First, a trivial and absurd premonition. While lying half awake this morning, I found myself thinking of a scene in the first Naked Gun movie, in which Leslie Nielsen is standing behind Priscilla Presley while she climbs a ladder. It's obvious that, from his vantage point, he can see up her skirt. He whistles and says approvingly, "Nice beaver!" Presley replies, "Thanks. I just had it stuffed." She then hands him a large stuffed beaver.
Making lunch today, I watched an episode of the old sitcom NewsRadio. In the episode, eccentric billionaire Jimmy James has just purchased a box of so-called movie memorabilia, which is actually junk. "This one's from that movie Basic Instinct," he says, and pulls out a large stuffed beaver. (It's a reference to the famous interrogation scene in which Sharon Stone briefly exposes herself.)
So it's basically the same joke. Could I have known about it by normal means? It's possible. The episode is on a DVD, part of the complete series, which I own in that format. (NewsRadio is a sadly underrated sitcom, by the way.) It's been quite a while since I've watched these DVDs, but it's not impossible that, on a subconscious level, I remembered that this particular episode was next in the queue. Certainly I had no conscious knowledge of it; if someone had asked me what the next episode was, I wouldn't have had any idea. The series ran for five seasons, so there must be something like 100 episodes, and I haven't made any effort to keep track of them.
Anyway, for what it's worth, that's my premonition. Notice that my reverie about The Naked Gun took place when I was probably in a mild hypnopompic state – in other words, coming out of sleep and only partly awake. This mental state seems to be particularly conducive to premonitions and other psi activity. It may also be conducive to recalling long-forgotten items such as the next episode of a TV show on a DVD. Who knows?
From beavers to the universe is a long jump, and there's no good segue for it, so I'll just proceed. Last night I was thinking about Robert Anton Wilson's book The New Inquisition, which I discussed in a couple of previous posts. I was trying to make sense of the ideas he puts forward about our tendency to create "reality tunnels" through which we selectively view and experience the world. The problem I had with this idea is that it seems to lead to pure subjectivism, a.k.a. solipsism. If we each experience our own subjective world, how can there ever be any objectivity or any grasp of reality as such?
The whole question of the distinction between the objective and subjective was bothering me anyway. As I said in my last post, it seems as if this distinction can lead to stress and anxiety because of the sense of separation it implies. Wilson, in his book, says much the same thing. Some kind of unity of the objective and the subjective would seem to solve the problem, but I couldn't think of any way to unify them. We know for sure that there is such a thing as subjectivity. If we eliminate the distinction between objectivity and subjectivity, we seem to be left with subjectivity alone.
Then I thought about an idea we've discussed quite often on this blog – that the underlying reality of our world is a field of pure information, a cosmic database combined with a vast information processing system. By analogy, this informational substrate is similar to the code that underlies a virtual-reality environment in a computer game. Just as the virtual reality of the game reduces ultimately to ones and zeros – pure information – so the apparently real world around us in all its dimensions may reduce ultimately to pure information.
This raises an obvious question: what renders the information to generate our "real" world? After all, the data in the computer would just sit there, useless for game-playing purposes, unless the computer was able to render the data as images and sounds. By what means do we render our world?
One possible answer is: our minds. Not our brains, please note; our brains are physical objects and thus are part of the rendered, multidimensional, multisensory imagery we call reality. It is our minds that (just possibly) translate the informational code into the world of experience.
Let's suppose this is true. If the mind is what does the rendering, then each individual mind renders its own "virtual-reality" world out of the same information matrix. And each "world" will be slightly different from all the others, because it will depend on our particular point of view – our focus, our choice of what to tune in to and what to ignore.
Here I'm going to introduce a little jargon. Let's call the information matrix N-space. The N stands for noumenal, or, if you prefer, number. (It works either way.) And let's call our individual, personal, subjective world M-space, with M standing for mind. We all live in our own M-space, and we are all rendering N-space in order to generate our M-space.
Notice that neither of these things is really "space" in any physical sense. We might think of them as fields or matrices. However we wish to describe them, both N-space and M-space are nonphysical.
