Montreal, September 21, 1999
This year, on the first of July, in a small meeting room on the edge of the sea, on the tip of the Monterey peninsula in California, ... I had the fascinating experience of listening firsthand to Eric Chaisson, a Harvard astrophysicist, as he presented his views on ethics and 'evolutionary cosmology'.
For me, a 'student' of Kepler, ... Eric's opening remarks highlighted a cosmic shift of viewpoint, from the soft, harmonic tones of Kepler, to a stark and barren cosmoscape. Accompanying Eric's 'time-line' for the evolution of the cosmos were his words, ... "there have been two major cosmic eras, .. the 'radiation era' and the 'matter era'", .. "we, the occupants of earth, ... third rock out from the sun, have developed the capacity to manipulate genetic matter", ..."we are changing the environment more than it is changing us", ... "only systems which embrace ethics will survive", ... "we must embrace democracy, which is working quite well locally and globally", ... "we must have an ethic based on individual freedom and dignity", ... "to avoid self-destruction, we must solve each and every problem as it presents itself to us", ... "in order to do this, we must be prepared to embrace restrictions and constraints such as population control", ... "we must make certain that the populace is technically literate", ... "we must not allow ourselves to accumulate so many constraints as to mire us in physical and mental stagnation", ... "the probabilities say that it is better not to put all our eggs in the 'earth basket', and that we must populate the planets of other stars", ... and in a kind of pre-empting defense; "because I like to use numbers does not mean I am a reductionist, I am a 'materialist', to be sure, and an 'individualist', ... "I see 'cosmic evolution' as a warm and enlightening worldview, ... a dynamic and hopeful, rather than static and bleak worldview".
Come on, Eric, such a 'cosmic evolution' scenario is enough to send a shiver and a chill through the veins of Count Dracula, and the remark "we are changing the environment more than it is changing us" is taking the abstraction of 'mutual exclusion' to insane limits, ... we are the environment and it is us, ... let's not fan the already out-of-control flames of schizophrenia.
And its not how big your numbers are, but how you use them. Kepler was a lover of numbers also, ... in the context of life and evolution, as is indicated in his horoscope;
"On the birth of Johann Kepler, I have investigated the matter of my conception, which took place in the year 1571, 16 May, at 4:37 a.m. My weakness at birth removes the suspicion that my mother was already pregnant at the marriage, which was the 15th of May, ... thus I was born, premature, at thirty-two weeks, after 224 days, 10 hours., ..."
Not that Kepler ascribed to astrology in the manner in which it was and is presented, ..., as he said, .. "a warning to certain Theologians, Physicians, and Philosophers . . . that, while justly rejecting the stargazer's superstitions, they should not throw out the child with the bathwater. For 'nothing exists nor happens in the visible sky that is not sensed in some hidden manner by the faculties of Earth and Nature: [so that] these faculties of the spirit here on earth are as much affected as the sky itself. And again: 'That the sky does something to man is obvious enough: but what it does specifically remains hidden. . . . The belief in the effect of the constellations derives in the first place from EXPERIENCE, which is so convincing that it can be denied only by people who have not examined it."
So while Kepler saw us as being 'contained' constituents of-and-within a harmonic nature, as 'strands in the web of life', as had Proclus and Heraclitus and aboriginal cultures, ... Eric sees us as being 'outside masters' of nature, ... what happened?
Obviously, something got turned inside out, inverted, ... and that 'something' was the relationship between 'matter' and 'space'. Eric's worldview makes him a classic candidate for the effect articulated by John Lennon; "Life is something that happens while you're busy making other plans", ...i.e. if humanity sees life as an endless succession of problems which must be grappled with, ... an obsession with control and domination over nature, ... what about that part of life that we can't control? .... the confluence of evolving processes which constitute our environmental container which we swim within, ... do we ignore our view of ourselves as being immersed in many evolving processes which we can't control and must therefore accept and 'tune-in' to so as to find co-resonance with, ... and 'coevolutional' opportunities with? Do we do as the biologist Henri Laborit suggests, ... pull down the mainsail and pull up the rudder with which we have been seeking to dominate the winds and currents of nature, ... and raise instead the jib of purpose, using the winds of evolution themselves to steer by?
Just as the natural environment 'contains' us, ... the 'simple intellect' of the child contains the abstract rationality of the adult, ... if not, we would have no experiential story, no purpose, to weave together the rational facts, ... and rational 'what is' facts are simply statements of the way things 'are', ... and such statements are not 'big enough' dimensionally, to swallow up and become a container for our 'story'. In every waking moment, our 'simple intellect' bootstraps into place, .... this ability of 'bringing a multitude of real and imaginary experiences into sense-making connection in the mind' is so everpresent and fully immersive that we simply take it for granted, ... and we seize instead on our rationality, the biggest fish we can see 'out there' through our story-goggles, as being our prime way of thinking.
