Report: In What Sense Do You Mean Immortality?
September 5, 2010 • 8:43AM

By: Cody Jones, Sky Shields, and Michelle Lerner

At the end of the current century, as space-faring man breaks through the upper regions of our atmosphere, he or she will be able to look back on Earth, as a whole, to see the noetic fossils of the now developing NAWAPA concept, to be reminded of the great paradigm shift in man’s identity, which made his voyage possible. It shall have constituted a break from an imperially imposed identity; according to which one’s existence and identity are located as contained in his or her experiences of sense impressions, as a priori truth and reality. To this effect there must be a realization of the full implications of the conception -- discovered by Vladimir Vernadsky -- of the three-fold character of the universe, as a dynamic relationship between the hierarchy of phase-spaces of noetic, biotic, and abiotic distinction, unified in one, anti-entropic process of development. A relationship that science in the main, up to this point, has denied to exist, instead viewing life and human creativity as “emergent” properties of an otherwise entropic, probabilistic universe.

This hierarchical quality of the anti-entropic relationship among the three Vernadskian phase-spaces is exemplified by NAWAPA’s overcoming -- on a grand scale, through the application of advanced technology and infrastructural design -- “natural” barriers to processes, such as, for example, water flow and water cycling, actions which are typically restricted by geologically determined water basins, and climate patterns. Or, of similar nature, NAWAPA’s creating of conditions for a more efficient usage of solar radiation on the part of the biosphere, achieved by supplanting deserts with irrigated green agriculture and forests, thus resulting in changes in climate and weather systems, to the effect of making the surface of the Earth ever more productive and habitable for man. 1NAWAPA from the Standpoint of Biospheric Development. Of course it must be understood that it is the highest of the three phase-spaces, that which is characterized by the creative human soul, the Noösphere, which is willfully determining and driving the process as a whole, through the application of discovered principles. And, that in a self reflexive way, man gains increased clarity of humanity’s role in the universe as the implications of such a projects effects become manifest. In fact, it is only from this top down orientation, and ever more self-consciously so, that such lawful changes can, as they must, occur. This brings into focus those fundamental questions about the true nature of the human individual, in particular the relationship between what we would call the “soul,” and its biological and extended sensorium. The sensorium being that which plays a mediating role between the creative individual and the discoverable principles of universal creation, in much the same way that infrastructure acts as an interface between man and his environment. It is through understanding this relationship that we achieve the insight into how man is capable of changing the world around him to effect changes in the increasing potential for continued creative work. In other words, we might ask: “who really is man in the universe, that the universe changes favorably in response to his creative action?”

To gain a foretaste of the type of identity which must emerge as the human standard, in order for mankind to escape the doom presaged by our present time, we will be well served to look to the example of the great Beethoven, not as a simple case study of a “man of music,” but as an example of a universal personality, one whose sense of identity transcends those naive notions of body, space, and time, to be located in that immortal domain whence we gain the vision of mankind traversing the stars.

Ludwig von Beethoven

Now, most people readily admit that Beethoven was a musical genius. But in what way do we intend that statement to be understood? Surely, it could not have depended on his hearing, for he had lost that by the time of his greatest compositions. At the time of the composition of his 9th symphony, recognized world-over to this day as, perhaps, one of the most beautiful pieces ever written, he was unable to hear how it sounded. But, you might object, that since he had lost his hearing, he must have retained this sense in memory and could “hear” it in his mind. But, it is here that we see the truth of his genius. As a composer, Beethoven’s corpus of work is often described as a series of revolutions, each introducing elements which had never even been thought before, let alone heard. This is not a matter of simple memory. Ask yourself: Could you do this? Deprived of the senses considered most dear to you, could you create and express new thoughts in that domain of sense, for which you no longer have the organs? Certainly, this was not obvious for Beethoven. Knowing that his sense of identity, his reason for living, was in his creative drive for surpassing the existing limits of musical composition, we might imagine that this blow, of losing his hearing, would seem to him to be the equivalent of losing his life. And, in fact, he almost did end his life himself during a period of intense frustration and creative agony as his hearing increasingly waned. And yet, he did not. What was this change of mind?

Beethoven went on to compose some of the most passionate music ever created. What new sense organ could substitute for the old? Here is where we come to see the shadows of what we call “the soul." It was not for his own ears that Beethoven wrote. Perhaps, not even for those around him. The story is told that a quartet of string players working through the last compositions of Beethoven, in his presence, came to a stop partway through a piece, and when the now deaf composer looked up from conducting, and saw that they had stopped, they told him that they could not continue, for they did not understand what they were playing. He responded, “it is no matter, keep playing, for I composed these pieces not for the present, but for a future age." To what sense of space and time must such a passion of Beethoven’s be attached? And, the question stands before us: What are those things that we hold on to arbitrarily, confusing them for who we really are, despite the fact that they may be the very things which keep us from finding ourselves?

