religious Symbolism (Angelico Press, 2016). I would point out that the book ends with a major essay entitled Symbolism & Reality: The History of a Reflection, in which Borella recounts the unfolding of his thought: I would recommend this as the perfect starting point. In a world in which academic philosophy has attained what might perhaps be termed the zenith of mediocrity, Borella’s opus stands out as a beacon of light. Let us begin, then, with two “Borellan” propositions, which I will quote verbatim:
Every symbol only signifies through presentifications, that is through a participative correspondence with the realities it signifies.
The visible world, the forms of which constitute the various symbolic signifiers, only possesses a deficient being, an image or manifestation of a world invisible and alone truly real, or at the very least, nearer to the unconditioned Source of being and truth.11Op. cit., p. 78.
Here, in these two crystal-clear assertions, we have, I surmise, a master key to the Platonist ontology: the Platonist vision of cosmic reality, as distinguished, first of all, from the Aristotelian. And I would note that this Platonist ontology is precisely what the cosmic icon symbolizes, and therefore, in a sense, permits us to “see”: for inasmuch as the intermediary and corporeal domains are differentiated from the primary through the imposition of bounds, the reality presentified by a sensible entity — which thus precedes these bounds ontologically — coincides ipso facto with its intelligible referent, represented by the central point.12The ontological reason, moreover, why that “point” is unique — why, on the highest level of reality, all “centers” coincide — resides again in the fact that, in the intelligible realm, there exists neither spatial nor temporal separation. As Dante has put it: “There every where and every when are focused” (Paradiso 28:41). One sees that the uniqueness of the central point in the cosmic icon is expressive of a profound ontological truth: the Platonist, namely, as distinguished from the non-Platonist, beginning with the Aristotelian.
* * *
Our objective is to examine the physics initiated by Galileo in light of Platonist ontology; and so far from constituting an “academic exercise,” this inquiry proves to be crucial to the resolution of the impasse in which fundamental physics has now found itself for the better part of a century. The fact is that contemporary physics rests upon a concomitant ontology, regardless of whether this is recognized and acknowledged or not. There is in truth no such thing as a purely operational or “positivistic” physics, if only because the physicist does not reduce to an automaton or a computer. He may indeed be schizoid — may think, one moment, that “the grass is green,” and the next, that it is not — but yet he is human. And this entails that physics exists perforce within the ambience of a Weltanschauung which drives the enterprise, and is in turn conditioned by its presumed findings. In the final count we are all metaphysicians, whether we admit to it or not; and I find it ironic that those who pretend to despise metaphysics, prove as a rule to be justified in respect to their own.
My point is that our present-day “scientistic” metaphysics misconceives the relation between “appearance” and “reality” to the extent of actually inverting it. One fails to recognize the ontological distinction between “center” and “circumference” — between being and appearance, that is — a distinction which, as Borella explains, is by no means “a sundering and entails no heteromorphism”: to perceive it as such is to deny the semantic capacity of the cosmos, that is to say, its very nature. “Quite the contrary,” he goes on to explain:
appearance is the image and revelation of being. It conceals this only if we idolize it, attributing to it a reality for which it is unsuited.13Op. cit., p. 78; italics mine.
To which he adds, in overtly Christian terms:
But symbolism is there precisely to awaken us to an awareness of the Other World, and to save this world by revealing its theomorphism.
History, however, reveals a human propensity — in the Occidental world especially — to rebel against that immemorial symbolism: to raze the “upward pointing” monuments, and in the name of “progress” shift the collective gaze “downwards.” A man-made symbolism emerges thus, to challenge and displace the archetypal; and this “anti-mythos” in turn reacts upon the Zeitgeist to exacerbate its “progressivist” tendency. Our contemporary creed bears witness to this ongoing process, yet misconstrues its significance to the point of inversion.14See my article, “‘Progress’ in Retrospect.” Meanwhile the onslaught of “Progress” continues to gain intensity somewhat like the winds of an approaching hurricane: and that is where we find ourselves today, for the most part without so much as a clue as to where we stand, and what has brought us there. For it happens that the very “signs” in terms of which our present bearings could be identified pertain to a culture which over several centuries has been targeted for destruction by the presiding elites.
