Saturday 22 February 2014

A metaphysical description of reality as three worlds (not the usual two)


The highest world of ultimate reality is personal and dynamic and in time - but eternal.

It consists of the Holy Trinity, and other persons such as angels and Men; and these exist in time (linear, sequential) - life is essentially a story, open ended, life is work: life is doing.

Life is about Love, and love is between persons and personages, and it is always growing and changing.


The lowest world of mortal reality on Earth is much the same; but temporally-bounded - it has a beginning with birth and an end with death; and the Earth itself and this world has a beginning and an end.


But in between there is a middle world of (apparently) static, blissful contemplation.

In the middle world there is no time - or, at least, no time is perceived by consciousness - so the middle world is eternal, but instantaneously eternal in contrast to the serial eternity of the highest world.

Instead, consciousness is aware of itself as unchanging and in the present moment only - with no past and no expectation of the future. It is a state of pure being.

In this middle world, Love is like being bathed in continuous and glorious light; and like beaming such light out from oneself.

We get glimpses of this - short segments of it, hardly noticed before gone - here on earth in ecstatic trances.


Our mortal life on Earth is inside the middle world, and the middle world is regarded as the highest world by many or most religions - for example Hinduism and Buddhism regard the middle world as highest.

Indeed, within Christianity - except for Mormonism, the highest reality of Heaven is conceptualized in terms of a type of middle world: Heaven is to dwell for eternity in the presence of God but in an essentially unchanging situation. God is understood to live outside of time and without change, with reality instantaneously available for His consideration and operation.


The idea (my notion) behind this is that God made this world for us to undergo spiritual progression (if we so chose) towards godhood ourselves, with the highest goal to go to the highest world, there to become 'grown up' Sons of God in a personal relationship with our creator as the highest goal - but all this is conditional upon our free agency.

As pre-mortal spirits, we chose to become incarnate mortal Men - and but being an incarnate mortal is full of contingencies; and for many people and much of the time, the highest hope is to lose our serial, time-bound selves in a state of static bliss.

The middle world is not the highest world, nor is static bliss the highest spiritual state - but theyare acceptable, permissable states - acceptable to God, permissable by God. We are allowed to stay in the middle world as long as we want to.


That is, Men are free not to recognize God as a person of the same kind as ourselves  - nor to work towards a spiritual state in which we engage in a loving relationship with God (a relationship being in time and serial) - but instead to move into that static condition of pure but impersonal consciousness in the presence of God which is described above.


After a while in this state, we may begin to find it boring, or begin to feel sufficiently restored and re-energized after the exhaustion induced by incarnate mortality - then we may choose to move up to the higher level of Heaven, and to resume working on God's projects.



Arakawa said...

Here's an alternate, overly fanciful picture of this sort of hierarchy.

(1) Mortal Reality: a temporally-bounded world, with a single timeline. Things in time are inherently perishable, because the present is different from the past, so something that is in the past but not the present has been destroyed.

There are probably countless such worlds; some are dark and evil, while some are 'sugar bowls'; some are nurseries, which require ignorance to shape intelligent beings, whereas some might be guest houses where intelligent beings come and go with a full awareness of their nature.

Life considered solely at this level has difficulty finding meaning because everything is perishable. Once something (an experience, a person) only exists in the past, that is the same as saying that it never existed.

(2) Realm of Ideas: the Platonic, imperishable world. This can be seen as a static sheet of paper on which everything is written down in un-eraseable ink. Because the most important thing this realm contains are the mortal worlds, this should be seen more as a library of stories than a pile of mathematical entities.

Life considered solely at this level has difficulty finding meaning because nothing changes or is accomplished. Everything is already present/predestined in eternity, so action at the mortal level is illusory.

(3) Heaven, or the Realm of Beings: an imperishable realm which consists of God and His children; conscious, eternal beings. Because progression is inherent to an eternal intelligence, this realm contains a concept of time -- the beings are engaged in creating new objects in the realm of ideas, which means that things are first created and experienced in a certain order, which implies time.

Time in this realm is not the same as time in the mortal realm. The only motion consists of adding to the realm of ideas. Nothing can be destroyed, and by implication each subsequent present moment contains all previous present moments. This also gives the idea that time is not necessarily linear, i.e. events can depend on each other, but the dependencies do not give sufficient information to put _everything_ into total ordering on a timeline.

e.g. event A can be the inspiration for further events B and C, then B and C combined inspire another event D. However, there may not be any dependency between B and C that specifies their ordering relative to each other.

Because each subsequent moment of a being contains all past moments, any past experience is available to relive indefinitely as needed. (Remembering something with perfect fidelity is equivalent to experiencing it again.) The danger of Hell could therefore be a soul that refuses to progress, but chooses to relive its isolation on Earth, in the form of dwelling on pleasurable but limited, or downright painful and cruel experiences. This could be triggered most easily by Pride, because all further progress in the Realm of Beings can only be obtained by... loving cooperation with God and His other children. In Heavenly time, this would be perceived as death, because a being in Hell does not move in Heavenly time, time being only progression.

Life considered solely at this level has the peculiar property that only positive actions have meaning. (Evil is inherently illusory, because it does not create anything -- thus it has no effect or existence on this level. This agrees neatly with a major point of classical theology.)

This is a nice picture, I suppose, though it seems to ignore the bodily resurrection (unless we say that dis-embodied souls are only capable of dwelling in the Realm of Ideas, and Heaven rather consists of souls embodied in a spiritual body. A body is then a way of interacting with time?); Christianity never quite settled the issue of whether we're the only world or one of countlessly many, nor even which we'd prefer to be true.

