"Pick a flower on Earth and you move the farthest star" 

A quote attributed to the theoretical physicist Paul Dirac.

"Dirac has done more than anyone this century, with the exception of Einstein, to advance physics and change our picture of the universe."
Stephen Hawking

A click here will pick.
  :  some stories About www.allthatweseeorseem.com
Pick a flower and you move the farthest star

Our present rough way of applying the causal principle is quite superficial. We are like a child who judges a poem by the rhyme and knows nothing of the rhythmic pattern. Or we are like a juvenile learner at the piano, just relating one note to that which immediately precedes or follows. To an extent this may be very well with very simple and primitive compositions; but it will not do for the interpretation of a Bach Fugue. Quantum physics has presented us with very complex processes and to meet them we must further enlarge and refine our concept of causality.
Albert Einstein

The throwing began early, and while I was lying in wait at a hidden place in the house to spot the perpetrator, I must have seen with my own eyes several stones rise up from the ground in the yard, where however a little before none had been, and strike the stable roof. And when I now paid very close and keen attention, I saw quite certainly that a number of stones flew out of the parsonage wall which lay opposite the stable across to the mentioned roof, and yet one could observe no opening or chink in the wall; rather it remained quite uninjured and intact, as it had been before.
Jeremias Heinisch, pastor of Gröben from 1714 to 1736 (abridged). credit Poltergeists - Alan Gauld, A. D. Cornell.

There is something beyond our mind which abides in silence within our mind.
Maitrayaniya Upanishad

The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been concealed by the answers.
James Baldwin

Let me explain what it's about with a story, a story about some stories.

But first a tl;dr alert

   please read   

Note that the following is a long article.

Easily a candidate for "Too Long; Didn't Read".

So if you're busy the short answer to the question - "what is it about?", is that it is about the five quotes above, one attributed to one of our greatest scientists (hover over the flower (desktop) or on click on it (mobile)), the second by our greatest scientist, the third by a pastor in Germany recording a paranormal event he witnessed three hundred years ago, the fourth by ancient Hindu philosophers and the fifth by a modern philosopher.

The longer answer of course is that you're just going to have to read the article ... 😎
But be warned, I will take you on a journey that could change your world view, how you see reality.

Also please note that this article contains a lot of links commonly to provide supporting information and you might want to skip most of them on a first pass.
However some of these links are very important to the case being made and these are highlighted in  pink  so you don't miss them.

Further if you find the spelling a little strange that's probably because you are used to reading US English, in this article I use UK English, or as I prefer to call it - English English.

I hope you enjoy the following and in particular I hope you find it to be like all good art, thought provoking.

Nigel Evans.

The White Rabbit put on his spectacles 'Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?' he asked. 'Begin at the beginning' the King said gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

The beginning of a story is a good place to begin and this story begins several million years ago.

We appear to have a common ancestor with chimpanzees with whom we share the most DNA (98.8%) of any species.
note This figure of 98.8% needs a little qualification.
Firstly it depends on how you calculate it, secondly it can be said that we share 33% of our DNA with daffodils.

Unlike chimpanzees who occasionally hunt monkeys but mainly eat fruit, our ancestors seem to have diverged and became successful hunters, eating more meat.

A meat based diet creates a considerable and persistent energy surplus permitting brain development.
More brain development enables better hunting success providing more energy surplus, resulting in increased fertility and infant survival, resulting in larger hunting groups with even more successful hunting, a positive circle driving our evolution with our ancestor's brain volume doubling in just 500,000 years.

But here's a question for you :-

"if evolution has given us the capacity to think, has it given us the sensory tools to perceive reality as it is, or do we perceive just enough reality to perform, to survive and procreate and nothing more?"

 Do we see reality as it is?  (22 min).

Evolution has given us an interface that hides reality and guides adaptive behaviour.
Donald Hoffman

Where does Space Time come from? Is there an answer except that it comes from consciousness?
John Wheeler

Inter-glacial climate change converts jungle habitats into savannah, a rich endless larder teeming with herds of herbivores.
Our ancestors leave the trees in pursuit.
Our bodies change, we become bipedal, lose our body hair and begin sweating to stay cool whilst chasing animals in the midday sun until they collapse from heat exhaustion.
As the tribes grow, larger hunting groups require more control and coordination, grunts, screeches and panting noises become inadequate, we begin to make a large range of sounds to communicate over distance, developing impressive vocal range and control.

And then it happened, sometime in the distant past, we begin to attach sounds to concepts, someone spoke the first word, we develop language.

Language creates a step change, we can now share concepts and strings of concepts, we begin to have shared narratives.
These narratives describe the external world as causes and effects, this happens and then that happens.
They require concepts to reduce complexity into simplicity, such as true-false, yes-no-logic.
Narratives are time based, they have a beginning, then go on until the end, then they stop.

Narrative imagining — story — is the fundamental instrument of thought.  Rational capacities depend upon it.  It is our chief means of looking into the future, or predicting, of planning, and of explaining.
Mark Turner

Indeed, language is an organ of perception, not simply a means of communication.
Julian Jaynes

Our ancestors learn to use tools and learn to use fire.
Fire has several important benefits, it protects us from predators, we can cook our food to assist digestion further increasing the energy surplus.

But it has another critically important benefit, it not only extends the social interaction of daylight hours but concentrates it as people gather around the campfires at night, social interaction thought to be the key driver in brain and language development, a requisite for ... the stories.

