The Title

by David Caldwell

How to Build a Universe: Part 06.


What could explain all this?

The answer I have come up with may not be correct, but it is the only answer I have. It has to do with time. My theory is this: In some certain important sense, time is not real. Or perhaps it is real, but not as we experience it to be or imagine it to be. I had the acute, overwhelming certitude (and still have) that despite all the change we see, a specific permanent landscape underlies the world of change: and that this invisible underlying landscape is that of the Bible; it, specifically, is the period immediately following the death and resurrection of Christ; it is, in other words, the time period of the Book of Acts.

Parmenides would be proud of me. I have gazed at a constantly changing world and declared that underneath it lies the eternal, the unchanging, the absolutely real. but how has this come about? If the real time is circa A.D. 50, then why do we see A.D. 1978? And if we are really living in the Roman Empire, somewhere in Syria, why do we see the United States?

During the Middle Ages, a curious theory arose, which I will now present to you for what it is worth. It is the theory that the Evil One Satan is the "Ape of God." That he creates spurious imitations of creation, of God's authentic creation, and then interpolates them for that authentic creation. Does this odd theory help explain my experience? Are we to believe that we are occluded, that we are deceived, that it is not 1978 but A.D. 50... and Satan has spun a counterfeit reality to wither our faith in the return of Christ?

I can just picture myself being examined by a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist says, "What year is it?" And I reply, "A.D. 50." The psychiatrist blinks and then asks, "And where are you?" I reply, "In Judaea." "Where the heck is that?" the psychiatrist asks. "It's part of the Roman Empire," I would have to answer. "Do you know who is President?" the psychiatrist would ask, and I would answer, "The Procurator Felix." "You're pretty sure about this?" the psychiatrist would ask, meanwhile giving a covert signal to two very large psych techs. "Yep," I'd replay. "Unless Felix has stepped down and had been replaced by the Procurator Festus. You see, Saint Paul was held by Felix for " "Who told you all this?" the psychiatrist would break in, irritably, and I would reply, "The Holy Spirit." And after that I'd be in the rubber room, inside gazing out, and knowing exactly how come I was there.

Everything in that conversation would be true, in a sense, although palpably not true in another. I know perfectly well that the date is 1978 and that Jimmy Carter is President and that I live in Santa Ana, California, in the United States. I even know how to get from my apartment to Disneyland, a fact I can't seem to forget. And surely no Disneyland existed back at the time of Saint Paul.

So, if I force myself to be very rational and reasonable, and all those other good things, I must admit that the existence of Disneyland (which I know is real) proves that we are not living in Judaea in A.D. 50. The idea of Saint Paul whirling around in the giant teacups wile composing First Corinthians, as Paris TV films him with a telephoto lens - that just can't be. Saint Paul would never go near Disneyland. Only children, tourists, and visiting Soviet high officials ever go to Disneyland. Saints do not.

But somehow that biblical material snared my unconscious and crept into my novel, and equally true, for some reason in 1978 I relived a scene which I described back in 1970. What I am saying is this: There is internal evidence in at least one of my novels that another reality, an unchanging one, exactly as Parmenides and Plato suspected, underlies the visible phenomenal world of change, and somehow, in some way, perhaps to our surprise, we can cut through to it. Or rather, a mysterious Spirit can put us in touch with it, if it wishes us to see this permanent other landscape. Time passes, thousands of years pass, but at the same instant that we see this contemporary world, the ancient world, the world of the Bible, is concealed beneath it, still there and still real. Eternally so.


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