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EMANATORY COSMOGENESIS

Emanatory cosmogenesis – which is to say, the creation of the universe via what is known in the Gnostic and Kabbalistic traditions as a process of emanation – is the way in which the undefined and the unconstrained gives rise to the defined and the constrained, through a progressive stepping down of information content.

 

 

This ‘stepping down’ of the information content may be considered as something akin to a reduction of temperature in a medium and so just as the cooling of the earth’s lower atmosphere can result in the formation of droplets of water which then creates a fog or mist, or just as the cooling down of a body of water can cause the formation of solid ice-crystals, so too the process whereby the information content of the original immaterial ‘source’ is drastically reduced can result in the formation of the physical universe.

 

 

We can also talk of this emanatory process as being one in which the ‘non-local’ gives rise to the ‘local’. Non-locality means that whatever we’re talking about (or trying to talk about since talking about non-locality is notoriously difficult) cannot be pin-pointed or located within the framework of space and time. So if the space-time continuum were to be represented by a chequer-board upon which we are busy playing a game of chequers then non-locality would be somewhere ‘off-board’, somewhere beyond the necessarily circumscribed remit of the domain of the game.

 

 

As far as the game of chequers is concerned, talking about somewhere that exists and is real, but at the same time cannot be correlated to one of the defined squares on the board would be a profoundly meaningless sort of a thing in that this proposition would have nothing whatsoever to contribute to the game. But on a wider scale of things we could say that it’s not the hypothetical, ‘science-fiction type’ reality which exists outside the chequer-board which is irrelevant and meaningless but the game itself, which means that some type of ‘reversal’ has taken place in our understanding of things. This very same type of ‘reversal of consciousness’ takes place when we start look at the physical universe as a mere emanation of a higher reality rather than the ‘be-all and end-all’ (the actual origin or basis) of everything…

 

 

If we were to say that the defined and constrained world of the chequer-board arose somehow out of the unconstrained and undefined world that exists all around it, a world made up of unending ‘dimensions of freedom’ that cannot in any way be imagined or guessed from the perspective which it assumes, then this would constitute an example of emanatory cosmogenesis. Or normal way of understanding the physical universe is however not like this – instead of seeing it as a tremendous oversimplification of an unimaginably more spacious and information-rich situation, we see it as the alpha and the omega, the start and the finish of anything that we may care to imagine or concern ourselves with. We take, in other words, the limitations that are implicit in this world as being an absolute, as being the unquestionable defining conditions for everything…

 

 

Non-locality is thus primary, it gives rise to locality in what is essentially a ‘playful’ way. ‘Playful’ means, as Alan Watts is fond of saying, that there is no serious purpose for it. We’re doing it, but we don’t have to do it… If we were living in the realm of the two-dimensional chequer-board we would then of course be thinking that existence is a serious affair and we would understand this seriousness in terms of the rules that govern life within the context of the game of chequers. If we had a theory or a belief about why there is a chequer-board, and why we are all here playing chequers on it, then it would involve this same compulsive logic – it would necessarily involve the logic of the game that we are playing since this is our way of understanding everything. We will come up with some serious reason why the world was created, just as we have a serious reason for playing the game of conditioned existence, which is the only mode of existence we know, and which therefore we do not in any way understand to be ‘a game’.

 

 

There is obvious security in seeing things this way – we automatically assume that our way of looking at things is fundamental and so that makes us feel good. It validates us. In the traditional Judeo-Christian idea of Creation, for example, honour is given to the Creator for His work in creating us, but it could be said that there is a subtle kind of self-regard in this since we clearly feel it so very important that we have been created! If I herald the creation of the physical universe as the most fantastic thing ever, as ‘the miracle of miracles’, then this means that I am taking the creation of the physical universe to be in itself a supreme achievement, when from the Gnostic or Kabbalistic viewpoint it is nothing of the sort, but rather it is what we might call an unfortunate ‘retrograde step’. Seeing this defined and constrained realm that we live in as ‘a retrograde step’ definitely does not give us so much in the way of security –  in fact seeing things this way puts a different complexion on things altogether!