To restate the point thus far: When we begin to think about the “soul” devoid of our sensorium, as the case of Beethoven indicates, we can begin to understand infrastructure and the ramifications of NAWAPA. The sensorium, though neither the “self" nor the world outside of the “self," is the interface, the biological infrastructure, evolved over millions of years. As evidenced by the joy of the experience of beautiful music, the interface exists not for its own sake, but becomes more and more essential to the development of the individual, and even more for society.

What is the sensorium?

In looking at our solar system, we find that our Sun, has a signature distribution curve of radiation, for a particular temperature. For our Sun, with a temperature of about 5000 degrees K at its surface, there results a distribution curve for which about 45-50% of the radiation emitted falls in what we call the visible range, tapering off more gradually towards the infrared and radio direction, and more sharply in the other direction towards UV and higher.

Source: CC: Robert Rohde

This, along with other cosmic influences, defines a certain “radiation space” for our immediate region of the cosmos in which life on Earth evolved. Hence, it is reasonable that life on Earth would evolve in a way that reflected the harmonics of the system, and to most efficiently use that particular distribution of solar emanation. (For other stars, of different quality and temperature than our Sun, the distribution curve of radiation is shifted towards the UV or infrared ranges.)

Thus, we find that photosynthetic plant life evolved to maximize that region of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum most abundant to it, (green plants capture two primary peaks in the visible EM region), in order to drive the process of transformative action that it endeavors to carry out. And correspondingly, life has engineered structures, such as the atmosphere (e.g. ozone), to block those elements of the spectrum which now were found to be detrimental to its evolved morphology. All this reflecting an overall anti-entropic dynamic system.

The case is similar for the development of our biological instrumentation, most emphatically that which corresponds to the sense of vision and heat sensation (which is sensitive to the abundant near infrared region). In other words, our instrumentation, to a large degree, has developed to be tuned to that region of the electromagnetic spectrum which most greatly impinges on our planet. this in turn, through the interaction of the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum with sensed objects, gives rise to those impressions of color, shadow, depth, spatial relations etc. (in the case of vision) and, consequently, to the notions of what we consider to be the boundaries and continuity of objects. Those aspects of the EM spectrum to which we are less attuned (or of which we are merely less conscious) are largely ignored by the majority of people. They are not objects of our conscious consideration, and this fact gives rise to certain naïve notions about temporal-spatial relations, leading us to believe that those regions, where most people believe they have no conscious impressions, must be “empty." In other words, we have been accustomed to only acknowledge those regions of the spectrum that we are most obviously connected to. The question then emerges: Would the morphological functions of life, including those of sense, that develop on planetary systems around stars that are different from our Sun and therefore have a different radiation distribution curve) develop a different base of sensory apparatuses that would in turn optimize the utilization of that star’s particular radiation density range, and hence preceive a different quality of impressions of the phenomena in its environment? What would be the means of communication between those different intelligent life forms that come from different star systems? Would there be in general a utilization of different EM ranges than those that we here on Earth utilize most, to communicate from one being to another? Would we be able to communicate with those intelligent beings? In other words, is there an invariant for communication, between intelligent life in the universe, that lies beyond the impressions of sense? Are we ourselves something other than our five senses? And, if so, where ought we locate our sense of self?

To get at the first and simplest level of the questions posed consider the following: We have evidence that certain birds on Earth, for example, are able to navigate using the magnetic field of the Earth, when it is “illuminated” by blue-green light, but are blind to the magnetic field when in an environment of exclusively red light. And that bees perceive emissions from objects, such as flowers, in the UV range. So, are there sense ranges for human beings, beyond our five common senses, that we are blinded to due to willful neglect or, worse, an imperially imposed opinion about what our senses are and what they tell us? We get hints of what lies just beyond our current level of consciousness in reports of people “hearing” the aurorae (northern lights). Or, at a more profound level, in the type of “mass-strike” political phenomenon currently gripping the U.S. population, as this quality of paradigm was enunciated by Percy Shelley in his A Defence of Poetry, where he writes: “At such periods there is an accumulation of the power of communicating and receiving intense and impassioned conceptions respecting man and nature. The person in whom this power resides, may often, as far as regards many portions of their nature, have little apparent correspondence with that spirit of good of which they are the ministers”. In this spirit, one is left to contemplate the scene of a deaf and blind Hellen Keller, being brought to tears of joy, upon witnessing a private concert of the legendary tenor, Enrico Caruso.

