Science Can’t Escape The Infinite

There are two main pillars of modern physics – Einstein’s general relativity and quantum theory. Each theory behaves as though it has nothing to do with the other, yet it is obvious to even the average man or woman on the street that the world is unified. Not only have these two great theories eluded scientists’ attempt to unify them, they lead to other things physicists detest – infinities.

General relativity leads us to singularities occurring both inside black holes and at the “Big Bang” beginning of the universe. In each case the force of gravity and matter swirls together into a space with an ever-decreasing radius, rapidly taking on infinite strength and density, until there is no longer any spacetime left – and nothing to mathematically describe.

Quantum theory also has problems with infinities when it is applied towards fields (like electric and magnetic fields). A field has values at every point in space and there are an infinite number of zero-dimensional points that can occupy any finite-sized space. This causes equations to quickly spin out of a physicist’s control when trying to make predictions.

So in both quantum and relativity theory physicists find themselves backed into a wall of infinities. They believe that infinities showing up in their equations point to a mistake and must be eliminated.

Theology embraces the infinite, but not in a scientific way. Religion tells us that the finite world was created from an Infinite God. However, once we move beyond religious faith, God’s Infinite Being leaves us with the big problem of finding a rational, causal nexus between the Infinite and the finite.

Scientist/theologian, Emanuel Swedenborg believed that rather than trying to eliminate infinities from our calculations, the Infinite must play an essential part and be factored into our formulations of reality. I will address his approach to the infinite and a deeper theory in my next book, Proving God. But for the purpose of this short post it is important to simply grasp that nothing can exist alone.

Finite things can only be created from things greater (and less finite) than themselves. Something has to be finited (limited) and given constraints in order to appear in time and space. More importantly, new things exist as prior things begin to coexist (the emergence of complexity). Existence is relationship, and over time, nature becomes more complex to more perfectly reflect God’s nature, which is Infinite Love.

Nature’s processes follow a spiritual principle, which is why the fertility of the universe is displayed not simply in the quantity of created things but in the orchestrated utility between all things (this is what unifies different things into an interrelated and interdependent complex).

God, from the principle of Divine Love, can only create forms of utility (which are physical analogs of love) and therefore, all finite entities must emerge to serve a particular use for a grand and eternal purpose. Every finite entity is connected from prolepsis whereby the “present” is oriented to the future (this dynamic also holds the key to the mystery of the “Arrow of Time”).

Concerning the causal link between the Infinite and the finite, both realities are self-similar and correspond to each other (God cannot create through dissimilarity which would represent imperfection). Secondly, God creates the ratio between the finite and Infinite – not from the finite but from the infinite. God is equally present in all creation but not equally received and conjoined.

In other words, the infinite forms a relationship with a rock from a different ratio than it does a human brain. The Infinite is more perfectly self-represented in the higher order structures of human brain and mind than in a rock. So religion is a divine strategy by which the human heart and mind can be more perfectly conjoined to, and reflect, the higher values of the Creator.

Both theories (relativity and quantum) are inadequate as they are now stand and need to be reformulated. The purpose of my writing enterprise is to show that this reformulation will be founded on the premise that (Infinite) Love is the ultimate science.

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Personal tragedy – How could I face it?

Personal tragedyPersonal tragedy visited Jack. Although in his sixties and retired, he still felt young. His whole life revolved around doing handyman jobs in his own home and in the homes of his three daughters. He greatly enjoyed the company of his family and their appreciation. But recently he was experiencing some troubling ailments.

First he noticed he was getting blood in
his stools. He put this down to
haemorrhoids, a common enough problem in his age group. However, it was when he started experiencing some abnormal bowel complaints that he took himself off to the doctor who immediately did tests. The results were rather worrying. The doctor explained that cancer gives people no symptoms or signs that exclusively indicate the disease and that he should see a specialist immediately for further examination.

Typical fears in response to personal tragedy

We can imagine how Jack felt. He was facing the prospect of taking some powerful drugs with all sorts of uncomfortable side effects. He dreaded the thought of likely skin changes and fatigue due to radiation therapy, and his imagination started to run away with itself as he dwelt on surgery. Would treatment work? Would his body be permanently impaired? Would he die?

How could Jack best deal with his fears? Just how does one face a personal tragedy?

Passive victim role in response to a personal tragedy

Some people respond to bad personal news by becoming a passive victim: repeatedly saying to themselves “It’s not right… I don’t deserve this… I am helpless.” It is as if they see a dangerous animal approaching and instead of doing something about it, they become paralysed. They had always believed the world should be fair and can’t seem to get their heads around the point that sometimes this isn’t necessarily so.

Not everyone allows himself or herself to become a passive victim of personal tragedy even when confronted by the most appalling circumstances. Many of the survivors of concentration camps were able to endure because they refused to give in to feeling victimized. For example Viktor Frankl in Auschwitz, whose basic human rights and possessions were removed, used his one remaining freedom to keep up his spirits. This was the freedom to choose his own inner attitude of mind in response to the outer horrible situation.

Making assumptions about the consequences of a personal tragedy

If you had been sent to a death camp maybe you would have feared the worst. But how would you have known? Assuming you are utterly helpless in the face of fate is a feature of being a passive victim. But no one can know the future. Frankl wasn’t to know whether he would survive or die.

If your baby were deaf, mute and blind, this indeed would be a personal tragedy and you would probably assume the end of the world for your child. But how could you know this? Through exactly this profound disability Helen Keller found an uplifting spirit and fulfilling adult life.

There was a man who had syphilis. His wife had TB. One of their four children dies and the others suffer from an incurable illness that is considered terminal. The mother is pregnant. What should she do? You might say she should have an abortion. If so, you have just killed the composer Ludwig Van Beethoven.