 

 

We could also try to explain the emanatory process by saying that it is a stepwise reduction of the algorithmic complexity of the situation under consideration. Algorithmic complexity is a measure of how many instructions (or algorithms) are needed in order to define, specify, or construct something – generally speaking some kind of a programme or simulation that is to be run on a computer. More pertinently for the purposes of this discussion we could say that algorithmic complexity is a measure of how much programming is needed in order to model and run some kind of virtual reality or virtual world.

 

 

Virtual worlds are really games and so we can say that a particularly simple and easy-to-describe game, a game with a low complexity rating, might be one like ‘noughts-and-crosses’. There is very little freedom in this game, very little leeway when it comes down to it – we are constrained by the rules of the game to put our mark (whether it be a ‘nought’ or a ‘cross’) in a free square, and that is all we can do. We have to take our move and the only freedom we have is to choose which free square we want to mark. The game ends either when one player gets three squares in a row filled, or when there are no more free squares. This is a very rudimentary game, and so the type of ‘freedom’ we have in it is also very rudimentary! And yet when we are actually caught up in the game, and engrossed in the task of beating our opponent, we don’t notice how constrained we are. We’re too involved in the struggle to notice that we’re hogtied; we’re too busy trying to win to see that the game doesn’t actually contain any freedom at all really…

 

 

Another thing that we could point out about this game is that because all our attention is focussed on winning, this means that although we might have a kind of an awareness of being trapped in the ‘necessity to struggle’ which is the game – an awareness that is more or less taken for granted and ignored – what we are actually playing for is freedom from the necessity to struggle. We are in other words playing the game in order not to have to play the game anymore, which is what James Carse calls ‘the paradoxicality of finite play’. We are playing as hard as we can to bring play to a close. The close of play therefore symbolizes freedom from the game to the game player, and so even though I may not be free in my playing I can have every hope that I will win freedom by playing skilfully enough. It is this freedom that I am chasing in the game – it is the desire to obtain this freedom that provides the motivation for the game.

 

 

The freedom that I am playing for is an illusion however. Obviously it is an illusion because the game doesn’t actually contain any freedom! ‘Winning’ is just another preordained possibility, just another possibility that has been defined in advance by the game and as such it is no more ‘free’ than all the other possibilities, including losing! The unspoken implication is that winning transcends the game, that it releases us from the game, takes us beyond the game, but this is the one thing a game can never do – a game can never take us beyond itself. There’s nowhere to go apart from the game because the game does not contain any reference within it to anything that isn’t itself. This is a function of the literality or concreteness of the game. Games are – by their very nature therefore – always literal. They have to be literal because everything about them is specified by rules and there is no way that a rule can ever be anything other than literal. It is because games are literal that they can never transcend themselves.

 

 

This may not be immediately obvious. It might be argued that games can be subjective, that they can take us many places that aren’t actually marked on the literal map. This isn’t the point at all, however – games can be as subjective as you like on the inside but they remain at all times literal on the outside. We can of course attach any meaning we like to the notion of winning, we can invest as much expectation as we like in it, we can over-value it as much as we want, but at the end of the day ‘it is what it is’ and that’s all it is. It’s just another category within the game and as such it is as meaningless (or empty) as all the other categories. Another way of putting this is to say that a game is quintessentially an exercise in self-deception, an exercise in ‘it only means what it does mean to us because we agree (or intend) that it shall’ – a game doesn’t take us on real journey therefore, only on a journey of ‘make-believe’…

 

 

We can say that a virtual world is like a game, and we can also say that a game is like a literal message – it has the meaning that it appears to have only when we read it ‘within context,’ within the terms of reference that it itself assumes. This is the ‘virtual meaning’ of the literal message! Go outside of this assumed framework however and the message means nothing at all – it means nothing at all because the only meaning it ever had was the meaning given to it by the framework of interpretation that we were using in order to read it.