Miss Keller "Hears" Tenor -- Hellen Keller the worlds most famous blind and deaf woman, placed her fingers on the lips and throat of Enrico Caruso, the Metropolitan Tenor, in his rooms in the Georgian Terrace Hotel today and “heard” him sing the lament of Sampson from Saint-Saens's opera, Samson et Delila.” Through the medium of her marvelously sensitive fingers the matchless voice of the great tenor was transmitted to her soul, and as she sat and “listened," her lips apart, her sightless eyes wet with tears, she whispered over and over again: “Wonderful, wonderful.” Caruso sang the aria in the first scene of the last act of the opera and sang with power that brought tears to the eyes of other Metropolitan singers who were in the room. And as he sang his voice grew husky with the pathos of the song. “Though I cannot see your face, I can feel the pathos of your song," said Miss Keller. And Caruso said, with his lips against her hands: “In your fingers I can feel your soul. In your blue eyes your soul is shinning.” Miss Keller almost collapsed, so powerfully had the voice of the tenor stirred her.
Source: The New York Times Atlanta, April 24, 1916

The Extended Sensorium

The Sun

These questions take on an even greater existential quality as we move to realize our extraterrestrial imperative. We are already beginning to realize, that in order to survive and act beyond the protective womb of Earth, we have to become masters of phenomena, whose powerful effects range across the whole of the EM spectrum, and that we must develop new forms of extended instrumentation,(e.g. the electron scanning microscope and various advanced telescopes), which enable us to make these phenomena objects of conscious mentation and willful manipulation, to the potential effect that our inborn simple sense faculties, as currently understood, lose more and more of their functional significance. For example, in “looking” at our Sun or a nebula like the Crab, in different ranges of the EM spectrum, we get very different impressions of what their actual structures are.

So using different instrumentation to capture different parts of the EM spectrum emitted by an object (i.e. radio frequency, infrared, gamma radiation, etc.), we get a different sense of what the object is. We are beginning to sense different projections of reality, beyond that which is typically accessible to the average person.

Still, though we are able to “visualize” these phenomena as interpreted in the form of our current accustomed mode of perception, such as a visual translation or representation of the instrument readings (as pictured above), our interpretation of what we see -- the clarity, structure, boundaries, etc. -- are largely conditioned by our current brain morphology and cultural interpretation. Already this ability to access an extended range of the EM spectrum and phenomena associated with it implies that a creative universe, in all its manifestations, is accessible to the extended reaches of the likewise creative human mind. The next step will be to move to the point where we are able to directly read and act upon those other ranges of the EM spectrum, bypassing the translation of those phenomena to the current language of the five popular senses. Also, as we know from the case of Kepler -- as in his discovery of universal gravitation from the orbital characteristics of the planets of our solar system -- it is the paradoxical juxtaposition of different sense readings of a given phenomenon -- in Kepler’s case vision and harmony-- which leads to insight into the actual principle which has generated the various quality of shadows. So we ask, what new enhanced potential for discovery will be created by extending the range of different types of juxtaposable readings of a given phenomenon, through the extension of the senses, into new ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum, as well as at different scales, i.e. the immeasurably small and large.

Here the study of brain plasticity takes on a curious significance.

Though brain plasticity is considered a relatively new discovery, its conceptual foundation was already laid by Bernhard Riemann, as presented in his posthumously published “Philosophical Fragments”, and following in that Riemann tradition, the founder of gestalt psychology, Wolfgang Köhler. Instead of trying to study the brain, and apply silly analogies to it, drawn from completely unrelated areas such as computer science, or the reductionist and largely useless studies of the behaviorists, Köhler began by asking the question: What does the mind do? Only if the nature of the creative mind could be explored could the question of the true function of the brain become a possible investigation. The brain is that which allows the mind to express its control over the biological, and thereby the physical universe, and the character of its physical organization must reflect the character of the human mind. This similarity in character across the domains is what Köhler called “isomorphism,” from “iso-” meaning “same,” and “morph,” meaning form. The implications of this recognition for the physical and biological universe are enormous. For instance: The mind operates primarily with what Köhler called gestalts. An idea coherent with Riemann’s conception of Abelian functions and Dirichlet’s Principle, as they evolved to supersede his earlier conception of geistesmassen (thought object).

Riemann’s surface is based on his insight into the significance of Abelian functions and Dirichlet’s Principle. It is a surface of continuity, who’s internal characteristics and boundary conditions change, in a transfinite way, as a function of the introduction of increasingly higher order singularities.

The character of these ideas, called gestalts, is that the whole is always more -- or better put, entirely different -- than the sum of its parts. This gestalt character then, in order to find expression in the human organism, must be reflected in the physiology of the human brain. (It is emphatically not expressed in any way by digital computing systems, making clear the ridiculous project of attempting to compare the brain to any digital/logical system. Digital systems do not contain gestalts, only separate parts which require, and will always require, a human mind to unify them in their significance.) If it is again recognized that in order for the brain to manifest these gestalt characteristics, it is also necessary for the biological and physical substrate of the brain to reflect this gestalt quality in potential, the implications for physics are profound. The existence of independent “particles” in the world becomes an untenable philosophical model, and we must instead begin to treat what are now called particles as being rather singularities in some other continuous process. And it is to these continuous processes, these gestalts, which we must attribute reality, while the physical elements which seem to express them must be considered as mere shadows. In this way the relationship between the three Vernadskian phase spaces takes on a very real significance, as does physicist Max Planck’s remark, that only in Köhler’s ideas could the paradoxes of the quantum be resolved: because only Köhler’s ideas of the mind demanded the necessary existence of such paradoxes, even before their discovery. In this we come full circle back to the whole of what was, and continues to be, Riemann’s life’s work.

Today, brain plasticity, as commonly discussed, refers to the ability of the relations and functions of the brain to change in response to either “damage," or in response to changes in behavior and thought activity. For example, studies have been done in cases where certain sense faculties, such as vision or hearing are lost in an individual, and the cortical area which is typically associated with that faculty is taken up to be utilized by a remaining sense, usually at an enhanced level. For example, an individual who has lost his hearing will gain an enhanced ability of peripheral vision utilizing the part of the cortex previously employed for hearing. On the flip side, a capability that is lost, such as motor skills in a stroke victim who has suffers severe brain damage to those areas of the brain associated with motor action, regains those abilities by way of undamaged parts of the brain taking up that function. In the most extreme cases, individuals who have been born with only half a brain, and therefore were missing whole areas of the brain typically designated for entire brain functions, nevertheless developed into fully functional individuals, through the brain’s reorganizing of itself to meet the demands of the mind. While all of these phenomena came as a shock to the behaviorists and other philosophical reductionists, those of us who have understood the work of Köhler can see in this the necessary character of the relationship of brain to mind. The mind is not a thing composed of parts, and the brain, whose sole responsibility is to function as the mind’s intermediary, must at least in potential be able to reflect that fact, if with difficulty. In addition, we are now moving into an era where science is developing instrumentation which allows for lost sense capabilities to be replaced, by created instrumentation that allows one sense organ to relay information about the environment to the brain, which is usually the role of that lost sense in the individual. As in the case of “tongue vision," where an individual who is without sight uses a device connected to the tongue, described as like a piece of chewing gum, which receives electrical impulses, from a sort of small video camera mounted on the head or worn like sunglasses, using electrical impulses to draw an image of the surrounding environment on the surface of the tongue, allowing the individual to not only read written numbers and letters, but also gain spatial orientation, to which they can respond with precision, as if to “see” with the tongue.

One is reminded of the quote from Kepler’s Mysterium Cosmographicum where he writes, that if the mind had not eyes to see it would demand their creation. The point being, that the brain and the sensorium are not conveyors of truth in and of themselves, but are merely tools, enslaved to the mind. That is, it is the mind’s intention to act in the universe which determines what role the sensorium must play.

Thus, as we begin to be more and more reliant on an increasing array of instrumentation, no longer “seeing” and sensing in the way we now think of such operations, how might our brain change morphologically to meet the mind’s demand for greater clarity of the impressions received from this new and ever changing instrumentation. As our sense of self, as connected to our biological sense instrumentation, begins to fade, and any sense of reality, as a simple derivation or interpretation of those impressions, is called into question, how must we begin to locate what, or where our identity actually lies? What truly bounds our existence, if not our biological mortality. And, are not those simple conceptions of space and time, as derived from simple sense impressions, also called into question? Given the potential for continuous change of sense instrumentation and the plasticity of brain functions associated with it, driven by our intention to further expand the scope of exploration and development of the universe, what remains invariant or, better said, immortal? -- Especially now that scientific knowledge already implies that man is not fated to be bound in existence by what would be cataclysmic changes in our inhabited environment. -- Let us now ask: How much of our sense of space and time are determined by a limited sense of reality; and to what extent is our identity shaped by that limited view?

Beyond the Sensorium

If you read something written by someone whose personality you know well, you will also hear their voice along with it (provided that their written prose is in some way reflective of their speech). Besides that, your personal knowledge of the writer conjures up vague echoes of impressions in other senses: a rough idea of how the person looks, a familiar rhythm to their gait, or perhaps an unclear gestalt (in the sense of Köhler, above) of some familiar location with which you closely associate them. Oftentimes the actual connection between the latter gestalt, and the person who provokes its appearance, is unclear even to you. The gestalt itself may be too dim and unclear to even put into words. This does not, however, affect its specificity. It is exactly what it is, as you remember it, and everything relevant to that memory is contained in that very gestalt, vague as it appears when compared to seemingly more concrete impressions.

