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Daniel Rourke (M, 39)
London, UK
Immortal since Dec 18, 2007
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All things would be visibly connected if one could discover at a single glance and in its totality the tracings of an Ariadne’s thread leading thought into its own labyrinth.
- Georges Bataille
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    Perceiving Infinity: Schematic Portals into The Mind of God
    Infinity defies absolute definition. Perception of the infinite, for anything other than a mind which is itself infinitely composed, is an oxymoron. And yet, in historical conceptions of the infinite, or at least the imperceptibly extended, can be found abstract tools by which to better comprehend the very nature of thought, and thus reality itself.

    The idea of infinity can lead you to grasp the mind of God.

    Let me show you:

    In Islamic tradition:

    When Mahomet was transported to heaven, he says: I saw there an angel, the most gigantic of all created beings. It had 70,000 heads, each had 70,000 faces, each face had 70,000 mouths, each mouth had 70,000 tongues, and each tongue spoke 70,000 languages; all were employed in singing God's praises.

    This would make more than 31,000 trillion languages, and nearly five billion mouths. - link

    In Hindu tradition:
    A kalpa consists of a period of 1,728,000 solar years called Adi Sandhi, followed by 14 manvantaras and Sandhi Kalas...

    Thus a day of Brahma, kalpa, is of duration: 4.32 billion solar years.

    Two kalpas constitute a day and night of Brahma; the life cycle of Brahma is one hundred years of Brahma, or 311 trillion years. We are currently in the 51st year of the present Brahma and so about 155 trillion years have elapsed since He took over as Brahma. - link

    I find these mythologies fascinating because of the way they manipulate the schema of infinity (or the excruciatingly large) to evoke a sense of awe. What is telling here, and in more familiar concepts such as the omnipotent, omniscient Judaeo-Christian God, is how the human mind absolves itself from ever accessing these infinities whilst at the same time invoking that sense of awe as reason to believe in the infinite:

    By the name God I understand a substance that is infinite (eternal, immutable,) independent, all-knowing, all-powerful, and by which I myself and everything else, if anything else does exist, have been created. Now all these characteristics are such that the more diligently I attend to them, the less do they appear capable of proceeding from me alone; hence, ... we must conclude that God necessarily exists.

    - Rene Descartes, Meditations

    The logical error here rests on the premise that Descartes is capable of attaining access to 'God's perfect form'. The very idea of infinity, or breadth therein contained, is nothing but a schematic simulacrum of the true form of infinity. The mind IS NOT capable of perceiving the infinite, yet I think in conjunction with semiotics a clearer path to infinity can be reached.

    In this perceived moment, itself a composite whole made of an infinite number of infinitesimal components, there is the potential in your consciousness for an infinite number of conciliations to occur. The universe of form is, in mind, schematic and transitory. It is the method by which form is assimilated into mental schema which manifests the universe so true. The infinite universe infinitely schematised:

    [An] aspect of consciousness I wish to mention here is modeled upon a behavioral process common to most mammals. It really springs from simple recognition, where a slightly ambiguous perceived object is made to conform to some previously learned schema, an automatic process sometimes called assimilation. We assimilate a new stimulus into our conception or schema about it, even though it is slightly different. Since we never from moment to moment see or hear or touch things in exactly the same way, this process of assimilation into previous experience is going on all the time as we perceive our world. We are putting things together in recognizable objects on the basis of the previously learned schemes we have of them...

    - Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness...

    In this conception of consciously formed reality finite limits on the nature of our schema halt the further assimilation of external stimulus. Thus all subjective representations of the objective universe can only ever go part of the way to attaining a true tautology of semblance. In a universe of varying types of consciousness, as evolved in the various central nervous systems on this planet, this problem of semblance can be some way overcome. Distinct consciousnesses will form different schema to represent the same stimulus. The universe is better realised in many consciousnesses, of which perhaps an infinite variety have the capacity to exist:

    Consciousness is "a holistic emergent property of the interaction of neurons which has the power to be self-reflective and ascertain its own awareness"

    - Max Velmans, Understanding Consciousness

    I am still left wondering about true infinity, at least that which consciousness can attain. What would be the nature of a stimulus which had the capacity to assimilate an endless variety of schema? Or alternatively, is there such thing as a mental construct, a concept, which has no limit to the stimulus it can assimilate? Perhaps the mind of God is capable in its imagined brevity to perceive every objective truth from an infinity of angles. In fact, this need necessarily be the case for any infinitely capable being, such as God. To this kind of consciousness even the proverbial dog shit you carry around on your shoes has an infinite number of ways it can be perceived.

    Further still, I was lead into thought on matters of entropy (not least because of this forum post). The black-hole is nature's favourite point of infinity. All data in the universe, once subsumed by the awesome gravity of the black-hole, would come to be represented at a singular point of infinitesimal breadth; a singularity. The mind of God may be such an entity, for in its infinite density of assimilative capacity the only form it could take is that of a singularity.

    Not only is a black-hole, and now perhaps the mind of God, a singularity of infinite density, so too was the very universe we now reside in at the momentary point when nothing became everything: the big-bang:

    If the singularity at the centre of a black hole lies in the future, representing a final state, the singularity of a white hole lies in the past, as a beginning, as in the big bang. So if our universe is a white hole, the big question is: is there a black hole universe on the other side of the big bang?

