Prologue to all the possibles

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book, and summer night
Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,
Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom
The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.
The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.
And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself
Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

The House Was Quiet and The World Was Calm, Wallace Stevens

Georges Lemaître describes a point of origin that challenges our imagination and our reason by raising a barrier that they cannot cross. Our thoughts cannot conceive a preexistence, he writes, since it is space itself which begins and that we cannot conceive anything without space. The generation of space from 'zero time' takes the form of an extremely rapid inflation process. It is with the expansion of space that the principle of locality is born. And so a point of origin becomes a sort of singularity whose whereabouts are linked to the propagation of space itself.


Stars Spring up Out of the Darkness, Artist Concept (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Stars Spring up Out of the Darkness, Artist Concept (NASA/JPL-Caltech)


We know we are on unsteady ground when artists come to the rescue and attempt to represent the unseen. It may be that the first stars sprung up out of the Dark Ages the way the earliest single light in the evening sky, in spring, creates a fresh universe out of nothingness by adding itself. Alfred North Whitehead writes about the four creative stages in which the Universe accomplishes its actuality. Thinking of the very first moments of the Universe, I wonder how his philosophical view could apply. Two points stand out from what I read: the notions of “conceptual origination” and “antecedent universe”.


The question of whether there is an antecedent Universe highlights an old debate over opposing views. If some argue that the Universe is a creation ex-nihilo as if a flash appeared from nothing, others favor diverse scenarios of cyclic Universe models. It seems that those different views are there to ease our puzzlement as to whether time preceded space or was conceived with it.  The mere possibility that the Universe came out from nothingness goes against our natural inclination for “something” and so that “something” may be defined as a primordial vacuum, whose information has made the universe by condensing and igniting

One is seeking something that is impossible to find or about which nothing is known. In such moments all well-meant, sensible advice is completely useless – advice that urges one to try to be responsible, to take a holiday, not to work so hard (or to work harder), to have more (or less) human contact, or to take up a hobby. None of that helps, or at best only rarely. There is only one thing that seems to work; and that is to turn directly toward the approaching darkness without prejudice and totally naïvely, and to try to find out what its secret aim is and what it wants from you… All the contents are blurred and merge into one another, and one never knows exactly what or where anything is, or where one thing begins and ends.

Man and his symbols: The process of individuation, Marie-Louise von Franz


Regardless of whether our fine-tuned universe is among others swimming in the bubbly realm of a multiverse,  it may have started with a single quantum state. The existence of pre-Big Bang quantum fluctuations.that have tunneled into our Universe may explain how “the antecedent universe” entered into the constitution of our own, “so as to constitute the basis of its nascent individuality”.  What was that initial quantum state then? Somehow I linked the notion of “antecedent Universe” with that of  “conceptual origination”. 

If possibles are outside of space but inside of time, res potentia can have existed before the Big Bang, opening new ways to think about the origin of the universe.

Stuart Kauffman, Humanity in a Creative Universe


At the precise beginning of our Universe, the question “what sort of a thing the world is in its ultimate and simplest nature?” pertains to quantum ontology. We struggle with the question of what makes real “what was antecedently merely potential” and whether or not it involved, in its very first mode of origination, some form of consciousness. Philosophy steps in where doubts linger.  


Science answers questions about the physical origination of the Universe with a timeframe of how the rapid cosmic inflation occurs as if we were there to witness every second, every minute of it. A tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang, all the particles in the Standard Model were present, When the Universe expanded and the temperature dropped, the heaviest particle we know about, the top quark and its antiparticle, started to disappear just one picosecond after the Big Bang. During the next minutes, essentially all the particle species except for photons and neutrinos vanished one by one. Only a very tiny fraction of protons, neutrons, and electrons, what makes up all the matter in the Universe today, survived. While science tells and builds on the story of how the “atomization of the extensive continuum” takes place, we are left to wonder what the simplest representational repertoire of our Universe is. Its conceptual origination -- what is merely potential -- is the ultimate unknowable. 

...every time you point out as first cause something as vague as information, the question will not still silence: but what caused it?

Cláudio Nassif Cruz and Fernando Antônio da Silva


What lies in the middle between the idea and its physicality between possibility and reality?  Information appears to be a prerequisite for a conceptual origination to happen. It may take the form of a conceptual Universe that precedes the physical Universe and may even overlap it. It may involve a  process in which information is converted into energy. The collapse of wave-function has captured my mind. I picture quantum fluctuations piloting virtual particles in a nascent and ever-growing quantum field leading to the superposition of both, the virtual and real universes. There is but a single (quantum) world, with its universal wave function.  

... is it real? Is it only in our mind? Does it have a reality only temporary or transitory? Is it, for lack of a better, a provisional representation? Nobody knows, and the theory of universal wave function, contrary to what one might think if we follow the popular presentation of DeWitt, does not clarify much.

Daniel Parrochia


Information as a fundamental of reality appears to be a partial answer since it brushes off the related issue of where the information comes from. Faced with the ontological abyss that is the prospect of nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote about the slippery slope of an “infinite regression” as if we had opened a Pandora’s box from which a neverending series of related questions spill one after the other. Nevertheless, our reason doesn’t satisfy itself with the concept of nothingness. While some have conceived the possibility that we are caught in a virtual or a holographic Universe,  others may speculate that we are moving thoughts inside a cosmic ‘mind’ out of which we've never escaped since the conceptual origination of the Universe. Could our physical death occur when those wavelike thoughts vanish? 



A fool on the hill, drawing on what Alexander wrote, would rather shy away from determinism in any shape or form and imagine a scenario in which information reveals itself by expressing itself and, in so doing, it gives rise to consciousness. As for the poet, she only sees the Universe as a symphony of lights and sounds played on the keyboard of time.

A Journey of Light Through Space and Time (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A Journey of Light Through Space and Time (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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