by David Birnbaum
Where did our universe come from? What ignited our universe? What catalyst was eternal? What dynamic drives our universe?
Aristotle (Greece, 384 BCE – 322 BCE) came to an impasse here. Maimonides (Spain, Egypt 1135 – 1204 CE) came to an impasse here. Aquinas (Italy, Papal States 1225-1274 CE) came to an impasse here. Ditto for both the Enlightenment period (c. 1650–1799 CE) and contemporary philosophy and astrophysics. Ditto for Eastern philosophy – then and now.
Interesting that such smart boys all hit a brick wall. Also interesting that they even attempted/purported to write grand overarching philosophy when the centerpiece of a unified philosophy – eternal origins – was consistently missing-in-action.
God? But is that not theology, as opposed to philosophy. God is a complex construct/entity. And, of course, from whence God? Pure philosophy should deal on a leaner level, should it not? That’s what makes it philosophy – and not theology (or religious philosophy).
Now, oftentimes in solving seemingly intractable riddles, the answer lies at the tip-of-our noses, somewhat subtly. Sort of, hiding in plain sight. In these cases, the solution will only clarify if one can somehow focus on the quasi-obvious. However, this is not as easy to do, as it sounds.
If several billion people have missed it, there is a reason. And, for sure, no one ever said that “cracking-the-cosmic code” was easy.
So, where might the answer to “eternal origins” lie? Last April, Bard College, Upstate NY, ran a four-day international academic conference on Science & Religion with a focus on my little philosophy work Summa Metaphysica (Volume I, 1988; Volume II, 2005). Summa (humbly, of course) proposes that the answer lies within the realm of Potential/Possibility.
Summa proposes that only one theme/dynamic can legitimately be asserted with conviction to have been “eternal” – and Summa proposes this theme to be Potential/Possibility. Now, on careful examination, that proposition would actually seem to be ‘self-evident.’ For, by definition, Potential/Possibility is just that – possibility. Sort-of intangible, and, by definition, sort-of eternal.
So far, so good. But how might Potential/Possibility X number of billions of years-ago morph/blast-off into the Milky Way – and into erstwhile humans down-the-road? Into Beethoven writing symphonies? Into Picasso drawing ballet dancers?
Now, as a matter of policy, Summa uses as a working-assumption the concept that cosmic realms mimic human realms, and vice-versa. Then, mimicking in this instance the dynamics of childbirth, Summa deploys PUSH & PULL dynamics onto its centerpiece themes of Quest for Potential and Infinite Divine Extraordinariation – as a starting point of a “working hypothesis.”
PUSH: Igniting the cosmic order? Summa proposes that at eternal origins, Potential/Possibility split “0”. Split “0”? Well, split an atom, and you get an atomic bomb; split “0” and propel-it along an “optimal potential” trajectory, and you never know what might unfold….
PULL: Summa proposes that the Potential/Possibility dynamic of the cosmos parallels a leveraged-buyout (from the finance field). As we know, in a leveraged-buyout in finance, the financier leverages future potential earnings into a current “loan” to buy the business. In Summa’s cosmology, Potential/Possibility leveraged future potentials into igniting the cosmic order. Ultimate leverage. Thus, not classic and linear – A caused B.
The above is the guts of the Summa proposition. That is, Potential/Possibility was eternal, was the catalyst for Creation, is at the core of the Infinite Divine, and drives both the universe and our lives forward. Then – and now. Quest for Potential not only drives the cosmos, not only is the “purpose” and raison d’être of the cosmos, Quest for Potential actually IS the cosmos. (Deep breath).
Some of the 2012 Bard Summa Conference participants liked the Summa theory because of its “aesthetic elegance” (a term offered by a Spinoza specialist at the conference). “Aesthetic elegance” gained increased traction over the course of the conference.
Former Oxford don and noted chemist Peter Atkins proactively dislikes Summa – because his not inconsiderable coterie views the common denominator of the cosmos not optimistically like Summa, but rather pessimistically – to be “decay.” But, decaying from what? And, from whence, the “what”?
Bard Conference co-Chair, theologian and religious historian Bruce Chilton liked Summa because it is humanistic and potentially all-embracing of many religious schemas. He also liked how it finesses both Monotheism and Gnosticism. Conference co-chair and Chairman of the Philosophy Department at Bard – Garry Hagberg – liked Summa, among other reasons, because Summa’s theory has remained essentially unchallenged since unveiled in 1988.