We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.
Jonathan Gottschall

So our story now begins around the campfires a long long time ago.
The elders sat around the evening fires and told the stories.

Some of the stories are ancient sagas of brave warriors achieving incredible feats assisted by the gods, some are fables or morality tales, others are just to entertain and very importantly for this story some of them are to explain.

The shamans explain the world with their stories about gods and magic, thunder and lightning, why the Sun crossed the sky and everyone is happy.
It is in the nature of man that he needs to understand the world around him, he needs stories that explain his reality.

The tribes grow into city states and the shamans become priesthoods.
The shaman's stories become the sacred scriptures of the gods and the priests men dedicated to memorising them and passing them along the generations orally as poetry.
This wasn't an easy system and it severely limited the amount of stories that could exist and the accuracy of transmission both across generations (time) and geography (space).

Then came writing and the world was never the same again.
Now there can be a lot more stories and they can be passed along the generations with complete fidelity.
Thoughts written long ago can be absorbed as if they had just been created earlier on the same day.
Stories become decoupled from time, they become timeless,
However they are still extremely limited spatially, copies of original writings have to be made by hand.
Knowledge of the stories is only for the few.

But before writing there was symbolism, there was proto-writing, the representation of ideas in abstract designs and collections of them.
We also see this in Northern Scotland with the Brodgar Butterflies.
Ness of Brodgar Butterfly The Ness of Brodgar Butterfly Stone
There is evidence that they painted the designs in yellow and red ochres.
This website's icon is inspired by these images carved 5,000 years ago, before Europe knew writing.
Many cultures both past and present have connected the lifecycle of the butterfly with the idea of a soul that transcends mortality.
The Ancient Greeks even called butterflies "Psyche" their name for the soul.

In medieval Ireland it was illegal to kill a white butterfly as they were believed to be the souls of departed children.
A Celtic myth possibly relevant to the Butterflies of Brodgar.

The lifecycle of the butterfly, in common with many flying insects is particularly fascinating.
Most other creatures begin life as a single fertilised cell, then an embryo, perhaps in an egg, then they typically emerge into the world as a small version of an adult that grows larger over time, then they procreate reproducing themselves, then later they cease, die and decompose.
That's the end, dust to dust, ashes to ashes.

But here a caterpillar begins by following this path and then something quite different happens.
The caterpillar creates a hard shell around itself and then dies decomposing into a "goo".
Every structure the caterpillar had is gone, has become decomposed.
If you like the caterpillar having munched through a mountain of food becomes a second much larger egg.
A hard shell full of gooey stuff.

Then something special happens, this decomposed goo doesn't turn to dust, but instead slowly forms into an adult butterfly, a sophisticated flying machine with collapsed wings that have to open and dry in the warm sun after emerging and before it's first flight.
A creature with good colour vision, capable of flying thousands of miles with a built in compass, flying as fast as a galloping horse and performing advanced aerobatics.
All from a blob of decomposed caterpillar goo.

A breathtaking piece of self replicating engineering we are told formed from random variations of molecular processes over millions of years.

What we know is a drop, what we don't know is an ocean.
Isaac Newton

The more one thinks, the more one feels the hopeless immensity of man's ignorance.
Charles Darwin

Now returning to the history of writing, most of the ancient myths and stories written down long ago will have been lost, although some of our fairy stories may be thousands of years old including Beauty and the Beast.

But one that can be definitely dated, the oldest known piece of literature, first written down almost four thousand years ago is The Epic of Gilgamesh.

A brief synopsis :-

The two central characters are King Gilgamesh and Enkidu a huge hairy wild man of supernatural origin.
King Gilgamesh is the seer of all things and wise in all matters.
Enkidu however, lives like an animal, thinks like an animal even drinking water from the river just like the other animals.
Gilgamesh sends Shamhat the sacred prostitute to Enkidu who seduces him and educates him in civilised ways.
Two weeks later and he is transformed into a human and can now speak language.
(quite the teacher that Shamhat)

Gilgamesh and Enkidu fight, wrestling each other to a standstill, then become great friends and decide to kill the forest monster together.
They perform the dream rituals on the mountain tops along the journey to the forest and then succeed in their mission.

Gilgamesh spurns the interest of Ishstar, the goddess of love and war and in her anger she sends the Bull of Heaven to kill him.
(moral: never spurn a goddess who has a pet bull)
Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the Bull of Heaven.

Enkidu has a dream that the gods demand he must die for killing the Bull of Heaven and he falls ill.
In his sick bed Enkidu chastises Shamhat for removing him from his former free life as an innocent wild creature but then before death forgives her.
Gilgamesh is grief stricken and continually embraces Enkidu for days, refusing to accept he is dead until a maggot crawls out of his nose.
(i'm thinking of dead parrots but maybe that's just getting too silly?)

Gilgamesh has also been sentenced to death by the gods and to avoid it he must seek immortality by going on a long perilous journey to the ends of the Earth.
Past monster scorpions to the Garden of the Gods, a paradise with jewel laden trees.
Immortality is in the gift of Utnapishtim who pleased the gods by building an ark to save all the animals and his people from the Great Flood.

But Gilgamesh ultimately finds that his quest is futile, man cannot be immortal.

A tale of "romance" and "bromance" from four thousand years ago.
Curiously both stories, Beauty and the Beast and The Epic of Gilgamesh suggest a sexual relationship with a human female and a supernatural hairy man-beast.
That will become relevant later on ...

Dusty Springfield - Spooky

Moving forward we now approach a remarkable period in human history known as the Axial Age.
In a relatively short period of less than a thousand years, most of man's spiritual and philosophical traditions, his metaphysics will be created, much of it continuing through to the present day.
A curiosity of these spiritual traditions that will become world religions is that they include demonstrations of supernatural powers (miracles).

Over three thousand years ago in India, the ancient orally transmitted Hindu knowledge of the Vedas begins to be written down some of it to be known as the Upanishads.

One concept is "Maya" :-
  • the principle which shows the "attributeless Absolute" as having "attributes".
  • the powerful force that creates the cosmic illusion that the phenomenal world is real.
  • at the individual level appears as the lack of knowledge of the real Self, mistakingly identifying with the body-mind complex and its entanglements.

These writings, talk of there being only one consciousness and we are all expressions of it.
Just as a jewel can have many facets, each reflecting light uniquely but still all part of the same object.
But these facets live and then die and are then reincarnated in an endless cycle until they become properly aware.

In Mind, this is to be noted:
There is no plurality here whatever;
He who sees any plurality here is ensnared from death to death.
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4,4,19 (translation from 'My View of the World', Erwin Schrödinger)

These ideas have intrigued many people, including Steve Jobs of Apple Inc.
note ... and also including some of the greatest poets, philosophers and scientists.

Arthur Schopenhauer,
Niels Bohr,
Erwin Schrödinger,
J Robert Oppenheimer.
T. S. Eliot

At his funeral, as each of the attendees were leaving they were given a gift, a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi authored by Paramahansa Yogananda.
The book is "an introduction to the methods of attaining God-realization and to the spiritual wisdom of the East".

The book relates encounters with Yoga Gurus whose behaviours demonstrate the Siddhis, the achievement, typically through much training and dedication, of supernatural powers, of "extraordinary powers of the soul".
Powers such as bilocation, levitation and teleportation.

Buddhist, Chinese, Christian, Islamic and Jewish spiritual texts will also comment on powers like teleportation e.g. - Shukuchi, Tay al-Ard, Kefitzat Haderech.

"shrinking of the earth", "covering long distances in the twinkling of an eye", "contraction of the road".

Two and half thousand years ago the Taoist philosopher, Chuang-tzu recorded his thoughts in writing.

Zhuangzi-Butterfly-Dream Ike no Taiga, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

He was asleep dreaming that he was a butterfly.
Aimlessly flitting here and there.
The dream was very vivid, he was only conscious of being a butterfly and not conscious of being a man.
Suddenly he woke up.
But now he doesn't know if he is a man who dreamt of being a butterfly or is he a butterfly dreaming of being a man who has just woken up?

Tricky stuff this cognitive philosophy. Ness of Brodgar Butterfly

We also see the blossoming of schools of philosophy and science in Ancient Greece.
Their contribution being an early high point in Western philosophy.

Heraclitus will argue that "All is in flux", "You cannot step in the same river twice".

Plato and Aristotle will argue for "Substance".

Plato will introduce the Dream Argument to the West.
He is credited with the Theory of Forms or Ideas, that the physical world is an approximation to ideas, which would seem to give birth to mathematics and science (natural philosophy).

In 400BC Democritus would observe - "Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion."

However a philosopher that predated most of the above and hence was a significant influence on them was Pythagoras.
He will tell us that the Earth is not flat but round like the Moon.
Most people will know of him from the mathematics of the triangle, fewer will know that he was an ascetic mystic who believed in reincarnation and claimed to have a memory of his previous lives.
He seems to have believed that numbers had spiritual significance, mathematics was magical.
He is also credited with being in two cities on the same day, demonstrating bilocation.

If the insight of the ancient Greeks had matched their ingenuity, we would not merely be pottering around on the Moon, we would have reached the nearer stars.
Arthur C. Clarke

In 250BC Aristarchus of Samos would advocate the heliocentric model of the solar system, with the Earth orbiting the Sun and correctly placing the other planets.

Sadly it would be another 1,800 years before his ideas would be accepted as correct.

The problem was that it was counter intuitive.
The Sun, Moon and the planets crossed the sky as if they were orbiting the Earth.
Simple, why make it more complicated?
Good try Aristarchus, but no cigar.
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

But there was a small problem with the theory that the planets orbited the Earth, the planets didn't just cross the sky in one direction, they sometimes moved in reverse before continuing forward?
It would take another 300 years before Ptolemy of Alexandria cracked the problem with epicycles.
This model will be so successful that it will stand for nearly 1,500 years.
Indeed so successful that it was named, Almagest - "The Greatest".
Now there was a new theory as to why the Sun crossed the sky and everyone was happy.
It is in the nature of man that he needs to understand the world around him, he needs stories that explain his reality.

There was only one thing wrong with it of course, that it was complete nonsense.

It provides an important lesson, that there is no correlation between a theory being successful and it being true ...