Leibniz's principle of the identity of indiscernibles states that, if any two objects were so alike that exchanging one for the other would result in no change at all in the physical universe, there could be no possible reason for one arrangement versus the other. That is, if object A and object B were two objects, completely alike in every way, but located in different situations, having arrived there with different histories, there could be no reason given which were sufficient for one object to have its particular history and situation rather than that of the other. That is, they would violate the principle of sufficient reason, which states simply that in order for things to exist in some way and not otherwise, there must be a sufficient reason for things to exist in that way and not otherwise. If this latter principle were not true, the universe would be irrational, and unknowable to man or God -- in short, it would not be able to exist. What then does it mean to have a specific gestalt “in mind,” when that same gestalt is responsible for phenomena which we are tempted to say exist “outside” of that same mind? To the extent that they are the same, the principle of sufficient reason does not allow these two things -- the image and the object -- to actually exist as separate things. Every point at which an idea is effective, must also be a point at which that idea actually exists.

Now, ask ourselves again, what do we say is a human being? The human being is most obviously not the human body, nor is it the human brain, as we have seen above. Whatever the principle is that we call mind represents an organizing principle that exists above the specific biological substrate which expresses it. Even what most people consider to be their human personality is something which is subject to change and development, under the influence of some higher principle of organization. Cusa describes this as the relationship between sense perception, the reason which finds unity in seemingly contradictory sense impressions, and the intellect, where seeming paradoxical oppositions of reason are brought into a unity. Phenomena which are contradictory from the standpoint of sense perception, the image of the front and back of a person’s head, for instance, are unified from the standpoint of human reason. Computers, for instance, are unable to apply facial recognition technology in cases where even the most underdeveloped human mind has no problem, such as viewing the subject at extreme angles. This is also the principle behind techniques such as CAPTCHA tests. The single idea of a face, captured by a human mind, contains an infinity of possible sense perceptions within it. Or, better put, the idea of the face is infinite from the standpoint of sense perception. In the same way, the idea of a scientific principle transcends all of its possible manifestations in the physical universe. For this reason, Cusa called reason infinite with respect to sense perception. But beyond human reason, there is another level, often difficult to reflect on directly. This is the level which gives the mind its ability to reflect upon its own operation. The naive mind has difficulty imagining itself undergoing radical changes of belief, habits, and traditions. The developed, creative mind however, sees itself as a sequence of such structures, evolving willfully to ever higher and higher levels, throwing away old beliefs at every stage of the process. The identity is seen to lie in a higher state, which encompasses the entire infinity of that process of development. This higher self, the intellect, Cusa calls infinite relative to the lower self, which Cusa identifies as reason. This latter, the intellect, represents the self -- the "I" -- which Lyndon LaRouche identifies as being responsible for the hypothesis of the higher hypothesis: the recognition that the human mind is capable of passing self-consciously and willfully through an ordered series of higher and higher states of organization, by recognizing the paradoxes of its own present assumptions. This "I," in fact, is a gestalt, of the same sort (though of a higher order) as those which the human mind recognizes as representing universal physical principles. Therefore, these are the same gestalts with which the human mind deals in the process of cognition described above, in reading the writing of another personality, or coming to know them in any other way.

Thus, a possible further elaboration of Leibniz's identity of indiscernibles would say that -- if identicality were equality -- conceptual similarity were a sort of proximity in that same phase space (in this case, the phase space of which the space of sense perception is only a distorted projection). Thus, the extent to which a conception ceases to diverge from the thing conceived is exactly the extent to which the conceiver and the thing conceived are drawn into proximity with one another. The image of the mind, in the mind -- to the extent that it is actually identical with the mind conceived -- is the intellect of the mind under consideration. The two minds at that moment are in perfect proximity, and any action is therefore a reciprocal one, though not necessarily equally conscious for both parties. It may function in many cases rather like lightly touching the shoulder of someone whose attention is held rapt by something else entirely. Even if they react, it will not be clear to them exactly what it is that they've reacted to.

The question might arise: to what extent is the other person aware of this light touch? It would seem, to the extent that this gestalt were inaccurately conceived, that there would be no touch at all. In fact, you would be touching something else entirely. However, to the extent that such a conceptualization of the individual were a correct one, would they feel it? And what would we mean by "feel?"

Let's take an extreme example, to make the more general case. Everything that we have said so far applies equally well to a personality, living or dead. In the case of the deceased person, there is no sense perception unified by reason to mediate the interaction with the intellect. Instead, this role is taken up by the other means in which this personality is expressed -- in their contribution to the organized social dynamic of human society. We can again take the example of a written contribution, for the sake of example. The interaction mediated in this case must be one directly with the intellect. It is only there that the interaction may be "felt."