    - Mikio Kaku, Parallel Worlds

    Or perhaps (to assimilate both mine and Kaku's concepts into one, infinitely schematised entity) the mind of God itself exists on the other side of this universe. A mind so dense in assimilatory power that all concepts, all datum, all matter and entropically governed consciousness converge at a point only to be spewed majesically out the other side, into this reality.

    The conscious mind is a schematic canvas on which subjective reality is being painted by the infinite, yet unattainable, idea of God. The cyclical power of assimilation, of consciousness, or self-reflexion should not be overlooked, because in the evolved mind of all conscious beings everywhere the idea of infinity, and the God-Simulacrum therein made prisoner, reorders reality such that it can reflect upon itself. Infinity is coming to perceive itself through us. All minds are infinite, my schema tell me so...

    (This article was originally posted on my site, The Huge Entity)

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    paulteagan     Thu, Jan 3, 2008  Permanent link
    I think that taoism or buddhism would put it, basically, this way: that we are infinity because infinity is all there is. But as far as perceivability, I agree with you. However, I feel that while infinity is nothing to comprehend, is not perceivable, we are still experiencing it in every moment. I feel like I come closest to it when I stop using my brain to see it, when I am not thinking or seeing or feeling, but simply am. Though experiencing it in this way only allows for fractured documentation. Infinity is very pluh, very meh, very om.
    Rourke     Thu, Jan 3, 2008  Permanent link
    I tend to think that we posit an ideal of God as a way to deal with the sense of infinity we all share. Various methods of manifesting this ideal can be found across the religious smorgasbord, but none comes close to truly encapsulating infinity in all its infinite infinitudes.

    It's a real shame that the scientific community hasn't latched onto the idea of infinity in all its metaphysical glory. The future-looking, scientifically literate community could do with a way to focus the narrative of our shared mission statement. Religion brings God as figurehead, as holistic all, as father and shepard. Science brings nothing to the mass audience that could be recognised as a collective driving force. I even hate using the words 'science' and 'scientist', so polluted have they become by the homogeny of understanding our current mass media has attended to them.

    Religious narratives look back, the scientific narrative should look forward. Giving each consciousness a shared sense that they are part of the infinite might just bolster us onwards in a collective direction. At the moment we are floundering for an identity. Make it infinity, true infinity.

    Its real big out there in space, but its even bigger in here, in inner space.
    Spaceweaver     Thu, Jan 3, 2008  Permanent link
    To obvious: Very interesting. What comes to mind, in relating consciousness to the infinite, is the inherent negation of the second. Infinite is in fact in-finite, a definition via negation which some would refuse to endow with the status of definition in the first place. I made a small thought experiment replacing all instances of the word 'infinite' in your post with the word 'no-thing'. It still makes the full sense that it had before, which is, I think, a hint as to the nature of consciousness.

    Emptiness, or better yet openness might be a prime key to the riddle. To grasp infinity, if possible , starts with releasing the idea of finiteness. To figure the finite we have to do, to figure the infinite (I know... oxymoron :-)) we have to undo.
    Rourke     Sun, Jan 6, 2008  Permanent link
    Your talk of 'no-thing' reminds me of Victor Stenger's writings about the universe as a closed system:
    The first law [of thermodynamics] allows energy to convert from one type to another as long as the total for a closed system remains fixed. Remarkably, the total energy of the universe appears to be zero. As famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking said in his 1988 best seller, A Brief History of Time, "In the case of a universe that is approximately uniform in space, one can show that the negative gravitational energy exactly cancels the positive energy represented by the matter. So the total energy of the universe is zero."...

    ...In short, the existence of matter and energy in the universe did not require the violation of energy conservation at the assumed creation....

    ...Since "nothing" is as simple as it gets we cannot expect it to be very stable. It would likely undergo a spontaneous phase transition to something more complicated, like a universe containing matter... As Noble laureate physicist Frank Wilczek has put it, "The answer to the ancient question 'Why is there something rather than nothing?' would then be that 'nothing' is unstable." - link

    Infinite and Nothing are pretty much interchangable in the physical sense: one spontaneously becomes the other. Extending the metaphor that infinity represents (and in the post above I have also used 'God' in the metaphorical sense) is akin to extending the boundaries of the infinite itself.
    Spaceweaver     Sun, Jan 6, 2008  Permanent link
    Infinity and emptiness are akin not only in the physical sense, but also in the metaphysical sense, and in the way we conceptually grasp the two. Also I would mention here the idea that emptiness stands at the root of consciousness and conscious observation of the universe.
    This idea is also found in Buddhist thought regarding the nature of mind. Interestingly enough, in Mahayana Buddhism many stories are using fantastically big numbers as means to break the mind's grasping into limited concepts, and direct the mind towards the realization of emptiness.
    hello_world     Wed, Aug 20, 2008  Permanent link
    Mayhyana was post modernism before there was post modernism. Very very very well thought through.

    I can recommend reading Kuhns work also.

    kizilbiyik     Wed, Sep 10, 2008  Permanent link
    As I was contemplating the shape of the universe and trying to find clues in the metaverse, I decided to check space collective. Always one can find connections here it seems. What drew me to this article was the picture of the infinity symbol which I believe represents the shape of the universe. The sand clock, shaped like the infinity symbol, models what the big bang supposedly is. Why do we think that all of the universe has to fit into a infinitesmally small space, when it could be funneling through to another side, creating space and universe. It is beautiful to think of creation being erased as it passes through this door. There is something dreadful about a permanent record.