* * *
What is it then, in essence, that has come to pass? The most profound answer, I believe — and certainly the shortest — is the one proposed by Jean Borella: what has come to pass over the millennia of human history is “the destruction of the mythocosm.” And what is that “mythocosm”? In essence it is nothing other than the cosmos as Plato conceives of it, which consists, as we have seen, of two principal tiers: the sensible and the intelligible.15The fact that we have divided the sensible into two domains — the corporeal and the intermediary — does not affect this paramount dichotomy; and I would add that the sapiential traditions offer many finer subdivisions of “the lower tier,” based upon gradations of “sense.” The Tantric science of “cakras,” for example, divides “the sensible” into five distinct levels, the lowest of which corresponds to our “sensible” realm. On this subject I refer to my chapter on “Cakra and Planet: O. M. Hinze’s Discovery” in Science and Myth: With a Response to Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design (Angelico Press, 2012). The crucial point however, let us recall, is that this division is not indicative of a separation or cut, but that, on the contrary, it betokens a relation: that of a sign or signifier to its referent namely, as Borella affirms. Instead of cutting asunder or “breaking in two,” it connects; that “connection,” however, is not material — not “physical” — but semantic, properly so called. Which leads to the critical point of Platonist ontology: the fact, namely, that it is precisely by way of this “semantic bond” — connecting the sensible to the intelligible — that the former derives such reality as it has! In a word: a sensible object exists by virtue of the intelligible archetype of which it constitutes a kind of “image.”
“In the final count we are all metaphysicians, whether we admit to it or not; and I find it ironic that those who pretend to despise metaphysics, prove as a rule to be justified in respect to their own.”
This, in brief, is Jean Borella’s explication of the “mythocosm”: his reading, if you will, of Plato’s myth. The “shadow” is more than simply an “effect” — more than the Hindu “maya” as popularly conceived. There exists a bond connecting the “shadow” to its source, which though itself “invisible,” is in fact what enables us to “see.” Such then is the seeing “inside the cave,” St. Paul’s “as through a glass darkly” in contrast to the seeing “outside,” described as being “face to face.”161 Cor. 13:12 And it might be worth noting that the aforesaid “glass” is in truth none other than the “wall” of Plato’s cave.
Such then was the “high” doctrine of the sapiential traditions, not only as transmitted in the Pythagorean, Platonist, and Neo-Platonist schools, but in the corresponding Oriental as well. What I wish now to point out is that the Aristotelian philosophy constitutes a decisive break in this tradition, that Aristotle may in fact be seen as the first philosopher, at least in the West, to transition successfully from a metaphysics to a physics, howbeit of a distinctly premodern kind: a physics, let it be stressed, which has unquestionably its truth and its efficacy. The fact remains, however, that this Aristotelian doctrine constitutes already a decline: a shift downwards of the intellectual gaze, from the “vertical” orientation of Platonism to an inherently “horizontal” outlook, acceptive of corporeal entities at the level on which they are sensibly perceived. What in this — inherently hylomorphic — optic endows a corporeal entity with “being” is “form”: substantial form, to use the Thomistic term, which though not subject to space, is perforce subject to time.17It is to be noted that this situates substantial form on the intermediary plane.
The first decisive step in “the destruction of the mythocosm” has thus been accomplished by none other than Aristotle: the direction of the ontological outlook has been shifted by ninety degrees — from “vertically upward” to “horizontal” — even as Raphael has depicted the scene.18I am referring, of course, to “The School of Athens” (1509-11). And no one, it seems to me, has expressed what in truth stands at issue more prophetically than Nietzsche when he declared: “We have abolished the real world. What has remained? The apparent one perhaps? Oh no! With the true world we have also abolished the apparent one.” And so it is: with the “abolition of the true world,” the “apparent one” is abolished as well. Who could have imagined, even just a century ago, that the “destruction of the mythocosm” — which is “the real world” — would lead, through the course of over two millennia, to the veritable “nothingness” opening up before us today in the physics of the twenty-first century!