The prospects for anyone may seem dire. But how do you know? How do know what is going to happen in the next hour let alone the next month? Who can be so sure about what is going on around the corner?

“How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in
life!” (Marcus Aurelius)

Some things will be bad; a few things are exceptionally bad but not the end of the world. And no matter how bad it is, can’t you stand it? Can’t you adapt?

“Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them” (Epictetus)

Wanting to cast blame in response to a personal tragedy

In his book ‘Why does God let it happen?’ Bruce Henderson suggests that people often make the mistake of assuming that whatever personal tragedy God permits to happen in the world, he must be the cause. He also criticizes the belief that ill fortune is a deserved punishment for a past misdeed.

He puts forward an alternative religious view that God is like a parent who allows the children freedom to do as they choose even if this means mankind behaves badly at times with tragic consequences. According to this view, trying to impose total control over our behaviour or ways of thinking would stifle us and we would not be free to develop as individuals as we wish but instead turn out like pre-programmed robots.

A loving parent who allows the child freedom to make mistakes is one who wants to help as much as possible giving advice, offering support and encouragement and so on. The religious person trusts that likewise God is a loving parent whose divine providence is flowing into our lives to counterbalance the bad things we are experiencing. In other words it is claimed that a loving God provides some element of hope to make up for misery, some degree of sense to offset foolishness or an inflow of good feeling to compensate for evil.

Just as the child learns through mistakes so spiritual growth can sometimes only happen if first a person has to face and deal with something of personal tragedy.

I do believe that no matter what hardships we endure, God is with us all the time, lifting us up, helping us to find a way through, if we will only be open to this.

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Tragedy – What if it happened to me?

Tragedy always seems to happen somewhere in the world; like an earthquake destroying buildings, someone running amok with a dangerous firearm, or civil populations of non-combatants affected by weapons of war.

Watching the television news you wonder ‘What if it ever happened to me?’ It is so easy for the innocent to suffer damage to limbs, destroyed home, or even death of family members. A tragedy might so radically change your life that you would lose your means of earning a livelihood or other important roles.

tragedyJim & Maureen’s tragedy

Even an ordinary event might be personally catastrophic. In 2002 a forest fire made over 2,000 families homeless in one county in California. By 2006 many homes had been rebuilt. One couple, Jim and Maureen, moved into their replacement home with their teenage son after four years living in makeshift temporary accommodation. However, they were then faced with a higher adjustable-rate mortgage.  On top of that, Jim was obliged to close his business which had been affected by the fire.

Selling their rebuilt home and downsizing became the preferred option but the housing market had changed. Buyers had become wary about living in fire-ravaged areas, even if the rebuilt homes included sprinklers, tile roofs and other protective measures and so property prices dropped. The tragedy was that having failed to make loan repayments for several months and receiving no offers on the vacant property, the couple not only expected repossession of their home by their mortgage lender with a cheap sale of their only asset, but also faced the prospect of bankruptcy.

Tragedy exposes assumptions about life

All this just shows the fragility of the things of the world that one takes for granted. Previously and without realising it, you had assumed that bodily and material things were permanent features of your life. You thought they sustained you and that you could not do without them. However, seeing personal effects of tragedy like the plight of people like Jim and Maureen, made me realise how transient such things really are – here today and gone tomorrow.

A personal calamity would throw anyone upside down so that they feel in utter turmoil. Our comfort zone would be no longer available. The blow is harder to take if we had unwittingly assumed that whatever it was that we loved would always be there. We feel like shouting out `It’s not fair’. `It’s not the way things are supposed to be’.

Tragedy can reveal hidden things

So what happens next? One thing some victims of catastrophe report is that although they may have become immobilised by a disastrous change in their outward circumstances, gradually they began to realise that is they themselves that really needed to change if a new happiness is to be found. You won’t always be able to carry on blaming others and fate for what has happened. So, you may decide just to get on with things remembering that ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going.’ We are never too old to move with the times, never so beyond it that we cannot adapt and find new things, new people, new relationships.

It may sound unbelievably harsh to ask this, but is it possible that a personal tragedy brings it home to us that divine realities like compassion, belonging and courage, are the enduring bedrock of our life? Are the things of the world, we  previously valued so highly, mere illusions of happiness? After all, no worldly loss can damage things of the spirit  – things like consideration for others, pulling together, and trying to be positive in the face of adversity.

If things we see and touch cannot be relied on, what about things we cannot? Heaven is one such idea. If it is true that the kingdom of heaven is within ’ (Luke 17:21) then we are all capable of experiencing heaven in our daily lives. Is it not an inner state of mind? A spiritual reality that our bodily senses cannot detect? A very real and permanent feature to human life that physical events cannot harm?

Goodness emerging from tragedy

Our confidence can start to increase a little as we see a heavenly state of heart and mind motivating the efforts of rescue workers in flooded areas; leading the deliberations of planners and politicians to be better prepared in places at risk,  like for example setting up a world-wide Tsunami early warning system ; and giving those suffering loss, some comfort and financial expectation that they can recover their lives.

Even though we cannot see or touch heaven, becoming more conscious of this state of mind inspires us and fills us with hope. We cannot take the things of the world with us when we die; only things of the spirit. I would argue that this shows that spiritual reality is more permanent and safe from destruction than what is merely physical; for a worldly disaster cannot destroy heaven. Rather, we find what is indestructible interiorly within ourselves if only we would look for it.

Even if (after death) you are attached to worldly goods left behind, you will not be able to possess them, and they will be of no use to you. Therefore, abandon weakness and attachment for them; cast them away wholly; renounce them from your heart
(Tibetan Book of the   Dead, ii,I.  – Buddhist tradition)

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems