Vanity thought #1736. VC – semantics

Before delving into the nature of “semantic space-time” as the universe is described in “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology” I want to go back an reiterate a couple of points from yesterday.

Apart from the word “semantic”, the meaning of which as it relates to the universe will be discussed today, two other words will appear over and over again for at least the first half of the book. They are “model” and “abstract”, and also “contingent”, but that last one will be self-explanatory. Maybe it’s my personal hangup but “model” for me usually means something different so I need to internalize the meaning used in this book.

For me “model” of a train would mean a plastic toy with wheels and stickers and it would be a replica of an actual train with an actual locomotive with identifying serial numbers and such. The model in this view is an abstraction of a real thing – it only looks the same but it has no engine and only a minimal number of moving parts. The book uses “model” in a different sense where it would be comparable to actual train’s design, blueprients etc.

We have, for example, a model of TOVP but TOVP is not finished yet, our model is a representation of an abstract that exists only in our imagination. Plus sketches, of course, but at the time the model was first made there were probably no blueprints. Model here means visual manifestation of design, of an abstract idea to have a temple or a train, as the case may be. The appearance of the model is thus contingent on the abstract, not on the real thing already existing in the world. It’s not a toy train. It’s “I have an idea, let me draw it to show what it would look like in real life”. We wouldn’t normally call this sketch a “model” but that’s how the word is used in the book. It’s adding details to abstractions, fleshing them out, as they say. Whenever you have an abstract idea and start adding details, or the book call it “adding information”, you have yourself the next step in the creation of the universe.

Another question might arise is that if we say the Vedic universe is the universe of ideas, not things, would it mean that all our thoughts are real? In a sense – yes, in as much as we are secondary tools of creation, but what is actually real is what’s on the mind of God, not ours. Our ideas might or might not manifest in reality, it would depend on guṇa and karma, but Lord’s ideas always come through.

Take the example of US elections where the idea of Donald Trump as the president could become real but we have no way of knowing whether it would actually happen. This example also illustrates that, unlike physical space in modern science, the universe of ideas is closed and non-linear. We do not have unlimited number of choices for the next president – means it’s not an open but a closed set, and even if candidates like Hillary Clinton adopt some of the policies of her nomination rival, Bernie Sanders, it won’t become a perfect blend where each imaginary point between their policies becomes manifested. No, she will take this idea and that idea but not all the others – meaning the policy/idea space won’t be linear and can’t be represented as a line on the plot. In physical space-time every point between two objects exists, we don’t think that there’s some space for the light to travel as it enters our telescopes, then there’s a gap where there’s no space, and then space reappears again in the proximity of the observed star.

In semantic space-time we have abstracts and contingencies. The universe is an inverted tree, as we know from Bhagavad Gītā, and the root of the tree is the most abstract view of the world. By adding more details, or more information, or describing the abstract, we produce semantic trunks, branches, twigs, leaves etc. Going backwards, if we disregard details and “look at the big picture” we travel back up the semantic tree. Each node on this tree is a particular view of the universe, seeing it in more or less detail, and each node is populated by conscious entities who like these particular perspectives.

For Lord Śeṣa, for example, all the universes look like mustard seeds on His hood – because He takes the most abstract view of the material creation, He doesn’t see or dwell on details of universes themselves. As Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu enters into each universe He becomes aware of the insides – details added to the abstract of a “mustard seed”. As the Lord enters into a heart of every living being as the Supersoul He observes all possible details of all possible life forms. It is the most detailed view and it can’t subdivide any further. There are multiple steps in between – the appearance of the Lord Brahmā, for example, who then adds more details and creates various planetary systems. There’s also creation of habitats which then follows by creation of living beings suitable to them.

Interestingly, we as humans are aware of our bodies but only about our major functions, not the details. The bacteria living inside us, however, deals with molecular exchanges, meaning it’s kind of more evolved then us because for the bacteria we are the great unknown abstract. They are not even sure we are alive, just like we humans are not sure if the Earth itself is a living being – it’s too abstract for us to comprehend.

This creation of more and more detailed descriptions looks like evolution but in terms of consciousness it is not – demigods are more evolved then us and Lord Brahmā is the most evolved being in the universe, but the process of creation goes in a different direction – by creating dumber and dumber things which concern themselves with smaller and smaller details of the creation and losing the sight of the big picture altogether. Here on Earth we argue whether God exists or not, the idea of this “mother abstract” is familiar to us, but not to the animals and bacteria, they are too absorbed with details of their lives.

Circling back to the Lord – if a yogī sees the Supersoul he would also see all the details in the world. If he doesn’t see the Lord his ideas of it are just mental images in his illusion – because the Supersoul presides over real, manifested details. If you see Him, you see the reality, if you don’t see Him, you see illusion. I’m not sure I agree with this idea wholeheartedly but it’s there in the book. I think it’s speculative but not impossible.

On the other end of the scale, if one leaves the universe and sees Mahā-Viṣṇu then he loses the sight of all the details because for Mahā-Viṣṇu the universe is just a dream, and it that dream there appears Lord Śeṣa with universes as mustard seeds on His head. For one in the spiritual world even Mahā-Viṣṇu becomes a detail he can’t see anymore because he deals with higher abstracts like Vaikuṇṭhas.

The nature of this semantic tree, its different nodes, and why it’s called semantic rather than physical will be gradually explained in the following chapters.

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