But let us continue the story of the “descent.” It needs to be noted next that the path to modern physics demands a second pivotal step, to which the transition from the intelligible to the sensible opens the door: a shift, namely, from the sensible to the geometric, what Borella refers to as the “geometrization” of the real. When and where then, let us ask, did this second descent take place? Clearly, it was Galileo who sparked that downward turn through the presumptive subjectification of what he mistakenly termed “secondary” qualities: for what remains — or would remain, better said — following the expulsion of the bona fide qualities are in fact quantities: attributes defined ultimately in terms of spatial bounds.19One must remember that “time” is measured by way of space.
The Galilean elimination of the qualities opens the door, thus, to a “geometrization” of corporeal reality, which from an Aristotelian point of view amounts to a spurious reduction of “content” to “container”: of substance, that is, to its spatio-temporal bounds! It is hardly surprising, of course, that this transition — this “standing the world on its head” as we have said — cannot be accomplished overnight; and in point of fact, it has taken almost half a millennium of gargantuan endeavor for the end result to present itself upon the horizon in the guise of such marvels as the “quantum vacuum” or the “multiverse,” wherein “being” has fully disappeared.
* * *
Modern physics came to birth with the publication of Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia in 1687, almost half a century following the demise of Galileo Galilei. One can see in retrospect that the resultant physics — which nowadays is qualified by the adjective “classical” — constitutes the first of three phases, which held sway for a little over two centuries. What distinguishes this classical from post-classical physics categorically is the fact that it was based upon the post-Galilean notion of “matter,” conceived as the space-occupying bearer of measurable attributes. Gone by now was not only the semantic link connecting the sensible to the intelligible — in other words, the “mythocosm” — but the Aristotelian sensible itself, conceived in terms of a substantial form. Not only, however, was this Galilean “matter” bereft of ontological foundation, but it lacked a rigorous empirical basis as well. Defined in effect as “mass extended in space,” that renowned “matter” — touted by triumphant “materialists” as the substance out of which all things whatsoever are composed — turns out in truth to be no more than an imaginary “peg” for measurable attributes, such as mass and spatio-temporal coordinates.
The fact is that, beginning in the early decades of the twentieth century, a devastating epistemological critique began to eradicate the presumed conceptual foundations of that classical physics. Sir Arthur Eddington speaks for the entire period when he observes that “previously scientists professed profound respect for the ‘hard facts of observation’; but it had not occurred to them to ascertain what they were.”20From his Tarner Lectures, delivered at Cambridge University in 1938. It was a time of radical transition: the “classical” foundation had in effect collapsed, and the subsequent phase — i.e., the quantum mechanical — was struggling to come into its own.
Let us shift our attention, then, to that second phase of post-Galilean physics: the triumphant rise of quantum mechanics, associated forever with the illustrious names of Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and Erwin Schrödinger. To comprehend what stands at issue, one needs to recall that the classical notion of “matter” had all along been associated with the idea of atomism: the ancient Democritean notion that corporeal entities are made of minute indecomposable particles termed “atoms.” And history confirms that this notion harbors a certain truth, which in fact came to light in 1897 with the discovery of the electron. For it turns out that corporeal entities can be disintegrated so as to give off what have subsequently been termed “quantum particles,” which prove indeed to be “atomic” in the sense of being indivisible. To the great and seemingly unending amazement of the physics community, however, it turns out that these indivisible entities prove not to be bona fide particles: that in fact, strictly speaking, they do not actually exist!21Readers unacquainted with this basic fact may want to consult some introductory text: for instance, my article “From Schrödinger’s Cat to Thomistic Ontology.”
The preceding notion of “matter” had thus given way to what amounts to an insoluble conundrum for the physicist, faced as he was, henceforth, with the unpromising task of building what we perceive to be the corporeal world out of so-called “particles” which are not “actual” particles at all, but multi-locating entities too weird to be so much as conceived in non-mathematical terms. What seems however to have disturbed the physics community more even than this ontological conundrum is the fact that the “geometrization” of the corporeal had not yet reached its term. Quantum particles — insubstantial to the point of “non-existence” though they be — had not yet been reduced in effect to a single unified mathematical structure: and this is the perceived deficiency that has motivated leading physicists, ever since, to search for an “ultimate” physics, more basic even than quantum mechanics.
