Chapter 10: Spiritual Possibilities
Full fathom five thy father lies.
Of his bones are coral made.
Those are pearls that were his eyes
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Shakespeare (from 'The Tempest')
So how might we find spirits in our material world, spirits that conform to the ideas of connectivity and architectivity and do not contradict scientific evidence? In this chapter I offer some suggestions. (I must stress that these suggestions do not follow from scientific evidence, only that they do not contradict any.)
We can regard the laws of nature as spirits because they have an essential influence on us and we cannot control them. We may have learned to describe and manipulate them for our convenience but we cannot control or alter the laws themselves. In this sense, for example, the fundamental forces of physics can be regarded as spirits - they affect us and there is nothing we can do to alter their affecting us or the ways in which they do so. We can also, for example, regard the phenomenon of emergence, say of atoms from subatomic particles, as a natural spirit since there is nothing we can do to prevent it happening under the appropriate conditions. In fact, all natural processes that constitute unavoidable parameters of our being are spirits to us in this sense.
Our pantheon of natural spirits is not restricted to fundamentals such as gravity and emergence. We are confined to a planet (or perhaps in the future to a spaceship), to breathe air and search out or produce food and water. All these parameters on our existence are effectively natural spirits to us. Our biological processes, including such diverse processes as endocrine systems, gender expression and DNA replication, are also unavoidable parameters of our being and can be regarded as natural spirits. Much of our social interaction follows unavoidable natural guidelines, such as our family structures, gender roles and our subservience to or dominance of others. Jungian psychology has enumerated an extensive range of 'archetypes' considered to parameterize the unconscious behaviour of all humans, and I see these archetypes as constituting natural spirits to us. (Many religions also offer spirits devoted to particular natural aspects of our lives - like Venus as a spirit of love and femininity - but these often have features contrary to the limitations of connectivity and architectivity.)
Connectivity and architectivity themselves, as fundamental principles of interaction, can also be seen as natural spirits. The architective dominion of our lives is also an unavoidable natural spirit to us. Meaning in general, the fact that the universe makes sense at all and can do so in so many ways, can be seen as a fundamental natural spirit to us.
Connective Systems and Their Holisms
Architective wholeness was described as the emergence from architective interaction of an object that is separately identifiable from its constituent objects and from any external objects it interacts with, having the ability to participate in external interactions as a single object in its own right. Such wholeness is not available to connective phenomena. Now although a connective in its entirety is not such a whole, the motions of any one of its participating objects cannot be fully described without considering the influences of all the other objects participating in the connective, together with the influences that all the other objects have on each other. Furthermore, these influences vary as the objects move or change, whether in response to each other's motion or in response to waves passing through them.
That is, the motion of any one participating object in a connective cannot be completely described without considering an effective influence of the connective in its entirety, including any waves that may be passing through it. To make the distinction with an architective whole, I say that a connective in its entirety comprises a connective system.
A connective participates in external interactions as the collection of the individual external interactions of all its participating objects. But once again, the net effect on an external object cannot be completely understood without recognizing that the individual objects of the connective are all influencing each other and these influences are changing. So the influence of a connective on an external object can also not be fully described without recognizing the connective as a system.
Actually describing a connective system of more than two objects is simply not feasible since one would have to describe the motions of all its participating objects simultaneously and continuously. It's like attempting to shoot a moving target when the slightest motion of one's gun makes the target move. For those who are familiar with them, the n-body problem of physics and Mach's Principle illustrate the impossibility of fully describing a connective system.
I earlier portrayed connectives as being 'discernible' rather than 'identifiable'. In the light of the systemic integrity of every connective, I need to refine that portrait: A connective is discernible in the way that all its participating objects respond, and respond as separate but interacting individuals, to a disturbance.
I also want to make a fine point that will become significant later: I want to distinguish the systemic influence of a connective from the influences of its individual objects. That is, I want to extract the purely systemic influence of the connective to a construct I call its holism. The influence of a connective system can thus be regarded as comprising the interactive influences of its individual objects together with the influence of its holism.
Though a holism influences the objects of its host connective and any external objects they are interacting with (and they in turn influence it), the influence attributable to a holism is not that of an interaction. A holism is not itself an object and so cannot participate in interactions. For convenience I say that a holism apprehends its affected objects.
The influence of a holism on an object it apprehends will always be less than the interactive influences of the object's nearest neighbours in the connective, if not less than the interactive influences of all the other objects in the connective. At least some of the interactive forces of a connective system will be strong in comparison to the apprehension by its holism.