The basic architecture for the space/matter 'flip' which took us from 'ether-over-matter' to 'matter-over-void' was fleshed out almost 2500 years ago, ... when the choice was made, in the west, to go with the reality of Aristotle which was a 'sequential unity and plurality'; i.e. where the unity of nature is achieved 'causally' by the interactions of fully independent and mutually exclusive, 'material things', .... thus pre-empting the worldview of Heraclitus of a 'simultaneous unity and plurality' which implies that space orchestrates and interferes physically with its constituent matter, ... i.e. which implies 'container-content-coevolution'.
That was philosophy, ... but what happened in science, which didn't really get underway until the seventeenth century?
What mainstream science has been saying, ever since Newton built his 'mathematical principles of nature' by stripmining Kepler's three laws of motion, is that Kepler 'got it wrong' and had the roles of space and matter reversed. We say that he confused the roles of gravity and inertia. We say that he didn't realize that bodies go in a straight line at constant velocity if there is no force applied to them, ... that is, ... that space is full of mindless and purposeless matter. How stupid of Kepler, ... could he not see that the world is just dead rocks knocking into one another?
Kepler had the romantic idea, it seems, that matter, ... the planets, had 'mind' in the sense that they 'induced' an awareness of how to behave harmonically out of the ether, out of their containing space!
If one is coming from where Eric is, .. how extraordinary it must appear that Kepler could have believed such a thing.
Of course, ... we know that this 'induced behavior' of matter occurs in the case of magnetic and electric material, ... that they 'pick up their instructions' on how to behave from the 'field' they are contained in, ... but how extraordinary that Kepler could believe that this same thing occurred in the case of gravity. Everyone knows that gravity is an innate function of matter, and not of space, .... well, except for Einstein's theory of general relativity, ... and Newton himself did have a 'bit' of a problem with it, saying, in a letter to Bentley;
"It is inconceivable, that inanimate brute matter should, without the mediation of something else, which is not material, operate upon, and affect other matter without mutual contact; as it must do, if gravitation, in the sense of Epicurus, be essential and inherent in it. And this is one reason, why I desired you would not ascribe innate gravity to me. That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to matter, so that one body may act upon another, at a distance through a vacuum, without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity, that I believe no man who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it."
It seems that Newton wasn't that far away from Kepler's view on this, .... both leaving the 'mediating' process open for the time being. But wait a minute, ... in that mediating process is the difference between seeing the world as an ensemble of purposeless rocks bumping into each other to create the future, ... and a world of nested whole-and-part harmonies. This is where the 'numbers' difference comes in, ... in one view, counting and quantifying an inventory of dead rocks, ... and in the other, counting and qualifying the rhythms and harmonies of a celestial symphony.
How did the 'drop out' occur?
If you start from the 'bottom', with a 'thing' and its properties and behaviors and work your way up, as the materialist approach and euclidian space view has you do, ... you miss out on a very important point noted by Kepler and by Newton, ... that something different happens in situations where three or more bodies are in motion under mutual influence. Newton said of it; "An exact solution for three bodies, exceeds, if I am not mistaken, the force of any human mind". Of course, when Newton thought of 'human mind' in this context, he thought of 'rational function'.
Not so for Kepler, ... who was using the 'bootstrap' or 'geometrical-physical theorizing', a technique described by Einstein in his essay 'Geometry and Experience' and which Einstein says, without which, he could never have discovered relativity nor could he have visualized natural phenomena in terms of a curved space-time continuum.
Kepler's views on the critical implications of three or more bodies interfering in SIMULTANEOUS harmony, ... that such simultanous harmony must be a property of space or what we would today perhaps call 'the gravity field', ... is contained in his closing statement in Harmonice Mundi. It's easy to read, ... but whether you attach significance to it or not is up to you and whether you look at things from a 'materialist' viewpoint as if its 'just rocks out there', ... or whether you look at things from an 'immersed and co-involved point of view', ... as if you are part of that mutual simultaneous harmony, ... is something which cannot be predetermined but must be established by you.
Walk on into the descriptions of harmony, ... see what 'fits' for you, the 'rocks' or the 'rock'. Here goes, ... first in german, then english, ... in case you want to get your own 'translation', because there is an exposure for the translator to infuse his own spin onto the translation, ... and if I am a member of the flat earth society and I see 'autour du monde' in french, I first get a vision of someone travelling around in a circle on a flat plane, ... and that imagery provides the basis for my translation and there are likely to be subtle inferences added in which convey such flatness of thought. Similarly in the case of Kepler, ... if you do not have the Vygotskian 'sense' of simultaneous harmonics in your mental concept inventory, ... some conceptual 'drop out' in your translation will be inevitable.
"Kepler hatte akzeptiert, das er seine Harmonientheorie nicht glaubhaft bestätigen konnte, hielt aber weiter an ihr fest. Seine Ergebnisse bestätigten ihn in seiner Theorie. Zwar konnte er die perfekte Harmonie nicht errechnen, aber die Werte, die er hatte, zeigten annähernd seine "weltenbildenden Verhältnisse". So schrieb er in seinem Schlusssatz folgendes: "Nun aber tragen zur Vervollkommnung der Welt mehr die Gesamtharmonien aller Planeten bei als die einzelnen Harmonien bei je zwei und die Paare von Harmonien bei je zwei benachbarten Planeten. Denn die Harmonie ist gewissermaßen ein Band der Vereinigung. Es liegt aber eine weitergehende Vereinigung vor, wenn alle Planeten miteinander eine Harmonie bilden, als wenn immer je zwei für sich in doppelter Weise harmonieren. Im Widerstreit dieser Harmonien mußte daher von den beiden Harmoniereihen, die die Planetenpaare miteinander bilden, die eine oder andere nachgeben, damit die Gesamtharmonien aller bestehen konnte." ... ... Eines Tages könnten seine Theorien über die Harmonien der Welt vielleicht doch noch einen eindeutigen Beweis bekommen."