The best that most of us can hope to achieve in physics is simply to misunderstand at a deeper level.
Wolfgang Pauli

Between the 9th and 12th centuries philosophers such as Al-Ghazali would debate the doctrine known as Occasionalism, which asserts that reality cannot be the product of the mindless interactions of substances, energies etc, but that God is the agent that makes the world real.
God is not just some distant entity that created the Universe aeons ago and then is reached out to by prayer, God is in all things.
Caterpillars do not become butterflies Ness of Brodgar Butterfly because of God's plan but because God is in the atoms that compose them, actively involved in making the transformation happen.
God is space, time, cause and effect.
Miracles (anomalous phenomena) are simply God choosing a different path from the one he commonly treads.

Nearly a thousand years later it will be noted how this philosophy resonates with the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.

Further East, Mahayana Buddhism will speak of the primacy of consciousness within a reality that is only an illusion.
A key concept is "Emptiness", that everything is connected to everything else, but that nothing has a supporting origin, an absolute foundation.

In essence Mahayana Buddhism seems to challenge Democritus, asserting that atoms and empty space are also not real and hence nothing is real and everything is opinion (that is, everything resides within consciousness).

Hundreds of years later, scientists will note how these ideas resonate with discoveries in quantum physics.

... quantum theory shows that the attempt to describe and follow an atomic particle in precise detail has little meaning. The notion of an atomic path has only a limited domain of applicability. In more detailed description the atom is, in many ways, seen to behave as much like a wave as a particle. It can perhaps best be regarded as a poorly defined cloud, dependent for it's particular form on the whole environment, including the observing instrument. Thus, one can no longer maintain the division between the observer and the observed (which is implicit in the atomistic view that regards each of these as separate aggregates of atoms). Rather both observer and observed are merging and interpenetrating aspects of one whole reality, which is indivisible and unanalysable.
David Bohm - Wholeness And The Implicate Order

In the summer of 1233AD, a Buddhist priest named Dogen will give an inaugural lecture at the school he has founded in Japan to be known as Soto Zen.

He has returned from China after studying under Chan Buddhism for several years.
Chan having evolved from Chinese Taoism and Indian Mahayana Buddhism, incidentally giving us Shaolin Kung Fu.

This auspicious, inaugural lecture will begin with these words :-

On the Great Wisdom That Is Beyond Discriminatory Thought.

Indeed, language is an organ of perception, not simply a means of communication.
Julian Jaynes

It is the tribal nature of man that there is always conflict, always war.
But the development of knowledge should be orthogonal to the tides of political and military power.
Knowledge is as useful to the victor as to the vanquished.
Or should be.
Now we see a curious accident of history.
In Western Europe, the barbarians from the North and the East successfully make war on the sophisticated but brutal slave based economies of the South.
A casualty of this is that virtually all recorded thought in Europe is reset, thankfully some of it kept safe further East where it would continue to be nurtured and developed.
Achievements in astronomy, science, mathematics, geometry, architecture, medicine and more.
All lost.

All except for one facet, rising like a phoenix out of the ashes, the Christian Church which will abolish slavery in Europe, promote literacy and the primacy of compassion but sadly at an enormous cost to secular knowledge and reason, famously demonstrated with Galileo Galilei (The Father of Modern Science) on trial for his life for the heresy of agreeing with someone else's story as to why the Sun crossed the sky.

For over a thousand years European knowledge languishes at absolute rock bottom.
The gardens of secular thought which had previously flowered in the ancient world had become barren deserts.
It's achievements simply dismissed as the errors of pagan philosophers, scientific enquiry relegated to the dark arts (magic).
Save for painting to decorate places of worship there is no advancement.

Earlier I mentioned that Democritus asserted that - "Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion."

However sadly the idea of the atom would then disappear from European thought, to such an extent that in 1897AD the distinguished physicist Ernst Mach famously stood up at the end of a lecture by Ludwig Boltzmann on atomic theory and announced - "I do not believe atoms exist".
Mach wasn't alone in this opinion, physicists attacked Boltzmann's theory of atoms with such vigour that it seems to have contributed to his suicide.
For over two thousand years, science's knowledge of matter had virtually stood still.

We see the cost when reason is controlled by those who govern.
When knowledge and ideas are not free.

Boy George - My God

By the 15th century it was high time for Europe to reacquaint itself with the concept of plurality and it seems to have begun in Italy with Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola.

A man who fittingly had a lot of stories, in particular his 900 Theses and their introduction the Oration on the Dignity of Man, now known as the Manifesto of the Renaissance.
Unsurprisingly they were judged to be heresy, condemnations included "reproducing the errors of pagan philosophers", like Plato and Aristotle.

The winds of change had to move north to Germany and Martin Luther who only needed to argue 95 Theses and then to Britain with King Henry VIII who argued that you didn't need any theses at all when you had a large army in an island nation.
But as a precaution he started building a navy, a decision that would have far reaching consequences.

The 900 Theses was the first printed book to be banned by the Church of Rome, it seems copies are rare because most were burnt.

There had been printing methods since 3,000BC but moveable type printing was not properly invented until the 11th century in China.
However Asian writing systems limited it's success.
It was not until the 15th century that Germany seized on it's advantage of the compact Latin alphabet to begin the printing revolution and the world was not to be the same again.
But most of Europe was still illiterate, the English word "story" appearing from the need to visually represent the scriptures in windows and sculpture along a tier of a church building.
Illiteracy would not be easily overcome, printing was by hand operated presses at a small scale, books were expensive and solely for the elite.
Most of the population toiled on the land from dawn to dusk out of the necessity to feed itself with no time for education to read books they couldn't afford.