Holisms are not objects, they are not capable of interaction, they can never be fully described, and their apprehensive influence is always obscured by local interactive influences if not by architective constraints: Holisms are essentially hidden.
While an architective whole has hierarchical control over its internal objects and organizes their serial meaning, a holism influences its apprehended objects but does not control them nor organize their serial meaning. Indeed, objects apprehended by a holism also influence the holism, since they contribute to it. But no one apprehended object can control the holism since it is one of many contributors, and being so loosely connected, the apprehended objects cannot conspire sufficiently tightly to control their holism. To control a holism one would have to completely enclose its host connective in an architective container and even then the control would only be partial.
The Cosmic Connective System
It was noted earlier that at very large scales only the connective mode of interaction is evident. The universe at that scale effectively comprises a cosmic connective system thanks to the universal susceptibility of everything to gravity.
That system has tendrils into scales smaller than the purely connective window. Objects such as asteroids, spaceships and interplanetary free-floating molecules, being subject to gravity, also participate in the cosmic connective system. Many of these objects will be involved in non-gravitational connective interactions as well, such as plasmic (electromagnetic) interactions in and around suns, so these electromagnetic interactions contribute to the cosmic connective system too. In fact, any unbound object in any incompletely contained connective is participating in the cosmic connective system, including all the unbound molecules of planetary atmospheres, the unbound plasma particles of suns, all aircraft and birds that are flying (rather than grounded), the rocky planets themselves (as including their grounded aircraft and birds), the dust-motes floating in the air around us, the water molecules and fish in all the oceans, to name but a few.
What may not be participating in that cosmic connective system are all the unbound objects' architectively constrained and contained components, such as the cells and molecules of which the birds and fish are constructed, or the molecules bound in rocks, and any connective systems that these bound architectures enclose completely. These architectively constrained components may participate partially if they respond to limited extents within their bounds of constraint, as for example, trees and grass connectively wave in the wind to the limits of their ranges and my lungs inhale what air they are capable of. Such partial participation still permits an enormous capacity for connective serial meaning as the tree leaves and my lungs may vibrate in their participation. They may also participate fully if sublimated, but then it is not them that are participating but their constituent objects. Waves can sublimate architectures under the right conditions and may connect the architecture's bound components and their contained connectives into the cosmic connective system.
Component objects not participating in the cosmic connective system are enclosed in containing architectures, and since the containing architectures are ultimately spatially limited they, as wholes, are then participating in the cosmic system.
In the figurate window of scale that is our home, the cosmic connective system is accessible to us. My breath, the flow of air in the room and out the open door into the garden with its trees and grass waving in the wind, the flying birds above, the clouds drifting in the sky, the other planets, suns and galaxies, all these interact with each other, directly or indirectly, in the cosmic connective system.
So the cosmic connective system encompasses the entire universe except for those pockets of architecture, some having connective systems inside them, that are constrained from fully participating in it. My body as a whole, as an object in itself, is not fully participating in the cosmic system when I am sitting on a chair and am in figurate contact with the earth. It is the earth-including-me-on-a-chair, as a whole and unbound object, that is participating fully. Alternatively, should I jump up off the chair and interrupt my figurate contact with the earth, then for that brief moment my body is participating fully in the cosmic connective system. However, even when not participating as a whole body, I participate through the connection of my breath, through my connective senses and through my brain's connective responses to my senses. And of course I participate fully through my bodily movements when not in figurate contact with the earth. Oh, how I yearn to fly!
Systemic and Holistic Spirits
A connective system that is a spirit to us I call a systemic spirit. I also distinguish a holistic spirit, the holism of a systemic spirit, to include only the milder influences of the system's holism without the system's interactive forces. (Again, the reason I distinguish between them will become clear later.) The cosmic connective system is a systemic spirit to us and its holism a holistic spirit. I call them the cosmic systemic spirit and the cosmic holistic spirit. These cosmic spirits permeate the entire universe at every scale but their influence is limited inside pockets of architecture.
The atmosphere of our planet is a systemic spirit to me and its holism a holistic spirit. Why? Because the atmosphere influences me, through my connective interactions with the air molecules around me and their interactions with air molecules around them and so on, imaginably extending to all the air in the Earth's atmosphere. There are nuances of its holism as my body is touched by the wind, as the air warms or cools me, in the fragrances reaching my nose, in the sounds reaching my ears, in the filling of my lungs and the pulsing of my breath. But the atmosphere as a system is beyond my control and so is a systemic spirit to me, and its holism a holistic spirit. (This incidentally is a really nice example because the word 'spirit' is derived from the Latin for 'breath'. Many have conceived of the air as a natural spirit, but few (if any) have conceived of our planet's atmosphere as a spirit!)