 

 

All systems of literal meaning are like this, always, and with absolutely no exception! The literal meaning in question only means ‘what it says it means’ because the context it is being interpreted within is a closed system that simply does not allow any other interpretations. So this means that when we do step out of the framework the message we are looking at no longer means what it is supposed to mean, which is of course the same thing as saying that it has ‘lost’ its literal meaning. Without the designated framework of interpretation, without the closed system, there is no literal meaning! This is a tremendously important point to understand, as a moment’s reflection will show…

 

 

We might be excused for wondering what the message does mean when its literal meaning has been taken away, when it no longer means what it is concretely ‘supposed to mean’. The problem here is that the question itself is not meaningful since the world ‘means’ assumes a designated context or framework from within which it can be judged as being meaningful in some way – without a framework nothing means anything because it is the framework that determines the meaning. When we say that something means this, that or the other what we are doing is assigning that ‘something’ to some category or other within the logical system which is our framework, which is our mind. Each logical category thus represents a different meaning. But all of these categories are only different within the terms that are being assumed by the system itself – outside of this assumed context the divisions by which we derive meaning aren’t different at all. The distinctions are meaningless. They are actually ‘all the same thing’ – that ‘same thing’ being the logical system.

 

 

We could equivalently say that all possibilities within a game (such as winning and losing) – whilst very different indeed from the perspective assumed by the game – are actually all ‘only the game’, and the game, being only ‘a game’, doesn’t actually exist. The stuff that happens in a game only matters because we say it matters, because we agree for it to matter… So going back to the example of an algorithmically simple game such as noughts and crosses, we can say that all squares on the board are exactly equivalent since all squares are the game. From the perspective assumed by the game this is not the case since some squares are the ones I am allowed to put my mark on, whilst others are prohibited for me because they already have either a nought or cross already in them. Furthermore, from the point of view of the game, the square that allows me to complete a row of noughts (or crosses) and thereby win, might be said to be special because it is the winning square. But outside of the context assumed by the game the winning square is still no different from any other square.

 

 

We can also say that all moves that I make within the game, regardless of whether they are legal or not, are also equivalent, are also the same, and this of course is just another way of saying that the game is in essence quite meaningless. So all moves within the game, all possibilities set out by the game, are really all the same – they are all equal to ‘the game’ and the game itself is quite unreal…

 

 

We have said that emanatory cosmogenesis is the process by which the undefined and the unconstrained gives rise to the defined and the constrained, via a process of cataclysmic ‘information loss’. Another way to talk about this process is to say that it involves a catastrophic loss of freedom: the starting point of this process is the situation where there is perfect freedom, total freedom, absolute freedom. In this state there are no constraints whatsoever and everything is allowed to be just what it is, although what that is we can never know since in order to know it we would have to bring in the categorical mind, which is itself nothing more than a system of constraints or limitations. This state of original freedom – we might say – is an intrinsic property of everything since everything always was free to be whatever it is. It is after the nature of things to be whatever it is that they are…

 

 

We have already said that this state of original freedom is how thing are prior to us bringing our minds (our conceptual apparatus) into the equation. The starting-off point is the way things are before we start describing the way things are, or thinking about the way things are! The conceptual mind operates, after all, by screening out everything that fails to accord with its expectations, everything that fails to fit in with the structure that it has assumed. Just to give a very simple example of this sort of thing – if I have the basic concept that everyone I meet must be either ‘friend’ or ‘foe’ then absolutely everyone I meet will be unfailingly slotted into one category or the other. If they don’t seem friendly to me (or if they don’t do what I want them to do, or see the world the way I think they should) then this automatically makes them into a foe! All other possibilities, apart from these two very crude ones, have been excluded, have been filtered out by my heavy-handed categorical mind.

 

 

The reality we see every day with this category-using mind has, therefore, been similarly ‘degraded’ (or ‘oversimplified’). The freedom of things to be the way that they already are has been revoked, and instead the mind has brought in its own type of ‘freedom’ –which is ‘the freedom of things to be the way it says they have to be’. This is loss of freedom and it is also ‘loss of information content’ – the two are synonymous. So from this we can see very clearly this mind of ours operates by producing for us, manufacturing for us, creating for us, an informationally-reduced version of reality which it promotes as being the only version of reality, the actual ‘one and only’ true version of reality! Thus, the conceptual or categorical mind is itself a manifestation of the emanatory process that we have been talking about in this discussion. Via this mind a defined and constrained version of the original undefined and unconstrained reality is created, and in the process all sight of the original is quite lost….

