- Hits: 1954 1954
This story appears in my books "Father, in a Far Distant Past I Find You," and "Re-thinking What it Means We Evolved." It's an example of origin stories written primarily to satisfy our craving for meaning--it gives us a role in a cosmic drama. In terms of my essay, "An origin story of five creations," it refers mainly to the first three creations, while my essay "Creation of life and mind" refers to the latter two.
It is mid-morning on a hazy summer day. We are part of a sea of people sitting on a grassy slope just outside the Empire’s second-largest city. We are listening to a professional storyteller. His disciples sit beside him, but he is standing. How he’s dressed tells us he’s a newcomer to the empire. He’s telling us a story.
He begins by describing a person—a very strange person. This person is neither a human being nor any kind of material thing, is indeed nothing at all but just a person, one of immense scale, though also no bigger than a pin point. The speaker’s signs, which he pantomimes eloquently, show that this person is without process of any kind, is completely unchanging, involved in no transactions since there’s no other person to transact with. And this person is old, older than anyone or anything else.
The speaker is in no hurry. For half an hour, while he hams and jokes with his audience, he maintains an unchanging core sign while he details it further through gestures. What he’s describing, we slowly discover, is a single intelligence preceding the entire universe.
This first person exists free of processes and transactions, our speaker continues, but is not without ideas. After thinking at length what to do, it decides to invent time. Now it can initiate process. Since processes can take place only through transactions, the first person then decides to divide into two new persons. The speaker has some fun here by acting out the creation of two new signs.
The storyteller now has two persons to narrate. He describes, in agile pantomime, how first one, then the other, on divining its own nature, recognizes what it has to do and in turn divides.
In our speaker’s tale, the process of division continues. For each new person created, a new branch of mathematics has to be created, and new universal constants instituted. His signs become increasingly elaborate as the tally of persons increases and as he acts out the decision of each one to continue the division. One person gets separated from the others (this allows the speaker to suggest that, somewhere along the line, space has come into existence) and gets completely lost. He comes to believe he is the first, original being, and solemnly reenacts all the deliberations and ditherings of the original person at the story’s beginning before he, too, divides.
By this time it is early afternoon. At every division the motive given is the same: “I must transform myself into further persons, passing on the mission I inherited. That mission is; to create a sufficient wealth of persons for there to be abundant process, enough for all these persons to recombine and by degrees to create a new, single, supreme intelligence.”
As the speaker develops the later stages of division he gives increasingly detailed descriptions of the newly created persons and how they fall into families. As the pace of division slows down he starts recombining some of these persons into more complex entities, filling in certain gaps that he himself has pointed out, until he is naming one by one the ultimate units of matter discovered by Modern World scientists—we’ll call them the “quantum beings.” Finally the pantheon is complete. The final products of Modern World quantum science have all been fully represented.
“And once space and time had become fully expanded, from a spot no bigger than a dimple on a baby’s cheek to the Universe as we know it today,” he continues solemnly, “the persons stopped dividing. Why look, here’s...” and he reintroduces three of the quantum beings he had spoken of earlier and has them sing a song in which they consider various transactions they could enter into, and in a rush he fuses them into one new combination after another, then these combinations themselves combine. . . .
As he traces how the elementary quantum beings combine into first electrons and nuclear particles, then the atoms of elements, and then molecules, and the molecules combine in turn to form larger, shadowy creatures of ever-greater scale, his compatriots scattered through the crowd release lighter-than-air balloons that soar into the deep blue sky above us. As the speaker concludes, declaring the nature of the universe to be an endless cycle of single unchanging intelligences dissolving themselves into multiple intelligences, quantum beings like the quarks, and the immensely slow recombining of these separate intelligences back through a long series of steps into a new single supreme intelligence—as he completes these remarks a final torrent of balloons is released and sails off above us, lifting our spirits, whirling together into a single bright cloud of lively creatures that soars up, seeking union with thinner air at the edge of the atmosphere.
We remain seated, deeply moved. Then a figure near the speaker calls out, “But why do the divided intelligences recombine?” The speaker’s reply, not fully translatable into our language, means something like, “Because we must.”