The mediation of the transmission of impressions from sense perception, to reason, to the intellect, and back, takes many different forms. Again: the naive mind attributes the first layer of this process to a simple set of five senses, but in reality man is sensitive to many more. In fact, the phenomenon of neuroplasticity indicates that the brain, functioning as a sort of interface between the two lowest levels of that pyramid, may be capable of receiving an infinite variety of types of such sense impressions, and that the five which come “in the box” with the the human form can already be recognized as relatively inefficient when compared with the phenomena with which man needs contend in the course of his eventual progress outside of the confines of this planet. As it stands, such senses are constantly reworked in the course of scientific investigation; phenomena which would otherwise be invisible to them are projected onto them by means of various aids, physical -- such as the microscope, telescope, devices capable of recording subtle vibrations of air, and incredibly rapid motions, etc. -- as well as conceptual, such as the various symbolic and mathematical devices represented by language, poetry, Leibniz’s calculus, Riemann’s tensor, etc., which likewise help to bring otherwise invisible domains within the purview of the human mind. In this way man finds a way to give his reason access, via these extended senses, to invisible realms such as those of the very large and the very small. At some point in the distant future, the relative uselessness of our “out of the box” senses might cause humanity of that time to regard them rather like we today puzzle at our tailbones: a relatively useless relic of an earlier state of development which, when we do notice its existence, is typically due to its role as a distracting nuisance.

If this “sensorium” -- this aggregation of all sources of sensory impression -- is to be correctly understood as the process of mediating the human soul’s ability to act on and understand the physical universe, it must be understood that this process necessarily includes the entirety of human society. That is, the action of the human individual is mediated through society as a whole, and the action of that society on the universe is mediated through the physical economy -- infrastructure. This entire formation forms the interface between the human individual and the universe in which he lives.

Dynamics in society: The interaction between living human beings occurs on levels which are much higher than the relatively more “noisy” sense perceptual interaction. The effect of this is often felt as “the spirit of an age,” or the sensation (if not also the comprehension) of a “revolutionary moment.” The interaction on this level is not limited, even in the main, to interaction between those still living.

As Socrates describes it in the Phaedo, the philosopher does not fear death. In fact, he pursues it. When Simmias and Cebes, his students, accuse Socrates of advocating suicide with this statement, Socrates makes clear that this is in no way what he means. Rather, the philosopher longs for the recognition of the “I” as residing not in sense perception, or even in human reason in the simple sense, but in the intellect. But this, as we said earlier, is exactly the state attained by creative human individuals who have died. Socrates describes this as the reason the truly human personality fights to free themself from the shackles of sense perception. That this is nether a narrow asceticism, nor a simple philosophical dualism, only becomes truly clear when the entirety of the preceding discussion is brought back again to the question of man’s extraterrestrial imperative. Human evolution into space requires a greater and greater independence from the usual set of senses upon which modern man tends to rely. In this way, it represents the convergence upon a point where the difference between the individual’s sense of self before and after death is at its minimum -- it necessitates the recognition of human immortality as something which does not occur “after death.”

Looking back

Thus, as man of that period looks back at the period of today, and views mankind’s first forays out of the womb of Earth, he will remember NAWAPA as an important point in that evolution. A point when, for the first time, the majority of the human population began to find their identity in goals which would not be achieved in the course of their physical life. Man will look back and see a great leap in the ability of mankind to act as a true noösphere, in the form of human society mediated through the reorganization of physical spacetime that we call basic economic infrastructure, and to bring an idea into existence on a massive scale. Many more similar projects, each exceeding the other in vision and scope will have followed this one, facilitating mankind’s birth into the larger sense of self, dictated by his extraterrestrial mission, but those first steps will hold a precious spot in our combined cultural memory. Thus, man brings, into ever increasing realized potentiality, that vision of the eternal, which the greatest of philosophic, artistic, and scientific minds have used as a guide star. Creating a true “heaven on Earth”, or better, Earth in the heavens.


Phaedo discussion on sense perception, and striving towards death (as opposed to just not fearing death), and intentionally blurring the line between life and death until the difference is as small as possible:

And now I will make answer to you, O my judges, and show that he who has lived as a true philosopher has reason to be of good cheer when he is about to die, and that after death he may hope to receive the greatest good in the other world. And how this may be, Simmias and Cebes, I will endeavor to explain. For I deem that the true disciple of philosophy islikely to be misunderstood by other men; they do not perceive that he is ever pursuing death and dying; and if this is true, why, having had the desire of death all his life long, should he repine at the arrival of that which he has been always pursuing and desiring?

Simmias laughed and said: Though not in a laughing humor, I swear that I cannot help laughing when I think what the wicked world will say when they hear this. They will say that this is very true, and our people at home will agree with them in saying that the life which philosophers desire is truly death, and that they have found them out to be deserving of the death which they desire.

And they are right, Simmias, in saying this, with the exception of the words "They have found them out"; for they have not found out what is the nature of this death which the true philosopher desires, or how he deserves or desires death. But let us leave them and have a word with ourselves: Do we believe that there is such a thing as death?

To be sure, replied Simmias.
And is this anything but the separation of soul and body? And being dead is the attainment of this separation; when the soul exists in herself, and is parted from the body and the body is parted from the soul-that is death?