Don said...

Serious question if you were offered a world to guide would you take it? Knowing what God had to go through to get humanity on the straight and narrow I do not believe I'd want to.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ara - Yes. I see you get 'the point' of having three rather than the usual two (or one).

What is interesting about the schemes we have outlined is that they make a real place for the Platonic, static, comtemplative timeless realm - but not the highest place. More like a recreation, or - if it is chosen to say there - a sort of blissful, loving, suspended animation.

This is what you get if you assume/ want Heaven to be purely Good and utterly free of suffering and without any opposition (or work). What this scheme says is you *can* have that, as your total awareness - but there is something more, higher, above - which because it is about a relationship with God must have viscosity, resistance, change, progression.

The way I think of it is that the highest realm is free from the influence of Satan and purposive evil (although not free from the knowledge of this still alive and still operative elsewhere) - but faced with the resistance of the matter and laws of reality: that is what is being worked-on.

Arkle's idea of the great task as being *making* (conditions for the development of) 'friends' with whom to live and work in eternity - sounds about right.

As usual, I think the problems with understanding Heaven in Mainstream Christian Theology (lensed via classical philosophy) come from the focus on infinities and absolutes - in this case in the mind-melt produced by trying to imagine a world of total happiness with zero evil/suffering/ frustration - this can only lead to a static timeless situation which - if it was *ultimate* reality - would render mortal life in this world utterly pointless.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Don - Me, here, now? Certainly not! I have spent my life avoiding that kind of thing. But in the Mormon concept of eternities is the possibility that some millions, billions, trillions or gazillions of years down the line after accumulating vast experiences and developments... well, who knows?

As of now, my idea of Heaven is to be reunited with and live with my family in a perfected version of the best of this mortal life, to serve the others and to perform some kind of low level 'designing' office job (without much travelling)!

Arakawa said...

"Yes. I see you get 'the point' of having three rather than the usual two (or one). "

Before this I did not understand the point of claiming Heaven was within time. I agreed intuitively that being an intelligent being implied motion and progress i.e. time of some kind, so a static Heaven could not be true (nor did I want it to be true), but I had to tell myself that this contradiction was somehow resolved incomprehensibly -- because I also felt that time for God simply cannot work the same way it does for us. (Earthly time consists of the repeated loss and destruction of the present moment into the past -- so it would be a serious limitation.)

If Heaven follows the sort of 'accumulative time' I described, though, then this makes a lot more sense to me.

Adam G. said...


"a body is a way of interacting with time"

Profoundly true. Why, I don't know. But reading it I felt it was so.

A partial answer may be that both matter and time are about limitation and separation. This thing is not that thing. this time is not that time.

Bruce Charlton said...


I came across this relevant section about God's time in a mini book by Arkle

But there is a sort of ‘time’ which exists for our Creator in what we have previously thought of as the ‘timelessness’ of His Nature. This ‘timeless time’ refers to spaceless movement, which is the sense of purpose we are suggesting is the most essential attribute of any spirit.

If we use the term ‘growth’ we will get much closer to the point we are trying to make, which is that anything living needs to grow. The more it is truly living, the more it truly needs to grow.

Our Creator’s university is endeavouring to give us the truest sort of life, which is the Divine Life, and this must have as it’s primary purpose the sense of growth. But growth, in this case, is not from the body of a child to the body of an adult, it is from an elementary form of awareness to a mature form of awareness. Awareness is of the spirit and does not occupy space, so it does not occupy time which is related to space, but it occupies time which is related to growth.

It is somehow wrong to suggest that our God has no sense of time, for this always implies that He has no sense of purpose either, for He is not able to aspire ‘towards’ anything. We can easily imagine that He has created a sense of time for us to learn in but, if we try to imagine Him ‘living outside time’, then we run into the problem that he can foresee and foreknow everything in such a way that it invalidates our own sense of purpose.

For, if God can foresee everything, then everything is already ‘settled’ or ‘fixed’ in some way and He is only playing games with us, pretending that we are real when we are not. Whenever we make any great effort to achieve something valuable, that effort is a part of the timeless knowledge of God and thus pre-ordained.

Our sense of reality depends entirely on our efforts being effortful processes in which we use our own ‘creative fulcrum’ to bring something neew into the common pool of Reality.

If this process is only part of a mechanical feed-back situation which gives us the feeling of using our initiative but is in fact ‘set-up’ for us in the plan of the Creator, then we can never become valuable Divine Friends for one another or for our God.


We may now say that in the ‘timeless’ reality outside creation there is another time we can learn to exist in which is growth time, which has a past, present and future, just like space time. Within this growth time we can support a true sense of purpose which can move from something less towards something more and, thus, we have made room again for the idea of purpose and growth which we can take part in and delight in, alongside our God, as friends.

George said...

"A partial answer may be that both matter and time are about limitation and separation. This thing is not that thing. this time is not that time."

I think this is absolutely true.

Don said...

We were just discussing concepts of hell. Where do the 'lower realms' fit in with this?

Hell needs be separate from heaven or is it a 'walled off' area of heaven?

Bruce Charlton said...

@D - not a walled off area - somewhere remote, sequestered...

But I was thinking more about the perception of things rather than location. I think hell would involve serial perception, and eternity, like the highest world - but instead of being a realm of family and divine friendship it would be a place of either/ or utter loneliness/ exploitative conflict.