But slowly things start to change ...

In medieval Europe a defendant could avoid the typically harsh and possibly random judgement of the adversarial secular courts and instead choose to be tried by the more considered and lenient ecclesiastical courts by proving that they could read from the Bible (benefit of clergy).
People escaped the hangman's noose simply because they could read.
We begin to see advantage from education as opposed to rank, favoured treatment of a literate minority embodied in law.
Passing over spiritual matters there was now a practical advantage in owning one of the new printed bibles and the ability to read it.

We see a market for stories to be read aloud by the few and spoken to the many, reaching a zenith with William Shakespeare.
We see a new purpose for stories, as secular art to entertain or as newspapers to discuss issues of the day.
We see stories called theories using mathematics to make predictions about the natural world with Isaac Newton's landmark "Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica" in 1687, considered to be one of the most important works in the history of science with a step change in describing nature from the qualitative to the quantitative.

Now there is a new story about how the Sun crosses the sky called "The Force of Gravity" and everyone is happy.
It is in the nature of man that he needs to understand the world around him, he needs stories that explain his reality.

In 1740 a young man in his twenties called David Hume wrote "A Treatise of Human Nature: Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion".
He was impressed with Newton's empirical approach to science and wanted to apply it to philosophy.
On publication it wasn't successful, Hume joked that it fell dead-born from the press.
Disappointed he disowned it as "juvenalia" and rewrote it with a shorter title.

However history was to be much kinder.
It is now considered to be the most significant contribution to Western philosophy in the English language.

Printed copies made their way to academic libraries far and wide including Konigsberg, East Prussia where a translated copy fell into the hands of an Immanuel Kant.
Kant read it and was transformed.
Normally a sociable man he isolated himself for some time to write in 1781, "Kritik der reinen Vernunft" - "Critique of Pure Reason".
It wasn't successful when published and he revised it.
Another case perhaps of falling dead-born from the press.
It is now considered to be the most significant work in Western philosophy.

Kant said :-

"I freely admit that it was the remembrance of David Hume which, many years ago, first interrupted my dogmatic slumber and gave my investigations in the field of speculative philosophy a completely different direction."

Kind words, however he omits to thank the power of printing without which he might never have read Hume.
Kant never ventured far outside the outskirts of Konigsberg.
Everything had to travel to him.
Hume never read Kant's Critique, he died several years earlier in 1776.

The most important discourse in Western philosophy was between two men who never met or exchanged letters but solely via the printed word radiated across a thousand miles.

We see the power of transmission, stories, already decoupled from time are becoming increasingly decoupled geographically, spatially.
Accurate copies with no limit to distribution.

I know only one thing: that I know nothing.

My understanding of Hume vs Kant is that Hume asked the question "What can man know about his reality?" and powerfully argued that the answer was not that much.
Hume was a sceptic.
Our ideas are the products of our senses and our senses are clearly quite finite, we seem to share them with chimpanzees.
Why, expecting man to understand the complexity of his reality, perhaps God's creation was like asking a frog to understand mathematics.
Simply impossible, everything has it's limitations.
Even worse Hume concludes that causality can only be a belief.

Kant recognised the profound nature of Hume's argument and responded by agreeing but with a very important qualification, yes we cannot know these things in themselves the noumena, but we can apply logic (particularly mathematics) to how they reveal themselves to our senses, the phenomena.

Kant it seems arguing the case for science but not as a means for discovering the absolute nature of our reality but in advancing our understanding of what our consciousness experiences.

But not everyone agreed with Kant, Hegel is famous for his quote :-

"What is rational is real; And what is real is rational"

And not everyone agreed with Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer asserted :-

A precursor perhaps to the Anthropic Principle.

Schopenhauer was one of the first Western philosophers to appreciate Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism and their roots such as the Upanishads.
note Apparently the first translation of the Upanishads (from Persian to Latin) had finally reached Western Europe.

"The World as Will and Representation" will be almost completely ignored for the first thirty years after it's initial publication.
Always a good sign it seems.

As we'll see later this debate will continue into the 20th century, personified by Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr who whilst great friends took opposing views as they wrestled with these ideas and the meaning of new discoveries in quantum physics.

Earlier I suggested that Ernst Mach was on the wrong side of history in not believing in atoms and hence could be viewed perhaps somewhat negatively.
However, it's not that simple, Mach was adhering to a philosophical perspective called "Phenomenalism".

"Objects are logical constructions out of sense-data or ideas"

Maybe like atoms, perhaps they are only a logical construction, just because matter can behave as if it's composed of atoms, doesn't mean it actually is, it could be composed of something else, that has shall we say for the purposes of conjecture, a rest state, that behaves as atoms?

But if matter was composed of this "something else" I wonder what it could be, what wonders could be hiding waiting to be discovered?
How would we know, how could we investigate further?
What we would need are clues, hints that matter does not always follow normal behaviour but has other behaviours that sit alongside normal.

Like a paranormal ...

The theory of relativity was the first significant indication in physics of the need to question the mechanistic order [matter composed of aggregates of discrete particles] ... it implied that no coherent concept of an independently existent particle is possible ... To meet this fundamental challenge, Einstein proposed that the particle concept no longer be taken as primary, and that instead reality be regarded from the very beginning as constituted of fields ... the idea of a separately and independent existent particle is seen to be, at best, an abstraction furnishing a valid approximation only in a certain limited domain. Ultimately, the entire universe ... has to be understood as a single undivided whole, in which analysis into separately and independently existent parts has no fundamental status.
David Bohm - Wholeness And The Implicate Order.

Pick a flower and you move the farthest star.
attr: Paul Dirac

A contemporary of Kant was Emanuel Swedenborg who later in life had visions and became a Christian mystic, apparently easily conversing with the spirit world.
That this made him famous is indicated with a mention in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables of having "slipped into insanity".
Note the charge of "insanity" not for instance "chicanery", Swedenborg was a polymath and a man of means whose main interest at this point of his life was writing and publishing many volumes on Christian theosophy.
Swedenborg is an interesting subject only lightly touched on here.
He has been described as the The Buddha of the North.

Kant confirms in correspondence that investigations into the stories of psychic abilities were verified by those who witnessed them.
Another curiosity of Swedenborg is that he appears to have correctly predicted the day of his death.

Swedenborg inspired Kant to write - "Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, Illustrated by Dreams of Metaphysics", where he attempts a sceptical critique but then opts for deciding man can have no knowledge of such things and subsequently refers to the paper as "desultory".

It seems to be a significant outcome, one of our greatest philosophers attempted to attack the paranormal aspect of our reality and seems to have admitted defeat.

There are few inventions that can be said to be of greater importance than moveable metal type printing but a candidate for this accolade happened next, the development of the steam engine in Britain and the world was never to be the same again.
note The honours for the first patent for the steam engine apparently belong to Jerónimo de Ayanz y Beaumont.
But it's fair to say that when the British caught up nearly a hundred years later they dominated it's development going forward.

Also it is the usual case that advances in science then result in technological advancements, i.e. engineering follows science.
But curiously with the steam engine we see the opposite, the invention of it drove scientific enquiry resulting in advances such as the kinetic theory of gases, thermodynamics and the theory of atoms.
It's easy to argue it was well ahead of it's time.

Simultaneously in Britain there was the Agricultural Revolution which ended the feudal order, driving people from the land in large numbers often with harsh consequences.
Thus the Industrial Revolution was born, an explosion in global trade and expansion of European empires with a newly created mobile population seeking rank and station.
With expansion came opportunity, now there was an incentive to be literate, to better oneself.
Advantage through education was no longer the mantra for the few but for the many, aided by governments that needed many educated people to manage empires.
Literacy became increasingly widespread.
Now there was a mass market for stories and the means to service it with the industrial printing process.
Stories ceased to be constrained by the limitations of the past, they could become abundant, like flowers in a field.

The desert bloomed as had never been seen before.

As a consequence men and women discovered that they could find an income, even a good one solely dedicated to writing stories.
They could be authors.
With so much quantity came the need for quality, authors began to differentiate, to seek to produce art.

And one of these authors seeking art was Edgar Allan Poe.

The achievements of the British scientists Isaac Newton and later James Clerk Maxwell had dominated science since 1687 but at the beginning of the 20th century that was about to change.

In Germany a young man in his twenties called Albert Einstein published several short stories resulting in a step change in science.
note The role of Max Planck here is not so well known, Albert Einstein had no university post, he didn't even have a PhD, he was almost just a precocious amateur working in the Swiss Patent Office as a technical expert (third class) at a time (1905) when terms like "standing", "station" and "pedigree" had real weight.
It was Planck who recognised the genius and published him without obeying the usual protocols and hence bringing Einstein to the attention of international science.

Soon there is yet another story of how the sun crosses the sky called "The Warping of Spacetime" and everyone is happy.
It is in the nature of man that he needs to understand the world around him, he needs stories that explain his reality.

Until the 20th century much of physics (Newtonian classical mechanics) had been based on concepts that were hard wired into our ape ancestors minds millions of years ago as they swung through trees.

Space, time, velocity, acceleration, force, mass.

In the 19th century electricity and magnetism were unified by Maxwell with an important new concept the "field" giving us classical electromagnetism and optics but still mainly within the same language, fields of force.
note Michael Faraday seems to have invented the term "fields of force", Maxwell's achievement was to quantify this.

Einstein's achievement was to see the primacy of the field over the particle and introduce new language and concepts, spacetime, length contraction, time dilation, mass energy equivalence, quanta of requisite energy.

But what was to come next - Quantum Mechanics, beginning in Germany (Born, Heisenberg, Jordan) and then developed by scientists from many countries would be a major revolution in science requiring a new conceptual framework, one that begins to leave human language behind and starts to rely solely on mathematics, even for it's concepts.
But not only that, as it enters the realm of mathematics, it even has to leave traditional mathematical concepts behind.

The real journey has begun, possibly a thousand years later than it perhaps could have, but better late than never.

