Meanings are emergent (intelligent)
What this word indicates is that meanings — intentions and purposes — display ever more sophisticated ranges of interaction as they aggregate and multiply. At each level of aggregation, atomic, molecular, organic, planetary, and so on, meanings progressively display properties that cannot possibly be predicted based on the behavior of constituent meanings on the level below them. These meanings are governed, on each level of manifestation, by their own set of laws, which govern deterministic results on that level.
The reason I stress that this takes place on each level of manifestation is that meaning is an aggregating entity. It is structured in the same way as mathematics: there is a postulate, from which other understandings are derived. Having three or four postulates gives birth to a wide range of subsequent understandings, and so on. It is an additive process. So the laws on the “lowest” level of manifestation – the quantum level — that is, the laws that govern meaning on that level, not physical interaction — provide basic premises. Further laws apply as scale magnifies. The magnification of scale in an emergent environment adds new laws; and the progressive interaction interaction of law constructs more and more complex meaning.
Readers will note that this complex hierarchy of meaning according to level is identical to the structure of universal law Gurdjieff presented to Ouspensky in In Search of the Miraculous. What he did not explain, but what should be self-evident to anyone who thinks it over for a little while, is that the structure of law creates an emergent entity of understanding. Gurdjieff presented the “burden” of law as an obstacle: that is, the more laws a level was under, the more difficult it was to become “free” of the law. There are some paradoxes here that lie beyond the scope of this essay. And the subject is vast; because our universe, which is created from three very simple laws (the Holy Trinity) was created nonetheless to iterate every thought that exists or can possibly exist in God’s Being; so the intention behind the creation of the universe was to thrust meaning into an environment of infinite complexity (“hell”) as a formal trial, so that it could emerge from the other side re-aggregated and purified. This is all accomplished through the formation of relationships.
The emergent property of meaning indicates that it has an inherent, overarching character that is pre-existing. Every emergent property that we see in the universe, as it happens, represents the unveiling of an aspect of universal nature that remains hidden until enough meaning — responsibility, or, ability to respond – has been concentrated to produce an entity capable of acting within the laws that govern that level of interaction.
These aspects of universal nature, however, are not random or accidental. Their existence is already predicated in what I call the DNA of the universe – that is to say, the quantum, atomic, and molecular templates governed by the laws which impart initial meaning. The quantum state in the universe, in its aggregate whole (all the existing energy of the universe) already contains all of the possibilities which we see expressed around us. Those possibilities are encoded in the nature of the laws, so they cannot not be expressed. This means that if we encounter consciousness, it is not because it arose as a random accident on earth alone, but that it arose simply because from the quantum state onwards, the existence of consciousness is not just a possibility or probability — it is a definite fact. Consciousness will always emerge from the aggregation of quanta in progressive levels. This isn’t an accident — it is in the inherent nature of the universe as it is.
The DNA molecule is a mirror of this process, and gives us a molecular template that reflects the principle within the context of biological life. Because biological life as we know it today is one of the meanings built-in to the fundamental nature of the universe, it is inherent. From the instant that the Big Bang took place, the consequence of biological life was as inevitable as the consequence of sons and planets, because there is a deterministic nature to law that makes it so. What we get is the way it is because we cannot get anything else; it must be this way, and there are no accidents involved.
The pre-existing state of meaning that is inherent in the quantum state (where mass and energy are actually superimposed prior to its collapse) is what gives birth to emergent meaning.
When we consider the emergent property of meaning, and we understand that it is inherent to the structural law of the universe, we understand that intelligence itself is also inherence to structural law. The laws themselves are intelligent (they have meaning) and they give birth to an intelligence not only parallel to their own intelligence, but also having the potential to grow through the law of emergence.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.