Similarly our solar system and galaxy are connective systems that influence us (much more remotely of course) and are beyond our control, so we can consider them and their holisms as spirits too. When swimming in a lake or ocean, we could consider the lake or ocean to be systemic spirits, and the fish that inhabit them could also consider them spirits, were they capable of that consideration.
Connective systems (and their holisms) such as of individual galaxies or solar systems, suns, oceans or lakes, are participants in the cosmic connective system and contribute to the cosmic holism. They can be considered visages of the cosmic system, and their holisms as visages of the cosmic holism.
The serial meanings available to systemic and holistic spirits are necessarily purely connective, set as they are in their host connectives. Connective systems and holisms are themselves not able to engage in interaction and specifically cannot engage in architective interaction.
The Gaia hypothesis comes very close to regarding our planet not only as having a holism, but a holism that intentionally acts to provide an environment optimal for the maintenance of life. However, the Gaia hypothesis differs from this concept of a holistic spirit in that it includes architective elements as well.
The relationship between a country's government and its citizens is architective. The offices of government are ranked in a hierarchy with its governed people at the bottom and its head of state at the top. Government offices control and organize its people and not the other way round. That is not to say that government regimes cannot be broken or changed - a democracy offers mechanisms whereby the individuals holding offices can be replaced according to the votes of its people and a regime can be broken by a superior military force or changed from within by sufficiently powerful individuals or groups; but any person exceeding the bounds of government control on their station and not able to muster the necessary power to change the regime could lose their office, be ostracized, imprisoned or even executed.
In the sense that I described spirits as both influencing us and being beyond our control, people can consider their governing offices as spirits. This may seem a little bizarre at first, but consider that social objects obey rather than interact with objects higher in their social hierarchy. Within their hierarchy, social objects only interact with their peers, that is, with objects of the same rank. Higher offices emerge from such interactions, which then control and organize the offices they have emerged from, rather than interacting with them, while lower ranked offices are subservient. This is not to say that people occupying higher offices than one's own should be considered as spirits, only the offices themselves, for we can interact with individual people occupying higher or lower offices and even have empathic relations with them, but our official roles are ones of subservience or authority.
Similar regimes of subservience and authority can be found in business corporations and religious institutions, and we could really consider all institutional offices of a higher rank than our own as spirits. In this way a church leadership can be regarded as a spirit in its own right regardless of the spirits the church's dogma may advocate.
We are not only controlled and organized socially. We are controlled and/or organized by our environment, by our planet, by our houses and buildings, by the architecture of our bodies, by our languages and by our technologies. All these have hierarchical levels of control and serial meaning to which we are subservient.
In fact, all architective wholes, physical or social, can be considered spirits by their internal objects (assuming they are capable of such consideration) because the wholes control and organize their internal objects while their internal objects neither control nor organize them. In this role I refer to architective wholes as hierarchical spirits. A human body could be considered a hierarchical spirit by that body's gut bacteria, for example, should the bacteria be capable of such consideration. Looking down the tree of a hierarchy, those who consider an architective whole to be a hierarchical spirit, I call the spirit's venerators.
What we are seeing here is a possible ranking of hierarchical spirits: Architective wholes that we regard as hierarchical spirits may themselves have architective wholes ranked above them which they regard as hierarchical spirits and which regard them as venerators. That is, objects at any level in an architective hierarchy might regard higher ranked objects as hierarchical spirits, regard peer objects as mundane and regard lower level objects as venerators (if they are so capable).
Architective wholes can only be considered hierarchical spirits by their internal venerators. Any interaction they may participate in, whether with a peer inside their hierarchy or with an external object, is mutual and devoid of any element of hierarchical control. A business corporation, a church or a government is a hierarchical spirit to an employee of that corporation, a member of that church or an inhabitant of that country, but not to anyone who is outside their hierarchy.
Since architective wholes can only be considered hierarchical spirits by their internal objects, all possible serial meaning in their role as hierarchical spirits is internal to their hierarchy and is architective, while any serial meaning outside their hierarchy would be mundane.
The organization of serial meaning in an architecture becomes particularly interesting when the architecture is a step in a processional narrative, that is, when one or more of its narratives continues even though the architecture has metamorphosed into or parented another. Such continuing narratives organize the architective serial meaning and narratives in all their processing architectures, including any hierarchical or natural spirits.