The steady progress of physics requires for its theoretical formulation a mathematics which gets continually more advanced. This is only natural and to be expected. What however was not expected by the scientific workers of the last century was the particular form that the line of advancement of mathematics would take, namely it was expected that mathematics would get more and more complicated, but would rest on a permanent basis of axioms and definitions, while actually the modern physical developments have required a mathematics that continually shifts its foundation and gets more abstract. Non-euclidean geometry and noncommutative algebra, which were at one time were considered to be purely fictions of the mind and pastimes of logical thinkers, have now been found to be very necessary for the description of general facts of the physical world. It seems likely that this process of increasing abstraction will continue in the future and the advance in physics is to be associated with continual modification and generalisation of the axioms at the base of mathematics rather than with a logical development of any one mathematical scheme on a fixed foundation.
Paul Dirac

It was found that light and matter could behave as waves with this eventually leading to the discovery of nuclear fission, a release of energy a million times greater than any chemical reaction.

This resulted in the nuclear weapon, introduced by it's shaman with ancient words from the Bhagavad Gita -

"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." - J. Robert Oppenheimer
note Oppenheimer was sufficiently interested in Ancient Indian philosophy that he learnt Sanskrit in order to read the texts in their original language and context.

The subsequent threat of nuclear attack led to American developments in electronic communication that would result in the internet, a development very relevant to this story.

You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny.
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

Under the Tsars and the young Soviet state, Russia used capital punishment with a light touch.
Then in the 1930s the Holmodor killed millions, weakening belief in the communist model and Josef Stalin's grip on power which he recovered with the Great Purge, resulting in the execution of an estimated 700,000 people in two years, thousands per week.
Millions more sentenced to short miserable lives in the gulags.
Their crimes being to hold a different opinion or even simply suspected of having one.
People with opinions such as academics, intellectuals and scientists being well represented in the long list of victims.
Within this orgy of authoritarianism we see a curious effect, Russian physicists were forbidden from giving public lectures on Quantum Mechanics, the subject having been deemed by the Marxist political class to be "counter to dialectical materialism".
Offending physicists were tried and banished from teaching in one case by a jury of machine shop workers.
credit The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius.
Graham Farmelo.

In 1938 Enrico Fermi travelled from Italy to Sweden with his family to collect his Nobel Prize.
Immediately afterwards he put them all on the next plane to America, his wife was Jewish and Fascist Italy had just introduced racial laws to align itself with Nazi Germany.
Fermi was an unusually gifted man, as well as a first class theoretical physicist he was also an excellent experimental physicist, a rare combination that would help him lead the construction of the Chicago Pile-1 in 1942 - creating the world’s first man made self-sustaining, controlled nuclear chain reaction.

In 1930s Germany Werner Heisenberg was severely criticised as a "White Jew" for teaching "Jewish Physics" (Relativity, Quantum Mechanics) to the extent that in order to continue working he had to use his connections (his mother was a good friend of Heinrich Himmler's mother), Heisenberg was permitted to teach the theories but not to name their authors.
Max Planck and Arnold Sommerfeld receiving similar criticism to the extent that Planck (the premier grandee of German science in this period) had his ancestry investigated by the Nazis.
Thousands of scientists left Germany including Albert Einstein and Max Born, many of them settling in America and Britain.

In 1943 America, Britain and Canada folded their atomic research expertise into the Manhattan Project and as they say the rest is history.
It is probably the crowning achievement of man todate that the race to master this fearsome technology was won by those political systems that embraced freedom and plurality versus those that didn't.
What would the world be like now if those authoritarian regimes had won the race instead?

Again we see the result when reason is controlled by those who govern.
When knowledge and ideas are not free.

But of course it wasn't all beer and skittles in America, in the 1930s still in part an apartheid nation.

In 1933 Albert Einstein closed the front door of his cottage in Berlin with his wife and suitcases at his side.
He turned to her and said, "take good look around for you will never see it again." and with that he left Germany never to return.
He was extremely unusual in using his iconic status as a great scientist to support social causes he believed in, his public criticism of the Nazis had forced him to wisely exit Germany (with a substantial price on his head).

In his new homeland of America, even at Princeton, he found a university system that employed ethnic quotas, places for Jews were restricted with quotas for Blacks and Women being zero.

Einstein's active support of the Civil Rights movement angered J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI to the extent that he sought his deportation as an "extreme radical".

We've come a long way baby ...

Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate

Still the early 20th century was also a creative time, whilst Albert Einstein et al were revolutionising science, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung invented the field of analytic psychology.

Strange things happened around Jung, he claimed he had seen ghosts, a table knife lying in a drawer inexplicably shattered into several pieces.
He had premonitions, he once woke his wife up at 3am because he'd had a dream that a woman looking similar to her had just died.
At 7am the same morning she was informed that her cousin had passed away, at 3am.
He stated that he had a vision of Europe being flooded from the North Sea to the Alps leaving countless bodies, just weeks before the outbreak of WW1.

In his late sixties in early 1944 Jung had a heart attack, was hospitalised and whilst unconscious there had a near death experience.
On awakening he believed that the interpretation of what he had just dreamt predicted the death of his doctor stood at his bedside as if in exchange for his own life.
Still a little delirious he forcefully remonstrated with the doctor warning him to be careful, so much so that Jung's wife also present rebuked him for being rude.
By 04.04.44 Jung was well enough to sit on the edge of his bed something that he had not been capable of for some time.
On that day his doctor fell ill shortly afterwards to die of septicemia.

To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream;
Aye, there's the rub, for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come.