 

 

The picture of reality that is provided for us by the everyday mind is an informationally-reduced analogue of the original; there is however more to it than just this – the picture we have of reality isn’t just a simplified version of the original because that would imply that what was in the original is still – to some small extent – present in the copy. This however is not the case, for reasons that we have already started to go into. The picture of the world which the mind creates is not simply an inferior analogue – it is an inverted one. The reason we can say that the picture we have of reality is an ‘inverted’ analogue (instead of being an ‘honest’ one) is because instead of being based upon the Principle of Freedom it is based on the Principle of ‘No-Freedom disguised as a Freedom’ – or we might more simply say, the Principle of Deception

 

 

The reason we can say this so unequivocally is because the everyday rational mind – like all games – is based upon rules. A rule is a rule because it grants no freedom. What freedom is there, after all, in a rule? A rule says “You are to do what I say you are to do, and that is all you can do.” A rule takes away freedom, therefore, it does not bestow it. Or we could say that a rule bestows a false type of freedom, which is the freedom to do whatever the rule says you can do! We can see now very easily where the ‘inversion’ that we have been talking about comes from – if the Original Reality is Perfect Freedom (freedom without any qualifications in it) then what we are doing when we represent that reality in terms of the mind’s categories) is portraying that Original Reality in terms of rules. The mind is made up of rules, and it uses its rules in order to create a representation of reality, which we all pretty much know anyway, but what we don’t realize is the inherent contradiction that is going on here, which is that freedom is being represented in terms of rules, which are themselves the very antithesis of freedom…

 

 

What this means is what we have already said, in so many words, which is that the defined worlds which arise out of the Undefined World aren’t just ‘crude copies of heaven’s original’ but that they have – in effect – got it ‘backwards’. The created worlds are inverted analogies in which the lack of freedom is valued and cherished and obeyed as if it were the same thing as Freedom itself…

 

 

We started off this discussion by saying that all created worlds are games, and that games can be either algorithmically simple or algorithmically complex. It might be presumed from this therefore that the complex games have more freedom in them than the simpler types, possibly even a lot more freedom. This would seem like a reasonable enough assumption. The truth is however that this cannot possibly be true! If one rule has zero freedom in it (since having precisely zero freedom in it is what makes it into a rule) then ten rules, a hundred rules, ten thousand rules are not going to have any more freedom in them than just the one rule does. Ten times, a hundred times, ten thousand times, a millions times zero is still zero.

 

 

A complex game is ‘a more complicated type of a pseudo-situation’ – it is a situation which seems to have a hell of a lot going on in it, but which actually doesn’t! One thing that is definitely true about algorithmically complex games is that they have vastly more capacity to make a claim on our attention and keep us tied up. When we are so very thoroughly occupied the impression is that we are occupied (or busy) doing something. We feel as if our busy-ness is directed towards some kind of significant end. That there is something important which is going to happen as a result of our all our busy-ness is an illusion that the game generates – it is an illusion that the game is very good at generating!

 

 

If it is the case that a simple game such as noughts and crosses can keep us so engaged that we identify with the rules it embodies and therefore do not see that the rules are actually a lack of freedom rather than a form of freedom in themselves – which is how we take them – then clearly an algorithmically complex game such as, for example, World of Warcraft, or Grand Theft Auto will have a vastly increased capability to absorb us. And then if we graduate to the simulation of life generated by the rational mind – which is like a console game taken to the nth degree – then the ‘immersiveness’ that we’re talking about here must be truly astronomical! Who amongst us ever escapes from the immersiveness of the thinking mind?

