Wednesday, 11 November 2009
Creation by subtraction
Imagine a slide projector with no slide in the carrier shining its light onto a blank white screen. You would see on the screen pure white light. Then you put a slide into the carrier, and a picture appears. What you have done by shining the light through the slide is filter out most of the light. White light coming from the bulb contains every visible colour, but where the slide is blue, all the light is filtered out except the blue bits, where it is red, everything is excluded except the red light, and so forth. So a picture is created not by adding light but by taking light away. The pure white light when there is no slide in the projector shows no picture; but in another sense, it shows every possible picture: the light required to make any conceivable photograph is there in that pure white light. As Bernard Haisch says, in The God Theory,
"the white light is thus the source of infinite possibility, and you create the desired image by intelligent subtraction, causing the real to emerge from the possible. By limiting the infinitely possible, you create the finitely real."
This is, says Bernard Haisch, a metaphor for creation. At any given point of finite reality, infinite possibility has limited itself. The same infinite possibility is there in every finite thing, in the same way that the same projected light is there in every individual picture on the slide screen.
I find this idea quite exciting, not least because it connects with the narrative perspective that has been obsessing me for a couple of decades now. Months ago I talked of the role of polarity in stories, and of how the story is created in the tension between two related but irreconcileable binary opposites. Haisch echoes my conviction that polarity is one of the fundamental parameters of existence.
"The process of intelligent subtraction can also be interpreted as the creation of polarity. By polarity I mean simply a dualistic this versus that relationship.... in the optical example above, the light filtering process effectively creates a polarity: white and not white, red and not red... out of a pervasive formless white light of the projector, a whole, perceptible reality based on polarity thus emerges."
Haisch is a quantum physicist and the cosmology he has arrived at in his old age is not specifically Christian, but I cannot read his ideas without thinking of the great prolegomena to the Gospel of John, and to the first chapter of Genesis. The one, undivided, formless God has given rise to a creation, every part of which is a manifestation of God's infinite love and wisdom, and therefore every part of which is one, but every part of which can only be consciously experienced because it is perceived as an opposition to some other part of creation. Paradox is thus fundamental to our existence. Our lives are the meeting points of the tensions between a thousand, thousand polarities. To develop our consciousness means growing in our ability, not to resolve paradoxes, but to accept them and live with them.