Exactly: that and nothing else, he replied.
And what do you say of another question, my friend, about which I should like to have your opinion, and the answer to which will probably throw light on our present inquiry: Do you think that the philosopher ought to care about the pleasures-if they are to be called pleasures-of eating and drinking?

Certainly not, answered Simmias.
And what do you say of the pleasures of love-should he care about them?

By no means.
And will he think much of the other ways of indulging the body-for example, the acquisition of costly raiment, or sandals, or other adornments of the body? Instead of caring about them, does he not rather despise anything more than nature needs? What do you say?

I should say the true philosopher would despise them.
Would you not say that he is entirely concerned with the soul and not with the body? He would like, as far as he can, to be quit of the body and turn to the soul.

That is true.
In matters of this sort philosophers, above all other men, may be observed in every sort of way to dissever the soul from the body.

That is true.
Whereas, Simmias, the rest of the world are of opinion that a life which has no bodily pleasures and no part in them is not worth having; but that he who thinks nothing of bodily pleasures is almost as though he were dead.

That is quite true.
What again shall we say of the actual acquirement of knowledge?-is the body, if invited to share in the inquiry, a hinderer or a helper? I mean to say, have sight and hearing any truth in them? Are they not, as the poets are always telling us, inaccurate witnesses? and yet, if even they are inaccurate and indistinct, what is to be said of the other senses?-for you will allow that they are the best of them?

Certainly, he replied.
Then when does the soul attain truth?-for in attempting to consider anything in company with the body she is obviously deceived.

Yes, that is true.
Then must not existence be revealed to her in thought, if at all?
And thought is best when the mind is gathered into herself and none of these things trouble her-neither sounds nor sights nor pain nor any pleasure-when she has as little as possible to do with the body, and has no bodily sense or feeling, but is aspiring after being?

That is true.
And in this the philosopher dishonors the body; his soul runs away from the body and desires to be alone and by herself?

That is true.
Well, but there is another thing, Simmias: Is there or is there not an absolute justice?

Assuredly there is.
And an absolute beauty and absolute good?

Of course.
But did you ever behold any of them with your eyes?

Certainly not.
Or did you ever reach them with any other bodily sense? (and I speak not of these alone, but of absolute greatness, and health, and strength, and of the essence or true nature of everything). Has the reality of them ever been perceived by you through the bodily organs? or rather, is not the nearest approach to the knowledge of their several natures made byhim who so orders his intellectual vision as to have the most exact conception of the essence of that which he considers?

And he attains to the knowledge of them in their highest purity who goes to each of them with the mind alone, not allowing when in the act of thought the intrusion or introduction of sight or any other sense in the company of reason, but with the very light of the mind in her clearness penetrates into the very fight of truth in each; he has got rid, as far as he can, of eyes and ears and of the whole body, which he conceives of only as a disturbing element, hindering the soul from the acquisition of knowledge when in company with her-is not this the sort of man who, if ever man did, is likely to attain the knowledge of existence?

There is admirable truth in that, Socrates, replied Simmias.
And when they consider all this, must not true philosophers make a reflection, of which they will speak to one another in such words as these: We have found, they will say, a path of speculation which seems to bring us and the argument to the conclusion that while we are in the body, and while the soul is mingled with this mass of evil, our desire will not besatisfied, and our desire is of the truth. For the body is a source of endless trouble to us by reason of the mere requirement of food; and also is liable to diseases which overtake and impede us in the search after truth: and by filling us so full of loves, and lusts, and fears, and fancies, and idols, and every sort of folly, prevents our ever having, as people say, so much as a thought. For whence come wars, and fightings, and factions? whence but from the body and the lusts of the body? For wars are occasioned by the love of money, and money has to be acquired for the sake and in the service of the body; and in consequence of all these things the time which ought to be given to philosophy is lost. Moreover, if there is time and an inclination toward philosophy, yet the body introduces a turmoil and confusion and fear into the course of speculation, and hinders us from seeing the truth: and all experience shows that if we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the body, and the soul in herself must behold all things in themselves: then I suppose that we shall attain that which we desire, and of which we say that we are lovers, and that is wisdom, not while we live, but after death, as the argument shows; for if while in company with the body the soul cannot have pure knowledge, one of two things seems to follow-either knowledge is not to be attained at all, or, if at all, after death. For then, and not till then, the soul will be in herself alone and without the body. In this present life, I reckon that we make the nearest approach to knowledge when we have the least possible concern or interest in the body, and are not saturated with the bodily nature, but remain pure until the hour when God himself is pleased to release us. And then the foolishness of the body will be cleared away and we shall be pure and hold converse with other pure souls, and know of ourselves the clear light everywhere; and this is surely the light of truth. For no impure thing is allowed to approach the pure. These are the sort of words, Simmias, which the true lovers of wisdom cannot help saying to one another, and thinking. You will agree with me in that?