* * *
Thus, despite the fact that the “content” of the presumed universe had been dematerialized — reduced to so-called quantum particles which do not actually exist — there was still a formal separation between Content and Container in the form of “particles” which did not reduce to the terms of a pure geometry. In addition there were questions regarding the formation of atoms and so-called fundamental particles which quantum mechanics as such could not answer. And so — notwithstanding its almost miraculous success in predicting a vast array of physical phenomena, and the fact that it has given rise to a technology no one could have so much as imagined prior to its advent — it too has, in effect, become “yesterday’s” physics. Hardly had the discovery of quantum mechanics been consummated, than with astounding rapidity the center of interest on the part of the physics elite shifted “downwards” once again. For it happens that the grand aspiration of that elite has for long been nothing short of a single unified theory which would, in effect, explain “everything.”
Thus begins the third and terminal phase in the evolution of post-Galilean physics, whose self-appointed task it is to consummate the geometrization of corporeal reality. And this demands, first of all, the reduction of time to space: for so long as there is actual motion, there must be something that moves, which is to say that the geometrization — the reduction of Content to Container — is not yet complete.
Let it be noted, then, that it is Albert Einstein’s notion of “space-time,” precisely, which accomplishes this feat by treating time formally as a coordinate t of a 4-dimensional manifold endowed with a Lorentzian metric.22A simple account is given in Physics and Vertical Causation, op. cit., pp. 48-51. Voilà: the end-stage of post-Galilean physics — which may thus be aptly dubbed the “Einsteinian” — is now at hand: a concerted endeavor to formally reduce Content to Container in the guise of a “field” is presently under way on a gigantic scale. The ultimate “geometrization” of the corporeal is thus being sought in the form of a field theory of some kind, a “quantum field theory” or QFT presumably, which one hopes will square with quantum mechanics. But from this point onwards, technical difficulties are cropping up, and so far there are no signs whatever of an impending resolution. The fact is that the resultant theories are becoming ever more abstruse, and their predictions — if any — progressively less testable.
From an ontological point of vantage, to be sure, the postulated reduction is patently chimerical: there can be no actual world without a Content, without something that is. It is hardly surprising, thus, that the tight connection between theory and experiment — definitive of physics in its Newtonian as well as its quantum-mechanical phases — has now disappeared. The long-standing requirement of experimental verification, inclusive of “falsifiability,” has in effect been abandoned; as Sabine Hossenfelder describes so well, these conditions have in effect been replaced by a norm of mathematical elegance, of “beauty” as she calls it.23Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray (Basic Books, 2018).
The fact is that fundamental physics has in effect been transformed into a geometry. So-called “particle physics,” in particular, has been progressively shifting from an authentically empirical to what might be termed an “architectural” science, intent upon constructing a geometrical “universe” under the implicit assumption that so long as the resultant structure exhibits the most marvelous symmetries, it is bound also to be true. Up till now, however, that assumption has led to the biggest — and certainly by far the most expensive! — fiascoes in the history of science, including discrepancies with the findings of quantum mechanics amounting to 120 orders of magnitude.24See my article, “Lost in Math: The Particle Physics Quandary.”
* * *
It is time to make an admission: it’s simply false to say that the physicist “has stood the world on its head.” We should have said: “he is trying to do so.” But it turns out that not even the truly great Albert Einstein is up to the job. If the project is failing — as indeed it appears to be — it is, most assuredly, not for lack of technical prowess. There is, quite obviously, no shortage of that — of genius even — within the higher ranks. It needs however to be understood that there is no resolution of the impasse on a strictly “technical” plane. The decisive fact is that, in pursuing the Galilean trajectory to its ultimate conclusion, physics is reaching not simply a dead end, but indeed a reductio ad absurdum: just think of such things as “many-worlds theory” or the unabashed absurdity of the multiverse! Having replaced authentic ontology with the Galilean counterfeit, physicists have unwittingly succumbed to an upside-down worldview. Their very triumph proves thus to be their undoing: for with the reputed geometrization of the Content, the Container ceases to contain anything at all.
