papo   The third hypothesis
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"Entities must not be multiplied any more than necessary."
(William of Ockham)

If we can manage to accept that our deepest "io" is a unique entity shared by all those beings that manifest living behaviour, we can then realize just how decisively our vision of the world is simplified. All that we assume is existing is only one experiencing "io", and a potentially infinite set of conditions of experience, represented by the infinite number of lives that could be lived and the infinite external conditions that could influence that. This contrast between an "io" and the "set of infinite experiences" could be interpreted as a dualism that might annoy the purists. In order to reach a monistic vision we would have to pass over the contradiction between us and the external physical reality, which plays its role as a common basis of support that allows us to interact. In order to do this, we need to be willing to conceive of even that reality as a particular state of our own shared "io", although it can by no means be taken for granted that this particular state can be associated with a type of "awareness" similar to that of our own lives. In this way, however, we can conclude that the dualism is only apparent, in the sense that it is inevitably reduced to an interaction between different aspects of the only existing "io".

Nevertheless, the distinction between these two interpretations has no consequences on practical grounds. If two alternative solutions to one single problem both "work" in the very same way, in the sense that they both have the same "practical efficiency", this might be a sign that we are trying to apply to a problem a characterization that it simply does not have. Sometimes it might be possible to make a distinction between them, and then one solution will prevail. But if a problem gives us no chance, in the terms in which it is put, of distinguishing between two different solutions, then there is no sense in discussing which interpretation is the more correct: rather we should recognize that the problem is not open to discussion in that specific aspect, and we would save both time and energy if we simply decided to consider it an "unproposable problem". This consideration is also useful when we are facing the "sequence" of our lives. If we think that, expressing our question in terms usually used in speaking about reincarnation, our "common soul" is reincarnated in each of our lives, then the question inevitably comes up: which life will be chosen for me to live after this one? My son’s? My brother’s? A stranger’s life from another epoch or even another world, whose being represents the "ideal prize" for my behaviour during my present life? On a purely speculative plane, I have imagined that a possible sequence could be generated following these two rules: the consecutive life of every mother is her first son or daughter; the consecutive life of every man or woman without children is the brother or sister who comes immediately after him or her, or, in cases where they have none, the first existing younger brother going back up the mother’s family tree.

In fact, the problem of "sequence" foresees all those solutions that we can imagine, but there is no hope of resolving it in a reasonable way, which is a good thing, because otherwise the foolish might start discriminating against lives that have already been lived, in favour of those which "still have to be lived". Yet, one of the basic points of the third hypothesis is that the "io" that experiences life is not associated with any kind of intrinsic information: it is only the subject of the experience of life, and all other characteristics pertaining to it derive from the contingent conditions which it experiences: any given information is to be found only in the physical world. Even if we interpret the physical world itself as a particular state of the existence of our unique "io" we can reformulate these same conditions in this way: the flow of information is to be found exclusively in the state of the "io", which corresponds to the physical world, and this flux is subject to the particular conditions that characterize it: the impassable limit of the speed of light, quantistic indetermination, the second principle of thermodynamics, to mention just a few of those that certainly influence this type of "information". In any case, whatever hypothetical pathway might be followed by the "io" between one life and another, this could not modify the flux of information which flows in the physical world: in other words, information about that pathway cannot be registered in any way at all and so the problem is not open to a solution. This should lead us to the conclusion that the problem of the sequence of our lives has no meaning, despite all our curiosity: it is another example of a an "unproposable problem".

Speaking in terms of "the sequence of lives", it might seem that, living a life that interacts with the one that precedes it, I should be forced to behave in the second life in a way that conforms with what I have already experienced in my first life. However, even if the choices I make during my second life can influence what I experienced in my first life and the choices I make after undergoing that influence, it would still be impossible to communicate to my second life any information originating in the "future" of the first life. It is our concept of "successive lives" that deceives us. If we imagine a novelist who writes a "complete story of all the relations between living beings, from the birth of the first to the death of the last", we have no difficulty in conceiving that he could express his "free will" in every given dialogue between two or more characters. The fact that this creativity is expressed in divided terms of "the experiences of successive lives" just goes to hide the fact that in all cases he is responsible for every single choice made by the characters of his story. For each of these choices there is one single deciding event. And the consequences of every decision are propelled only "ahead" in the time that is common to all.

As an alternative to "sequence" we could adopt a conception of "atemporal simultaneity", which might appear a little less problematic on condition that we do not believe that in some way I could "avoid" experiencing lives that I consider in competition with my own. I consider the choice of this definition a question of personal taste, but the core of the matter does not change: in any case, in the model that I propose, each life is completely isolated from the so-called "preceding lives" just as from the "subsequent lives": all the information that we have is what comes to us from the external world in the state in which we experience it, which cannot be influenced during the "passage" from one life to another and which cannot "follow" us in any way. To be even clearer, we could take a cosmological example: some models of the universe foresee that many different universes might exist at the same time closed up in "inflated bubbles" that cannot exchange information with each other. Other models hypothesize that our universe will finish in a "big crunch" that is symmetrical to the "big bang" with which it all began, and that it might then regenerate itself in infinite successive cycles by way of infinite bounces back, called "big bounces", in which the universe of every cycle could not conserve any trace of the preceding cycle. Some people have gone so far as to imagine that we could be part of a world that is being simulated in computers that exist on a level that is superior to our own. Seeing that each of these models foresee an isolation of information, we will never be able to find any difference between a universe that might have existed "before" our own and one that could exist "after" it, "beside" it, "far away" from it or even "above" it. They are all equally "unreachable"; and in this case "unreachable" does not depend on technical obstacles but rather on absolute limits, and so we cannot even conceive of a distinction between universes that might be "less unreachable" and others that are "more unreachable".

In this way, we do not have to try and force ourselves to imagine the set of all possible life experiences that we can have as a set that can be put into any kind of order following whatever criteria. The only limitation that we should adopt is in our refusal of any kind of solipsism: this means that the consistency of reality is defined as the correspondence of the experiences undergone during each life that has interaction with others. In other words, from the chaotic set of "all possible lives", in which no experience is precluded, it is possible to extract from time to time, and for every universe that permits life, a subset of lives being carried out there, which are interactive, and which must be experienced as an "undivided group". This guarantees that every good or bad action that I commit corresponds exactly to a good or bad action that will be done to me.

The fact that we have to experience each single life that we meet implies that the destiny of our present life cannot depend exclusively on our behaviour during our "last life", and that, therefore, there is no such thing as an individual karma that each of us has to bear like a weight. It seems to me that many people find it difficult to give up this idea because we would like our merits to be recognized, even if that means that we will have to redress our faults. However, looking at it more closely, we realize that our present conditions of life depend on all the work carried out by those who have lived before us, just as our own work will influence the lives of all those who will be born after us: and so, even if there is no such thing as an individual karma, we can still understand how the physical world in itself – which connects all the actions of our lives – ideally represents our common "shared karma", which our own shared "io" continues to change for the better or for the worse while it experiences each of out single lives.

Continued on the next page: "Technical compatibility".

 

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