 

 

This capacity that the game has to create situations that seem as if they actually matter, goals that actually seem as if they are important, is a great advantage from one point of view, but an equally great disadvantage from another point of view. It is a marvellous advantage if we want to be totally distracted from reality, if we want our attention to be fully engaged the whole time with something that doesn’t actually matter at all, but in every other respect it is a tremendous disadvantage. From the point of view of finding out what really does matter to us, and giving that reality our complete and undivided attention, the game is an unmitigated disaster…

 

 

Through the emanatory process the Original Source has – out of its infinite capacity for creative play – created a situation in which it is completely cut of from itself, and completely immersed in an unreal world that it generates without letting on to itself that this is what it is doing. This is similar to what Stan Grof (1988, P 188) has to say on the subject:

 

The world in which we live has many characteristics that Absolute Consciousness in its pure form is missing, such as plurality, polarity, density, physicality, change, and impermanence. The project of creating a facsimile of a material reality endowed with these properties is executed with such artistic and scientific perfection that the split-off units of the Universal Mind find it entirely convincing and mistake it for reality. In the extreme expression of its artistry, represented by the atheist, the Divine actually succeeds in bringing forth arguments not only against its involvement in creation, but against its very existence.

 

 

Although we have the inverted creative power to deny our own creativity, the power to ‘give away’ our own freedom, this freedom can never be truly eliminated from the picture. We can act as if it is not there for a while and get away with it but there are consequences of this choice which then proceed to act upon us from ‘an unsuspected quarter’, just as is the case with any repressed content. In our usual way of understanding the mechanics of psychological repression we would say that there is a type of ‘general principle’ that governs the way things work here – if there is some sort of painful or fearful content that has been repressed then this pain or fear doesn’t of course just ‘go away’, but rather it get attached to some aspect or other of daily life so that we are compelled to experience it there instead. So whilst we have the freedom to refuse it in one place – where it belongs – the price we pay is that we have to experience it where it doesn’t belong, in a compulsive rather than a volitional way. So really all we’re doing is playing a ‘displacement game’ – we have bought ourselves a bit of time, and a bit of relief, at the price of even more trouble and suffering in the future.

 

 

So in the same way when our inherent or intrinsic freedom has been repressed (which is what we do all the time) it simply pops up elsewhere in an unrecognizable form. From a Jungian perspective we could say that it pops up in an unrecognizable and essentially mischievous sort of a way! Our plans go awry, things act against us instead of for us, our thinking makes problems for us instead of solving them, our goals turn out to be not what we wanted after all when we obtain them, and so on. In short, we are bejinxed and bedevilled every step of the way! It is as if there is somebody out there who is against us, who is not playing ball with us, who is having fun at our expense, who is maliciously determined to overturn all our efforts…

 

 

This ‘trickster like’ quality of nature (or of the unconscious mind) – which seems so malign to us – is simply the principle of freedom which we have disowned coming back to haunt us, so to speak. Beforehand it served us, now it goes against us! The denied freedom has returned to antagonize us. The rational mind – and the world it creates – contains no freedom. If it did contain freedom then it wouldn’t be the rational mind – if it did contain freedom then it would be irrational rather than rational, it would be spontaneous rather than directed, it would be playful rather than serious.

 

 

In this regard the physical universe is crucially different from the various simulations of it that are routinely produced by the rational mind. Although the material universe is determinate (or rule-based) in a lot of ways, this overt determinacy is embedded in radical instability, radical uncertainty. The reason we know this is by observing complex natural processes, which since the eighties have been found to have a deep chaotic nature. Processes proceed in an orderly linear fashion up to a point, and then dip into something known in chaos/complexity theory as ‘the instability phase’, which is where they go ‘off the map’ as far as linearity and the power of prediction go. Nature is flexible, in other words – she has not given up her freedom, even in the state of materiality! Inherent or intrinsic freedom is the fulcrum around which all creation turns, and there is no sense in which the natural world is actually seriously fighting against its own freedom.

 

 

Inasmuch as we are fully immersed in the rational mind and its creations, we are however fighting against our own intrinsic freedom, and the result of this ill-advised struggle is our interminable neurotic suffering…

 

 

 

 

 


Author: Nick Williams

Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.

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