What we have lost and desperately need to recover, strange to say, is nothing more esoteric than the corporeal world as it presents itself to every unimpaired human, inclusive doubtless of physicists. The problem lies not in our sensory makeup but in our present-day intellectual formation, which has become deviated to the point of schizophrenia. We absolutely need to rediscover that the grass is truly green, and that the song of birds resides not in the neurons.25We need, in other words, to realize that what Galileo erroneously termed “secondary qualities” — such as color — pertain actually to the corporeal world: that the grass is in fact green. By his misbegotten premise, Galileo has — in theory — destroyed the corporeal domain; and it seems that ever since, physicists have been ignorant of its existence. For a detailed treatment of this issue see my article, “Do We Perceive the Corporeal World?” And nothing short of an ontological metanoia — a shift from the Galilean back to an Aristotelian outlook at least — will do.
But what is so important, one may wonder — for our understanding of physics no less — in the “greenness of grass and the chirping of birds”? What stands at issue is the rediscovery of an ontological domain which physics — or better said, physicists — implicitly deny: the lowest tier, namely, of what is traditionally termed the sensible world: what we call the corporeal. The salient point is that corporeal entities do not reduce to the categories of physics: that they pertain irrevocably to the Content as opposed to the Container. There is consequently a limit — an “upper bound” if you will — to what a mathematical physics as such can comprehend, which proves in fact to be far lower than might be expected, given that it excludes such ordinary things as “green grass and chirping birds.”
The implications for physics conceived as the foundational science are evidently drastic, and quite easy moreover to discern. One needs first of all to distinguish ontologically between the quantum realm and the sensible world: the physical as distinguished from the corporeal in my terminology.26My ontological interpretation of quantum mechanics has been set forth in numerous publications, from The Quantum Enigma to Physics and Vertical Causation, op. cit. These are two ontologically disparate realities coexisting in the same spatio-temporal domain: it is thus the Content — as distinguished from the Container — that is split in two. What now does this “split” entail that is of concern to the physicist? To answer this question we need first of all to remind ourselves what exactly physics is about; and for my part at least, I opt for Lord Kelvin’s definition: physics is none other than “the science of measurement.” The relation of the corporeal to the physical can now be readily understood: the physical — the quantum realm — is in essence “the measurable,” and “that which measures” is perforce the corporeal. I say “perforce,” because “the measurable” does not — cannot in fact — measure itself.
We have thus arrived at the fundamental scenario of quantum mechanics as conceived in the so-called Copenhagen interpretation, defined by a categorical dichotomy between “the physical system” and the “act of measurement,” which affects the former by “collapsing” the wave function. Our conclusion is thus that this scenario holds universally for quantum physics at large.
The implications of this “ontological theorem” — which I affirm it to be — are obviously major in the extreme. It entails, after all, that any theory which negates this dichotomy — such as the Bohmian, for instance — is ipso facto invalid. Or to put it the other way: it implies that quantum theory as Werner Heisenberg, in particular, conceived of it, is in fact the fundamental physics. That foundational dichotomy, thus, between the quantum system and “the environment” if you will, cannot be abandoned, cannot be “improved upon.” If one does so, the result can no longer be a physics in Lord Kelvin’s sense: a fully authentic empirical science, namely, that is testable.27To which I would add that, to my mind at least, “testable” includes “falsifiable” in K. R. Popper’s sense.
That negative conclusion applies thus to what we have characterized as the third and final stage in the unfolding of post-Galilean physics. But unbelievable as this may seem, is that not, finally, what Sabine Hossenfelder has been trying to tell us in her “whistleblowing” book? It appears that the impasse of physics in its present third stage has reached a point at which the need for a veritable metanoia can no longer be denied.
