By Michael Garfield
Last week’s discovery at CERN of neutrinos traveling faster than light – poetically announced on the autumnal equinox, when Venus goes direct in Scorpio as the evening star and Persephone emerges from the Underworld in our mythic imagination – has physics forums buzzing about the possibility that this is “solid” evidence of long-hypothesized additional dimensions.
This is big news. For the first time in the modern world, the existence of invisible spatial dimensions is in the public discourse. Science is the closest thing much of the literate planet has to religion these days, and this is far closer to the otherworldly transcendent mythos of early cities than the heady, highly existential relativity physics delivered to us from on high
Truly mystic physics is making a comeback in the inevitable revelation that quantum “entanglement” only appears “spooky” when we think of each object-process as a distinct individual, rather than a nexus of pattern-vectors in space-time intersecting with every other in an endless fractal gem of co-causative influences. The increasing number of DMT-initiated mathematicians and psychologists speak like gnostic sages about hyper-dimensional organisms that appear discontinuous to three-dimensional vision…while so-called “visionary” physicists and cosmologists argue that hyper-dimensional elements may constitute “dark matter” (the exact kind our best smashers, like the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, are not going to detect).
We call certain unusually “far-seeing” people visionaries, but the word reveals more about our own media-conditioned preference for visual stimulus, still on its way out in an age when video content is a miracle reminder that we evolved for oral traditions, than it does about those minds able to articulate these dimensions – not higher, but along an other axis entirely – in a way more familiar to us. CERN won’t find these invisible landscapes for the same reason that shooting a laser pointer through smoke reveals only shifting line segments, not the full arabesques of drifting incense.
At any rate – sub- or super-luminal – Einstein is never going to be proven “wrong.” Relativity theory is ultimately a statement on what we can and cannot perceive as embodied animals – a sibling to Cubism and Literary Deconstruction, not an attempt to build from its own realization of plurality into a model of resonant synchrony. His work will not be replaced but engulfed, just as once free-swimming bacteria now live on symbiotically as mitochondria in our nucleated cells; just as agriculture was packed away into the belly of industrial society; just as we still have a place for the flying rocks of Newtonian dynamics within the greater explanatory atmosphere of plasma cosmology.
Relativity, though, is the study of relationships between things, not the omnidirectional unified theory for which it left us groping – much in the same way that the fad of deconstruction bottomed out and eventually even hard-line postmodernists like Foucault went looking for something sincere to believe in.
We as living creatures have sensory systems that evolved to notice differences. We will continue to see two things, and call them two things, for the purpose of making our way in the world. But this is not the perspective that will unify physics; Einstein himself said that “the significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” In order to see the dynamic super-fractal that heals our “optical illusion of consciousness,” we need to take a step sideways from Einstein’s laser-like insights, out of the planar view of the discrete individual, and witness an endless pattern of inter-flowing in which everything contributes as both cause and effect to everything else – more a living creature than the static “hologram” of David Bohm‘s own unification attempts.
The next step in physics is to contemplate the full implications of a fractal paradigm, to recognize the Copernican likelihood that we are not the highest order of conscious complexity but are quite probably living as cells inside the body-mind of Something Greater, and that it too lives in Something Even Greater…no “First Cause” or “Omega Point,” except as perspectival artifacts like the horizon. Just as ants appear to us as living in three spatial dimensions but cognitive experiments reveal that they only experience width and length, we too are almost certainly unaware of our own relative ability to climb “over the rock,” as it were, and not just walk around it. Faster-than-light neutrinos aren’t moving faster than light. Just like “quantum tunneling” electrons, they’re impishly pointing the way through a door into another dimension, beckoning us through.
And we seem to be on the verge of confronting this new reality, this encounter with the transcendent unknown, on a mass cultural level. As increasing numbers of us spend all day immersed in the ethers of cyberspace – as shared experience becomes more spontaneous, immediate, and rich, and the boundaries of discrete selfhood are called into question – it gets easier to see how cultural historians like William Irwin Thompson argue that the spirit world is again an inescapable aspect of modern experience.
This discovery at CERN is a perfect expression of the zeitgeist. Instant messaging seems more and more like telepathy with training wheels. Reincarnation is rewritten as the nonlinear resonance of DNA crystals in one body with anothers, no more “entangled” with one another than two harmonics on the same carrier wave. The mythology of television is recast as a story of spiritual possession, finding obvious parallels with both Plato’s allegory of the cave and our swiftly-approaching ability – courtesy of population biology and cognitive neurophysiology – to watch collective brain scans in real-time as memes mutate and reproduce across an entire population.
It’s the historical channel down which we started rafting as soon as we saw the first photographs of Earth from orbit. Now we’re in the class-five rapids when that sense of planetary solidarity hits us just in time for us to synchronize our paddling, before we fly over the event horizon of that waterfall just ahead – this thing we’ve alternately called “Singularity” or “Apocalypse,” the moment at which we all acknowledge a new level of selfhood and a new level of collective, unified by our common experience of the tremendous mystery in which we’re all participating.
It’s not the End of the World; it’s the end of the End of the World. Electronic communication and “light-speed culture” is about to be upgraded. Get ready for time-space, teleportation, instantaneity, immanent infinite, galactic super organisms, and a newly-humble immersion in wonder as the human species takes our tottering first steps into faster-than-light culture.
Paleontologist turned performing philosopher, Michael Garfield‘s multimedia maps of the evolutionary landscape and our place in it are an attempt to demonstrate that everything is equally art, science, and spiritual practice.