... and in english, ... translated in the spirit of his work and without imposing a euclidian mindset, ..
"Kepler had accepted, that he was unable to convincingly prove his harmony theory, but he continued to hold firmly to it. His findings were proof to him, of his theory. It's true that he was unable to calculate the harmonies perfectly, but the values which he had, showed approximatively, his 'mindbroadening relationships'. Thus he wrote the following in his sum-up: "Now, the 'harmony-of-the-whole of all the planets contributes more to the perfection of the world than the single harmonies by twos and the pairs of harmonies by the twos of neighbouring planets. For harmony is, so to speak, a volume of unity. A deeper unity yet is presented, when all the planets form a harmony with each another, as when just two at a time harmonize in a doubled manner. In the conflict of these harmonies deriving from the dual harmonic line-ups, which the pairs of planets form with each another, the one or the other must capitulate, so that the harmony-of-the-whole can prevail." .... One day, perhaps, his theory of the harmonies of the world might still be proven unequivocally."
Right here, ... right here in the difference between thought and language, ... we are at the crossroads of experience and knowledge. Right here, we must ask ourselves if the knowledge content of this statement in itself conveys full value, ... or if it simply suggests something about our experiencing of the world. We must ask ourselves if the experiencing of simultaneous harmony adds value in our lives, ... and whether the primacy of the 'harmony of whole-and-part' over lesser harmonies has any import in our lives. We must decide this if quantum physicists such as Werner Heisenberg are correct in their assertion that scientific knowledge is just a 'wittgensteinian ladder' for informing us about our experience. As Henry Stapp, physicist at Berkeley says in this regard, ... in a discussion entitled Quantum Mind vs Classicism and The Observer;
"That [i.e. the quantum view in that our experiences are the basic realities... and that we must simply accept the deliverances of consciousness as the place to start in consciousness studies] was precisely the key move of Bohr and Heisenberg et. al., namely to recognize that science was actually about our knowledge, which is imbedded in our experience, and hence that the correct way to formulate physical theory was as a useful tool for making predictions about our experiences."
So you must make up your own mind, on the basis of your own experience, whether the simultaneous harmonies described by Kepler 'mean anything', ... whether the experiencing of a 'simultaneous unity and plurality' does indeed 'contribute more to the perfection of the world' than seeing everything 'causally' as a 'sequential unity and plurality'. How you come out on that will depend on whether you want to join Eric Chaisson's team and go out in search of new planets to exploit after we finish strip-mining the earth, ... or whether you want to pick up on the ideas of the aboriginals, ... the same as we left behind 2500 years ago, that we are strands in the web of life, and not 'above nature' and we must find ourselves by tuning in to the earth ecology.
It all comes down whether you want to believe that 'space-time is a curved continuum' and that 'space sucks';i.e. ... that gravity is a harmony-inducing field rather than an innate property of matter, ... or whether you want to believe that space is an empty, infinite, rectangular void populated by mindless, purposeless rocks which keep crashing into each other. The validation of your belief can only be based on the sense it makes when you try to bring all your real and imaginary experiences into connection in your mind, ... using the two different assumptions.
Kepler's ideas on harmony are not dead by any means, as indicated by the words emanating from Karlsruhe University; ... "One day, perhaps, his theory of the harmonies of the world might still be proven unequivocally.", ... and by the statements of those like Friedrich Cramer (biophysicist, Max Planck Institute), who asserts in 'Chaos and Order' (1993)... in a section entitled; "The Harmony of the Spheres --- Kepler Was Right After All", ... that "Harmonies are established all by themselves in this world when, under certain feedback conditions, chaos is allowed to 'play itself out'."
The planets are said to be 'mindful' of these whole-and-part harmonies pulling at us from our containing space, ... but are we mindful? Will our children's children be of this 'kinder science' of Kepler where we tune-in and respond 'eco-logically', to the coresonant and coevolutional pulls of our environmental container? ... or will they be of the colder science of the materialist-individualist who senses and responds logically to the cause-and-effect push of matter, ... the only thing which 'counts' in the barren desolation of euclidian space. If Heisenberg and Stapp et al are right, and our scientific knowledge is not 'complete' in a standalone sense but limited to a role of suggesting how to interpret our experience, ... this says there must always remain a fundamental interpretational gap between scientific knowledge and experience which we must fill in ourselves. Do we use the simple intellect of a child to do this filling in, ... the intellect of story which weaves everything together, ... or do we use the abstract intellect of the adult and accept scientific knowledge as being correct and absolute in itself?
It's your experience, ... you make the choice.
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