Technology has made us reliant on the world of the material — which we already know, at its root, has no ultimate substantial basis — at the expense of any real spiritual understanding. I think we could reasonably make the argument that the degradation of human morality, civil society, and ordinary human decency which we see taking place around us can be ascribed directly to our reliance on the material as a model for interpreting meaning. The material world by itself has no meaning: and indeed, secular humanists (scientists, atheists, and the like) present this argument as a concrete fact, and are happy with it. mechanistic rationalism has a peculiar preoccupation with the idea that everything is ultimately meaningless, accidental, and takes place without any conscious intention guiding it.
Working to refute such sophistry is a complete waste of time; instead, it is best ignored. We seek, instead, to build an understanding from the perspective of metaphysical humanism that derives its vision of the universe as a creation whose very nature is meaning itself.
From this point of view, the universe is a vehicle for identity; that identity is rooted in the very root of the word identity itself, which means sameness. Another way of expressing it is to speak of likenesses; and here we come to a peculiar quality of quanta, atoms, molecules, and matter.
Quanta, as discrete packets of electromagnetic energy, have an inherent sameness in their undifferentiated state. Measured independently, each one is indistinguishable from the next. But the instant they enter relationship — which is an inevitable consequence of existing — their sameness begins to collapse into distinguishing characteristics that sort them into subatomic particles such as quarks, leptons, muons, and so on, and they eventually assemble themselves into atoms and molecules. They pass, in other words, almost instantaneously from an undifferentiated state of sameness, into a differentiated state in which the initial singular identity (the quantum soup) collapses into individual unlike states, and immediately passes back into aggregations in the form of atoms that reform like states, but now with separated and different identities which we call elements – hydrogen, helium, and so on up the scale to the heaviest elements. Even here, an individual element’s atoms do not, each and every one of them, have an individual identity or sameness that can be measured from moment to moment (this was the point of Edward Schrödinger’s article in Scientific American.) Yet collectively, they reacquire that identity or sameness, so we have, for example, gold. And of course, on the molecular level, complex molecules such as DNA.
We see, in other words, a complex transition in which an initial singular identity (the universal quantum state) fragments into a staggering multiplicity of identities, which reform new relationships based on identity.
These new relationships have the ability to respond to one another in many different ways — hence, the concentration of responsibility. Something very interesting takes place with regard to identity in this transition state from quanta to matter: energy, one might say, rethinks itself, using waveforms (vibrations) to create an entirely new and different set of possibilities that transcend the undifferentiated sameness (fundamental identity) that they arise from. These multiple identities display an incomprehensible number of emergent properties, including consciousness.
If we don’t understand the universe from the perspective of identity, we will miss the point of the universe, because identity in all its varieties, and the relationships that it can form once it manifests, are where meaning is born. It isn’t random, and it isn’t accidental. It has an intention behind it.
If all we see when we look at the world is dead matter that interacts, we do so in an effort to edit the absolute fact of our own conscious awareness out of it.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.