University of Maine Ecologist Andrei Alyokhin likes Summa as a working hypothesis “unifying concept of the cosmos.” Mathematician Hugo van den Berg of Warwick University (Coventry, England) is intrigued by Summa because its core proposition shorthand – Q4P∞ – (Quest for Potential infinitely iterated) proposes a simple and elegant equation for the cosmos.
British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks might define Summa as a proposed overarching “Framing Belief” hypothesis – his articulated term for an all-embracing and all-framing cosmic concept. MIT Quantum Information guru Professor Seth Lloyd might view Summa as confirmation of his quantum team’s iconoclastic theory of a dynamic information-processing universe. The legendary IBM mathematician Benoit Mandelbroit (1924-2010) would probably view Summa as a vindication of his works on the esoteric mathematical field of fractals (~repeating patterns). Devotees of another legendary figure in science, Princeton physicist and cosmologist John Wheeler (1911-2008) might view Summa theory traction as vindication, on some level, of Wheeler’s theory of It-from-Bit. Indeed Wheeler is on-the-record in 2005 as a fan of Summa.
Sophisticated Kabbalah specialist Dr. Sanford Drob (editor of www.NewKabbalah.com) proactively backed Summa I from the get-go in 1988 (from his perch then as Editor-in-Chief of The NY Jewish Review) as a “bold and highly original synthesis…an overarching metaphysical solution…”. Drob, however, later felt strongly c. 2005 that a key section in then imminently-to-be-published Summa II – The Cosmic Womb of Potential – pushed beyond the bounds of classic metaphysics. He is right, of course. But that “boundary-expansion” was necessary – to nail-down intellectual elegance in the proposed grander metaphysics.
From my perspective, the core (Quest for Potential) proposition is unifying, elegant, powerful – and simple. It is “self-contained.” But the main event is that “it works.” Plug-in a random fact or a million facts, and they all comport. Not one single, solitary fact will contradict. The theory also happens to be uplifting, humanistic, and purposeful. Last-but-not-least, it “resonates” – on an individual, human level.
The proposition would conceptually seem to work – on the metaphysical level, the cosmic level, the galactic level, the human level, the bacterial level, the molecular level and the quantum level. (Indeed, the quantum level may be the ultimate layer here.) All quest for their potentials – a trillion years ago, a million years ago, now, and forever.
Now, does your local Cambridge (Massachusetts or England) philosophy or physics or cosmology professor have a more elegant or powerful proposition? I believe not. You would have heard of it by now, for sure.
But, no viable alternative to the Summa proposition? How is that possible? It must be out there, no?
Maybe the often-quite-brilliant professors and theoreticians generally “tried too hard.” Maybe they got too fancy, too complex. Maybe they thought too linearly.
Maybe the cumulative level-of-consciousness was simply not “ready” until now for both the unfolding and receptivity of a metaphysics with a centerpiece as ethereal as potential/possibility? That is my personal, working assumption on the particular matter, even though I’m frankly still a bit stumped on this particular ancillary issue.
Now, bear-in-mind that 900 years before Aristotle – and eastward across the Mediterranean, on the northern part of the Sinai Desert peninsula – The Book of Exodus (c. 1250 BCE) makes-an-appearance, and does indeed focus on “potential” (frontally) – once. But that “once” happens-to-be at the core of the “centerpiece” “Burning Bush” episode. Potential turns-out to be the name of God – the only name of God ever explicated: “Eheyeh asher Eheyeh” – I Will Be That Which I Will Be. Meaning, of course, I AM THE GOD OF POTENTIAL. Pretty straightforward – once you take-a-second to digest it.
In the realms of the Infinite Divine, “potential” reigns supreme. And if indeed there is a classic God, Potential is at its core. And if there is no classic God, then, respectfully, Infinite Divine Potential drives the cosmic order solo. Personally, I can live with Infinite Divine Potential.
Cool number that Moses. Just sort-of dropped-it-in – once. At the centerpiece episode. For the record, you know. Potential. Just so that down-the-road, in 2013 CE, for instance, there would be no ambiguity as to who truly owned the original copyright. As to who first “got it right.”
updated: August 30, 2013
David Birnbaum, the author of Summa Metaphysica (www.SummaMetaphysica.com), is a conceptual theorist, and lives and works in Manhattan, He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Manhattan Matrix platform (www.NewParadigmMatrix.com). The 2-volume Summa Metaphysica series is comprised of: Summa Metaphysica I: God & Evil [Ktav Publishing 1988], and Summa Metaphysica II: God & Good [Manhattan Matrix 2005].