A processional narrative can be regarded as a spirit by the inhabitants of its processing architectures (so capable) since it organizes their narratives and they neither organize it nor control it, so to them it is a processional spirit and they are its venerators.
The continuing habits and traditions we inherit from our ancestors and pass on to our children are examples of processional spirits.
Like a holistic spirit, a processional spirit is not an object and so is not capable of interaction. It is an ongoing narrative of architective serial meaning that organizes the architective serial meaning of its venerators. It is only a spirit to the inhabitants of its processing architectures and has no venerators outside its processing architectures.
A processional spirit would organize the architective serial meaning at every level in every one of its processing architectures. Here we have the possibility for all the architective phenomena participating in any one processional narrative to be organized by an overarching spirit even though the processing architective phenomena are not aggregated into a single architecture. Thinking globally, an overarching planetary processional spirit could be organizing the architective serial meaning of an entire planet and everything on it - including every hierarchical spirit on it - without losing the diversity of architective structure on that planet. Indeed, in the case of our own planet, every architective narrative, including our own personal narratives, those of our institutions, corporations, nations and religions, could be organized by such an overarching planetary processional spirit.
Since the physical sizes of architectures and their scopes of control are spatially limited, the organizational capacity of a processional spirit could not extend much beyond the planetary scale.
Unlike a hierarchical spirit, a processional spirit is incapable of engaging in interaction in its own right, so it can have no serial meaning outside of its processing architectures. All its serial meaning is internal to its processing architectures and is architective.
Many of our natural spirits display mixtures of connective and architective serial meaning, but all the other spirits mentioned above - in their roles as spirits - employ only one mode of serial meaning. The serial meaning of systemic and holistic spirits would be purely connective, for they are not able to engage in interaction in their own right (and specifically not in architective interaction), while the internal serial meaning of all hierarchical and processional spirits (which is the context in which they can be regarded as spirits) would be purely architective.
I refer to spirits capable of only one mode of serial meaning as unimodal spirits. Those whose serial meaning is purely connective I call connective spirits and those whose serial meaning is purely architective I call architective spirits.
Since architectures are spatially limited, every architective spirit, whether hierarchical or processional, physical or social, is limited to its spatial locality in the cosmos. As architective wholes, hierarchical spirits at the limit of their spatial capacity may yet be capable of connective interaction but not architective interaction. They are isolated from all architective interaction, including with hierarchical spirits in other cosmic localities. Processional spirits are not capable of any interaction at all and are isolated from all external spirits regardless of their cosmic localities.
The events by which the architective spirits in each cosmic locality emerged will likely have been different (assuming the possibility of architective spirits and their venerators in other cosmic localities). Together, a plethora of different architective spirits might pepper the cosmos in a manifold of limited occurrences, with each cosmic occurrence architectively isolated from every other. The cosmic systemic and holistic spirits, on the other hand, are spatially universal and universally scalable, and can be manifest everywhere.
The apprehensive influences of holistic spirits are always weaker than the interactive influences of some systemic spirits; they are weaker than those of natural spirits, whether connective or architective, and are extremely weak in comparison to the controlling and organizational influences of hierarchical and processional spirits. The effects of holistic spirits would generally only ever be discernible in the absence of competing influences. Practices such as meditation specifically aim to provide an environment free of interactive and organizational intrusion, where the extreme subtleties of holistic influences may be more easily recognized.
Since the cosmic holistic spirit is manifest everywhere and its influence supremely weak, it is background to absolutely everything. There is nothing which it might foreground. From a connective point of view the universe does not have an absolute emptiness as its ultimate background - it has the cosmic holism as its ultimate background. Besides, emptiness can only be construed in an architective sense.
Our appreciation of any spiritual influence would also be dependent on our mode of consciousness. Our default mode of consciousness is architective thanks to the architective dominion, so our capacity to consciously appreciate the apprehensive influences of holistic spirits would be enfeebled not only by their relative weakness but by our own predilection for an architective mode of consciousness.
When discerned, our participation in the cosmic connective system permits us to share in a sense of infinity that architectivity cannot offer. Our participation in architective activity is always a contained experience due to the ultimate spatial limitation of every architecture.
Pure connectivity offers an arena from which all contest is absent and where bodily extinction is irrelevant. It also offers a sense of infinity and universality. In death our architecture is destroyed, but a connective interaction continues, as does the cosmic system and its holism, if only through the free molecules that constituted our erstwhile bodies. Many religious myths converge on a state of connective purity.