In his dream Jung was floating in space (which he later estimated to be about 1,000 miles above the Earth) with him noting the vivid colours of the planet below, the reds and browns of the deserts, the greens of the grasslands and forests and the blues of the oceans, the Himalayas being covered with clouds, this taking place ten years before man would see the first colour photos of Earth from space.
He then underwent a painful process of shedding all personal concerns.
Turning around he saw a nearby orbiting rock containing a cave carved and illuminated in the Hindu temple tradition and containing a seated "black Hindu" wearing white robes.
He perceived that the intention was that he enter the temple and join him.
Then his doctor appeared (rising up from Europe) disrupting and terminating the progression of events.
This is how he describes how the vision ends, when he knows he is to return to Earth.

'Disappointed I thought, "Now I must return to the 'box system' again." For it seemed to me as if behind the horizon of the cosmos a three-dimensional world had been artificially built up, in which each person sat by himself in a little box'.

By coincidence, two and a half thousand years earlier, in the Dhammapada, the Buddha describes his first journey to enlightenment (nirvana) via a night's vigil of meditation stating :-

"This was my first successful breaking forth, like a chick breaking out of it's shell ..."

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.
William Blake

In his professional life Jung had noticed how among the patients he and his staff analysed (many tens of thousands), the same dream themes reoccurred, containing repeating imagery and symbols similar to those from older religion and alchemy.
He formed the opinion that this couldn't just be a coincidence and they were indications of a shared sub conscious with "archetypes".

Further there were cases of dreams and real events strangely connected to other events resulting in him writing the story - "Synchronicity - an acausal connecting principle".
Jung believed that the case evidence pointed to wider questions about human consciousness and it was correct to explore with an open mind, to follow the evidence.
He fell out with Freud who saw everything through a narrower lens and anything else was just dabbling in the occult to the detriment of a young profession.

However apparently Freud's narrower perspective was simply his public stance.
Privately he was very interested in Extra Sensory Perception et al.
It's perhaps worth adding that Jung had married into a very wealthy Swiss family and was free to follow his interests without the usual concerns of being a provider with dependents, unfettered by a need to protect the reputation of his profession.

In passing, note how even within the highest echelons of the study of the mind, reason, knowledge and ideas are not completely free.

A man who didn't agree with Freud's public stance was Wolfgang Pauli a theoretical physicist whose stature is indicated by Albert Einstein quoting him as his successor at a party to celebrate Pauli receiving the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1945.

Strange things also happened around Pauli, known jokingly as the Pauli effect.
He was banned (by friendly colleagues) from the university's laboratories due to the frequency of equipment breaking during his visits.
One physicist insisting on only talking to him through the closed door of his laboratory.
He once sat down at a meeting and simultaneously the chairs either side of him collapsed dropping their female occupants onto the floor.

Pauli also had his demons and sought help from the now famous Jung and agreed to share his dreams with him as part of the therapy.
Jung was very excited at having a world renowned theoretical physicist, a recognised genius as a patient.
Pauli was also interested in Jung's work and the two men collaborated closely, Pauli being particularly interested in Jung's data and what it could mean.
A feature of Quantum Mechanics is that although the mathematics is highly successful in predicting nature's behaviour, at a conceptual level it contains what can be described formally as "ontological challenges" or less formally as "spooky woo woo stuff",  e.g. complementarity, nonlocality, entanglement and the observer effect all of which have profound implications for human consciousness.
If electrons can demonstrate these features in a laboratory, what is the mind if not a cloud of organised electrons?

Or if it is not, then what?

... as synchronistic events include not only psychic but also physical forms of manifestation, the conclusion is justified that both modalities transcend the realm of the psychic and somehow also belong to the physical realm.
Carl Jung

"French writer Émile Deschamps claims in his memoirs that, in 1805, he was treated to some plum pudding by a stranger named Monsieur de Fontgibu. Ten years later, the writer encountered plum pudding on the menu of a Paris restaurant and wanted to order some, but the waiter told him that the last dish had already been served to another customer, who turned out to be de Fontgibu. Many years later, in 1832, Deschamps was at a dinner and once again ordered plum pudding. He recalled the earlier incident and told his friends that only de Fontgibu was missing to make the setting complete—and in the same instant, the now-senile de Fontgibu entered the room, having got the wrong address."
credit Credit - en.wikipedia.org

A procession of the damned.
By the damned, I mean the excluded.
We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.
Charles Fort – first lines of 'The Book of the Damned'.

A man who dedicated his life to writing stories was Charles Fort.
He was fascinated with anomalous phenomena and wrote several books on the subject giving his name to the genre known as "Fortean", also inspiring many science fiction stories.
There was of course no Information Technology in 1919, he did it the hard way, spending his working life in libraries sifting through newspapers and keeping tens of thousands of clippings and notes in boxes with card indexes.
He even moved from America to London for a while to research at the British Library.
Some people will dismiss him as a crank, others will view him as an unusually independent mind unwilling to passively accept the religious or scientific orthodoxies of the day but to follow the evidence, to let it sing it's song.

"Let the evidence sing it's song" is a good catchphrase to explain the purpose of this website.
Science has to be conservative and it limits it's enquiries to phenomena that are repeatable and theories that are falsifiable/testable.

But the purpose of this website is look beyond this boundary and in order to do so the evidence has to be given a different weight, it cannot just be dismissed as unsuitable particularly when independent reports appear to be repetitions of the same/similar phenomena.

So with that in mind, lets have a look at some more evidence, some more stories, what song do they sing?   ...    Go to the next page

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