Wednesday, 4 January 2017

"Upstairs" II

"It was as though while people were still living they were really frozen motionless, immersed in the congealed blancmange of time, and simply thought that they were moving, when in truth it was just their awareness fluttering along the pre-existing tunnel of their lifetime as a ball of coloured light. Apparently, only when people died, as Michael seemed to have just done, were they released from the containing amber and allowed to rise up spluttering and splashing through the aspic of the hours."
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 363.

For a brief note on Poul Anderson's treatment of four-dimensional human bodies, see World Lines. Let us analyze Alan Moore's account. A human being comprises a lifetime and an awareness. The lifetime is four dimensional. In addition to the three visible dimensions, it extends along what is usually thought of as the temporal dimension where it forms a tunnel along which the awareness, a ball of colored light, flutters. The awareness perceives the three-dimensional cross-sections of the lifetime successively and thus has the illusion of bodily motion in three dimensions. On this view, the awareness must be considered as a three-dimensional ball or sphere? Whereas the lifetime extends in all four dimensions, the ball extends in three and moves along the fourth. This motion, like all motion, must take time.

To occupy points A and B and all intervening points simultaneously is to extend from A to B whereas to occupy these points successively is to move from A to B. The difference between extension and motion is that the latter takes time. If motion became so fast that zero time elapsed between the occupation of A and the occupation of B, then motion would have become extension and thus would have ceased to be motion.

Thus, in Jerusalem, there are four spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension. There is motion not of bodies in three spatial dimensions but of awarenesses along the fourth spatial dimension and this motion, I argue, entails a fifth, temporal, dimension.

Michael's awareness has left his body and now observes the four-dimensional entities that are his child's body carried by his mother's larger adult body. However, he perceives his body not as an empty tunnel that his awareness has passed through but as still occupied by the "...inner glow..." (p. 364) of his awareness until the point at which he had died. At that point, the brilliance leaks out and rises. After that point, the body is "...empty..." However, the "...yellow traces straggling upwards..." are described not as his awareness rising but as the traces that it had left behind.

Michael converses with a dead girl who explains that dead people look  "' we best think of ayrselves.'" (p. 367) How do disembodied consciousnesses appear to be embodied? If they did not, then they would be unable to communicate or even to detect each others' existence. Nevertheless, there remains a question as to the mode of their appearance.

Addendum: After death, Michael sees and thinks. In their apparent bodies, Michael and the girl talk and move about. All of these activities take time yet this is clearly a different temporal dimension from the one that they view as extended and static. Is there another perspective from which the apparent bodies would be seen as extended and static by observers in a third temporal dimension?

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