So each mind renders its own "real" world, but all minds draw from a common source – the N-space database/information processor. Mind somehow takes pure information and translates it into an experiential world, which is subjective but grounded in objective data. By objective, I mean N-space exists independent of the observer; by subjective, I mean M-space exists only in respect to the observer.
We have, then, three aspects of reality: N-space, which is pure information and information processing; M-space, which is reality as each of us subjectively experiences it; and the mind, which serves to render N-space into M-space.
If there is a place for God in this scheme, God would be seen as a kind of primal or cosmic mind, which wrote the code that constitutes N-space. Our own minds would presumably be small offshoots or rivulets of this larger mind.
Now here, to me, is the really interesting thing. In this scenario, there is no physical space at all.
There is N-space, which is a nonphysical matrix of data, and there is M-space, which is subjective experience, and there is the mind – which, whatever it is, is not physical.
So there is no physical space or physical world. There is only information rendered by various minds into subjective virtual realities for purpose of creative exploration.
We might visualize M-space as a thought bubble in a comic strip. And we might visualize all the M-spaces of humanity as a vast froth of bubbles on the surface of a dark sea. On the seafloor, hidden from sight, there is N-space, the source of it all.
Matter and energy are rendered from data. Data are nonphysical. The minds that do the rendering are also nonphysical. The resulting rendered "images" appear to be physical, but they are only experiential constructs, the equivalent of avatars and icons on a computer screen, or the shadows on the wall of Plato's cave.
Now, is this pure subjectivism, i.e., solipsism? I don't think so, because all minds render their virtual realities from the same database/information processing system.
In other words, we can retain the distinction between objective and subjective in this scheme. While the objective/subjective distinction breaks down in terms of M-space, it applies, in a somewhat different way, to the interaction of the mind and N-space. As mentioned above, N-space is objective in the sense that it is independent of the observer, while M-space is subjective in that it is dependent on the observer.
So we can still talk about objective reality, but what we're talking about is not M-space – our personal experience – but N-space, the information matrix that serves as the ground of being.
It would seem that people who have had epiphanies – e.g., the "cosmic consciousness" episodes recounted by Richard Maurice Bucke, or many near-death experiences, or deathbed visions – have been able to temporarily break out of M-space and tap into N-space directly. They often feel they were exposed to all knowledge, which would be the case if N-space constitutes all the data and programming that underlie what we call "the world." But they cannot retain most of the details when they return to ordinary consciousness, because they are back in M-space again.
It is probable that many psychic events take place because the mind is able to tap into N-space in a small way and access the "code" directly. N-space, being nonphysical, is also nonlocal; information that is readily accessible in the matrix may pertain to physically distant "objects," just as information in a computer may pertain to objects in any part of the screen. So remote viewing (clairvoyance), telepathy, precognition, and other seemingly unthinkable abilities become quite possible.
Another thing: to conserve processing power, computer programs do not render images that are not on the screen. If you are playing a computer game and looking "north" at a mountain, the computer will render the mountain in all its detail. But it will not render the city that is directly behind you, to the "south." If you turn to face south, the computer will obediently render the city on the screen, but it will no longer render the mountain. In a virtual-reality environment, to be is to be perceived, as Bishop Berkeley liked to say.
Does this mean that in the "real world," mountains and cities disappear if you're not looking at them? Here is my answer: they do disappear from your particular reality bubble, your personal, subjective M-space. Your mind is not rendering those particular data at that moment. However, if the mountain or city is being observed by some other mind, then it is rendered in that mind's M-space. Moreover, the data that are the ultimate constituents of the mountain or city always exist in N-space independent of any observer.
So, in the words of the old question, does the moon disappear if no one is looking at it? In this scenario, if literally nobody – no mind anywhere – is observing the moon, then the moon is not currently being rendered in anybody's M-space, and in that sense it has "disappeared." But the data that give rise to the moon in the first place, the data of N-space, are still there and are ready to be rendered by any mind at any time. So the moon is still there in N-space, but it is not presently being rendered in any M-space.
I'm not, of course, insisting that all this is true, or that there is any way of testing it or proving it. But I find it interesting to think about. And it may provide some kind of model by which to understand anomalous phenomena a little better.
And you never know. Maybe someone will read it and, like Leslie Nielsen, say: "Bingo!"