The Title

by David Caldwell

How to Build a Universe: Part 09.


Well, as I said earlier, an author of a work supposed fiction might write the truth and not know it. To quote Xenophanes another pre-Socratic: "Even if a man should chance to speak the most complete truth, yet he himself does not know it; all things are wrapped in appearances" (Fragment 34). And Heraclitus added to this: "The nature of things is in the habit of concealing itself" (Fragment 54). W. S. Gilbert, of Gilbert and Sullivan, put it: "Things are seldom what they seem; skim milk masquerades as cream." The point of all that is that we cannot trust our senses and probably not even our a priori reasoning. As to our senses, I understand that people who have been blind from birth and are suddenly given sight are amazed to discover that objects appear to get smaller and smaller as they get farther away. Logically, there is no reason for this. We, of course, have come to accept this, because we are use to it. We see objects get smaller, but we know that in actuality they remain the same size. So even the common everyday pragmatic person utilizes a certain amount of sophisticated discounting of what his eyes and ears tell him.

Little of what Heraclitus wrote has survived, and what we do have is obscure, but Fragment 54 is lucid and important: "Latent structure is master of obvious structure." This means that Heraclitus believed that a veil lay over the true landscape. He also may have suspected that time was somehow not what it seemed, because in Fragment 52 he said: "Time is a child at play, playing draughts; a child's is the kingdom." This is indeed cryptic. But he also said, in Fragment 18: "If one does not expect it, one will not find out the unexpected; it is not to be tracked down and no path leads us to it." Edward Hussey, in his scholarly book The Pre-Socratics, says:

If Heraclitus is to be so insistent on the lack of understanding shown by most men, it would seem only reasonable that he should offer further instructions for penetrating to the truth. The talk of riddle-guessing suggests that some kind of revelation, beyond human control, is necessary... The true wisdom, as has been seen, is closely associated with God, which suggests further that in advancing wisdom a man becomes like, or a part of, God.

This quote is not from a religious book or a book on theology; it is an analysis of the earliest philosophers by a Lecturer in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Oxford. Hussey makes it clear that to these early philosophers there was no distinction between philosophy and religion. The first great quantum leap in Greek theology was by Xenophanes of Colophon, born in the mid-sixth century B.C. Xenophanes, without resorting to any authority except that of his own mind, says:

One god there is, in no way like mortal creatures either in bodily form or in the thought of his mind. The whole of him sees, the whole of him thinks, the whole of him hears. He stays always motionless in the same place; it is not fitting that he should move about now this way, now that.

This is a subtle and advanced concept of God, evidently without precedent among the Greek thinkers. "The arguments of Parmenides seemed to show that all reality must indeed be a mind," Hussey writes, "or an object of thought in a mind." Regarding Heraclitus specifically, he says, "In Heraclitus it is difficult to tell how far the designs in God's mind are distinguished from the execution in the world, or indeed how far God's mind is distinguished from the world." The further leap by Anaxagoras has always fascinated me. "Anaxagoras had been driven to a theory of the microstructure of matter which made it, to some extent, mysterious to human reason." Anaxagoras believed that everything was determined by Mind. These were not childish thinkers, nor primitives. They debated serious issues and studied one another's views with deft insight. It was not until the time of Aristotle that their views got reduced to what we can neatly but wrongly classify as crude. The summation of much pre-Socratic theology and philosophy can be stated as follows: The kosmos is not as it appears to be, and what it probably is, at its deepest level, is exactly that which the human being is at his deepest level - call it mind or soul, it is something unitary which lives and thinks, and only appears to be plural and material. Much of this view reaches us through the Logos doctrine regarding Christ. The Logos was both that which thought, and the thing which it thought: thinker and thought together. The universe, then, is thinker and thought, and since we are part of it, we as humans are, in the final analysis, thoughts of and thinkers of those thoughts.

Thus if God thinks about Rome circa A.D. 50, then Rome circa A.D. 50 is. The universe is not a windup clock and God the hand that winds it. The universe is not a battery-powered watch and God the battery. Spinoza believed that the universe is the body of God extensive in space. But long before Spinoza two thousand years before him Xenophanes had said, "Effortlessly, he wields all things by the thought of his mind" (Fragment 25).

If any of you have read my novel Ubik, you know that the mysterious entity or mind or force called Ubik starts out as a series of cheap and vulgar commercials and winds up saying:

I am Ubik. Before the universe was I am. I made the suns. I made the worlds. I created the lives and the places they inhabit; I move them here, I put them there. They go as I say, they do as I tell them. I am the word and my name is never spoken, the name which no one knows. I am called Ubik but that is not my name. I am. I shall always be.

It is obvious from this who and what Ubik is; it specifically says that it is the word, which is to say, the Logos. In the German translation, there is one of the most wonderful lapses of correct understanding that I have ever come across; God help us if the man who translated my novel Ubik into German were to do a translation from the koine Greek into German of the New Testament. He did all right until he got to the sentence "I am the word." That puzzled him. What can the author mean by that? he must have asked himself, obviously never having come across the Logos doctrine. So he did as good a job of translation as possible. In the German edition, the Absolute Entity which made the suns, made the worlds, created the lives and the places they inhabit, says of itself:

I am the brand name.

Had he translated the Gospel according to Saint John, I suppose it would have come out as:

When all things began, the brand name already was. The brand name dwelt with God, and what God was, the brand name was.

It would seem that I not only bring you greetings from Disneyland but from Mortimer Snerd. Such is the fate of an author who hoped to include theological themes in his writing. "The brand name, then, was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be; no single thing was created without him." So it goes with noble ambitions. Let's hope God has a sense of humor.

Or should I say, Let's hope the brand name has a sense of humor.


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