The Philos-Sophia Initiative Foundation’s feature documentary chronicling the life and work of Dr. Smith, The End of Quantum Reality, is now available.
|1.||Physics and Vertical Causation: The End of Quantum Reality (Angelico Press, 2019), pp. 101-22. See also my article, “The Tripartite Wholeness.”|
|2.||This ontological domain is subject to the condition of time but not of space, and is consequently situated “above” the corporeal.|
|3.||Readers acquainted with what I term the “cosmic icon” (a circle in which the center represents the intelligible, the interior the intermediary, and the circumference the corporeal world) will recognize that the circle bereft of its center is also in fact symbolic of this “cave,” the circumference representing its “wall.”|
|4.||Hinduism and Buddhism (Greenwood Press, 1971), p. 33.|
|5.||Pneuma as opposed to psyche, corresponding thus to spiritus in the traditional corpus-anima-spiritus trichotomy.|
|6.||1 Cor. 2:14|
|7.||It is obviously needless to point out that this makes no sense whatever from a Darwinist point of view. But then: neither does Darwinism, from a Platonist!|
|8.||Rom. 1:20. There is a distinction, to be sure, between the Platonist and the Christian understanding of cosmic reality; yet I venture to say the Platonist comes closer than any pre-Christian ontology — even I would presume, the advaita Vedantic.|
|9.||In the sense of the Vedic sukshma: i.e., as pertaining to the intermediary domain.|
|10.||An excellent place to begin the study of Borella’s writings, for the English-speaking reader, might be The Crisis of Religious Symbolism (Angelico Press, 2016). I would point out that the book ends with a major essay entitled Symbolism & Reality: The History of a Reflection, in which Borella recounts the unfolding of his thought: I would recommend this as the perfect starting point. In a world in which academic philosophy has attained what might perhaps be termed the zenith of mediocrity, Borella’s opus stands out as a beacon of light.|
|11.||Op. cit., p. 78.|
|12.||The ontological reason, moreover, why that “point” is unique — why, on the highest level of reality, all “centers” coincide — resides again in the fact that, in the intelligible realm, there exists neither spatial nor temporal separation. As Dante has put it: “There every where and every when are focused” (Paradiso 28:41). One sees that the uniqueness of the central point in the cosmic icon is expressive of a profound ontological truth: the Platonist, namely, as distinguished from the non-Platonist, beginning with the Aristotelian.|
|13.||Op. cit., p. 78; italics mine.|
|14.||See my article, “‘Progress’ in Retrospect.”|
|15.||The fact that we have divided the sensible into two domains — the corporeal and the intermediary — does not affect this paramount dichotomy; and I would add that the sapiential traditions offer many finer subdivisions of “the lower tier,” based upon gradations of “sense.” The Tantric science of “cakras,” for example, divides “the sensible” into five distinct levels, the lowest of which corresponds to our “sensible” realm. On this subject I refer to my chapter on “Cakra and Planet: O. M. Hinze’s Discovery” in Science and Myth: With a Response to Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design (Angelico Press, 2012).|
|16.||1 Cor. 13:12|
|17.||It is to be noted that this situates substantial form on the intermediary plane.|
|18.||I am referring, of course, to “The School of Athens” (1509-11).|
|19.||One must remember that “time” is measured by way of space.|
|20.||From his Tarner Lectures, delivered at Cambridge University in 1938.|
|21.||Readers unacquainted with this basic fact may want to consult some introductory text: for instance, my article “From Schrödinger’s Cat to Thomistic Ontology.”|
|22.||A simple account is given in Physics and Vertical Causation, op. cit., pp. 48-51.|
|23.||Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray (Basic Books, 2018).|
|24.||See my article, “Lost in Math: The Particle Physics Quandary.”|
|25.||We need, in other words, to realize that what Galileo erroneously termed “secondary qualities” — such as color — pertain actually to the corporeal world: that the grass is in fact green. By his misbegotten premise, Galileo has — in theory — destroyed the corporeal domain; and it seems that ever since, physicists have been ignorant of its existence. For a detailed treatment of this issue see my article, “Do We Perceive the Corporeal World?”|
|26.||My ontological interpretation of quantum mechanics has been set forth in numerous publications, from The Quantum Enigma to Physics and Vertical Causation, op. cit.|
|27.||To which I would add that, to my mind at least, “testable” includes “falsifiable” in K. R. Popper’s sense.|