Certainly, Socrates.
But if this is true, O my friend, then there is great hope that, going whither I go, I shall there be satisfied with that which has been the chief concern of you and me in our past lives. And now that the hour of departure is appointed to me, this is the hope with which I depart, and not I only, but every man who believes that he has his mind purified.

Certainly, replied Simmias.
And what is purification but the separation of the soul from the body, as I was saying before; the habit of the soul gathering and collecting herself into herself, out of all the courses of the body; the dwelling in her own place alone, as in another life, so also in this, as far as she can; the release of the soul from the chains of the body?

Very true, he said.
And what is that which is termed death, but this very separation and release of the soul from the body?

To be sure, he said.
And the true philosophers, and they only, study and are eager to release the soul. Is not the separation and release of the soul from the body their especial study?

That is true.
And as I was saying at first, there would be a ridiculous contradiction in men studying to live as nearly as they can in a state of death, and yet repining when death comes.

Then, Simmias, as the true philosophers are ever studying death, to them, of all men, death is the least terrible. Look at the matter in this way: how inconsistent of them to have been always enemies of the body, and wanting to have the soul alone, and when this is granted to them, to be trembling and repining; instead of rejoicing at their departing to that place where, when they arrive, they hope to gain that which in life they loved (and this was wisdom), and at the same time to be rid of the company of their enemy. Many a man has been willing to go to the world below in the hope of seeing there an Earthly love, or wife, or son, and conversing with them. And will he who is a true lover of wisdom, and is persuaded in like manner that only in the world below he can worthily enjoy her, still repine at death? Will he not depart with joy? Surely he will, my friend, if he be a true philosopher. For he will have a firm conviction that there only, and nowhere else, he can find wisdom in her purity. And if this be true, he would be very absurd, as I was saying, if he were to fear death.

He would, indeed, replied Simmias.
And when you see a man who is repining at the approach of death, is not his reluctance a sufficient proof that he is not a lover of wisdom, but a lover of the body, and probably at the same time a lover of either money or power, or both?

That is very true, he replied.
There is a virtue, Simmias, which is named courage. Is not that a special attribute of the philosopher?

Again, there is temperance. Is not the calm, and control, and disdain of the passions which even the many call temperance, a quality belonging only to those who despise the body and live in philosophy?

That is not to be denied.
For the courage and temperance of other men, if you will consider them, are really a contradiction.

How is that, Socrates?
Well, he said, you are aware that death is regarded by men in general as a great evil.

That is true, he said.
And do not courageous men endure death because they are afraid of yet greater evils?

That is true.
Then all but the philosophers are courageous only from fear, and because they are afraid; and yet that a man should be courageous from fear, and because he is a coward, is surely a strange thing.

Very true.
And are not the temperate exactly in the same case? They are temperate because they are intemperate-which may seem to be a contradiction, but is nevertheless the sort of thing which happens with this foolish temperance. For there are pleasures which they must have, and are afraid of losing; and therefore they abstain from one class of pleasures because they are overcome by another: and whereas intemperance is defined as "being under the dominion of pleasure," they overcome only because they are overcome by pleasure. And that is what I mean by saying that they are temperate through intemperance.

That appears to be true.
Yet the exchange of one fear or pleasure or pain for another fear or pleasure or pain, which are measured like coins, the greater with the less, is not the exchange of virtue. O my dear Simmias, is there not one true coin for which all things ought to exchange?-and that is wisdom; and only in exchange for this, and in company with this, is anything truly bought or sold, whether courage or temperance or justice. And is not all true virtue the companion of wisdom, no matter what fears or pleasures or other similar goods or evils may or may not attend her? But the virtue which is made up of these goods, when they are severed from wisdom and exchanged with one another, is a shadow of virtue only, nor is there any freedom or health or truth in her; but in the true exchange there is a purging away of all these things, and temperance, and justice, and courage, and wisdom herself are a purgation of them. And I conceive that the founders of the mysteries had a real meaning and were not mere triflers when they intimated in a figure long ago that he who passes unsanctified and uninitiated into the world below will live in a slough, but that he who arrives there after initiation and purification will dwell with the gods. For "many," as they say in the mysteries, "are the thyrsus bearers, but few are the mystics,"-meaning, as I interpret the words, the true philosophers. In the number of whom I have been seeking, according to my ability, to find a place during my whole life; whether I have sought in a right way or not, and whether I have succeeded or not, I shall truly know in a little while, if God will, when I myself arrive in the other world: that is my belief. And now, Simmias and Cebes, I have answered those who charge me with not grieving or repining at parting from you and my masters in this world; and I am right in not repining, for I believe that I shall find other masters and friends who are as good in the world below. But all men cannot believe this, and I shall be glad if my words have any more success with you than with the judges of the Athenians.