Sunday, 29 January 2017

The Wisdom Of Henry George

"...Henry reckons Mister Lincoln only wants to get them slaves out of the cotton fields down south so that they can be put to work in mills and factories up north."
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 902.

Sure but the Civil War, changing slaves into free workers, is a social revolution, nevertheless. The next revolution will be workers' control.

"If he dies and someone else gets born next week who's a completely different person what has got no memory of ever being him, in what way is that Henry George?" (p. 915)

Right on.

"...what he wants the most is his whole life again..." (p. 916)

I don't. In the unlikely event that there is a hereafter, I hope that it will be an opportunity for continued learning and growth.

Comics In Prose Fiction

Some characters in novels must read comics. Stieg Larsson tells us how the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo got her nickname, "Wasp," but David Lagercrantz tells us instead that she named herself after the Marvel Comics Wasp.

In Alan Moore's Jerusalem, a boy growing up in Northampton in the 1960s reads about:

Iron Man battling Kala, the Queen of the Underworld;
Spiderman fighting the Vulture;
Superman and Batman meeting when young;
the Skrulls;
the Human Torch;
Starro the Conqueror;
the Baxter Building;
Avengers Mansion;
the Fortress of Solitude.

He reads Strange Tales, Fantasy Masterpieces, Fantastic Four and Thor with "Tales of Asgard" by Jack Kirby.

I remember the Skulls, Starro and the regular Superman-Batman team-up in World's Finest Comics.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Illusion Of Free Will

Alma Warren in Jerusalem (London, 2016), like Alan Moore in Voice Of The Fire, reads New Scientist. Of Alma, we read that:

"She's convinced that no-one really needs free will as long as there is a sustainable illusion of the same to stop everyone going mad." (p. 782)

James Blish's character, Dana Lje, had already addressed the issue:

"'...there are never motives behind actions. All actions are fixed. What we call motives evidently are rationalizations by the helpless observing consciousness, which is intelligent enough to smell an event coming - and, since it cannot alter the event, instead cooks up reasons for wanting it to happen...'"
-James Blish, The Quincunx Of Time (New York, 1983), p. 76.

When Dana received messages from the future informing her that she was going to practice an elaborate deception in order to join the Earth intelligence bureau and marry its director, she listed the advantages to herself of this course of action and those advantages became her motives. Thus, she consciously experienced the rationalization that usually occurs unconsciously.

Streets And Cities II

I forgot to mention here that the first of these fictional walkers around Northampton was the author himself in the concluding chapter of the previous novel, Voice Of The Fire. Moore's narratives impart information about urban geography and history which was sadly lacking in my attempt at a fictional urban walk. See here. I have suggested here how this literary technique might be applied to an sf or superhero series.

Does it make sense when some characters enter a hereafter that comprises an unfolding of their familiar urban environment into higher dimensions? It would if the hereafter were our mental projection but why should it be? People arriving in a new continent or on a new planet find the unexpected.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Streets And Cities

In Alan Moore's Jerusalem (London, 2016), named after one city and set in another for sound symbolical reasons, the characters spend a lot of time walking through city streets, thinking. I tried, and failed, to write like this about Lancaster. See here and image.

Works of fiction can present fictional walks around real cities or fictional cities. There are a lot of both kinds of cities in these blogs:

Great Cities
the fabulous city of Ys
James Blish's flying cities
Isaac Asimov's planet-wide city of Trantor
Archopolis
Chicago Integrate
San Francisco Integrate
Metropolis

The United States of Earth DC is a patchwork of cities that do not exist on Earth Real. It is after midnight in Lancaster and I still aim to watch a Smallville dvd. 

Batman

"...an old black-and-white Batman and Robin where the couple drove around in a completely ordinary 1940s car and Robin pushed his cardboard mask up on his forehead while conversing with his costumed pal in public."
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 808.

Here, Alan Moore writes a novel in which a character reminisces about a Batman cinema serial. Moore has also written the Batman for DC Comics, most notably in The Killing Joke. I disagree with the author about this work. See here.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Reality

In Alan Moore's Jerusalem (London, 2016), pp. 805-806, Alma Warren:

walks through Northampton;

thinks about people, issues and memories;

supposes that all the other pedestrians are similarly preoccupied;

reflects that reality is all these "...illusions, memories, anxieties, ideas and speculations, constant in six billion minds." (pp. 805-806)

If, by "reality," we mean everything that exists, then reality is much more than the contents of six billion minds on one planet. If we mean the world as experienced by humanity in general, then she is closer to being correct. However, the world is bigger than our ideas of it. If A and B converse about the world, then three factors are involved:

A's world-view;
B's world-view;
the world.

The third factor is bigger than either or both of the first two and is full of surprises. For example, I would have denied that there could ever be a Jeremy Corbyn movement inside the British Labour Party. And, while the Corbynites must be encouraged to organize and campaign, I think that it remains a dangerous illusion to believe that the Labour Party itself can ever be or become the instrument of social transformation. Indeed, Corbyn is compromised and held back by the Parliamentary Labour Party which has tried to remove him despite his overwhelming endorsement by the membership.

Having identified reality with the contents of six billion minds, i.e., with the sum total of all our world-views, Alma goes on to reflect that:

"The actual events and circumstances of the world are just the sweaty and material tip of this immense and ghostly iceberg..." (p. 806)

However, I believe that material and economic conditions and circumstances determine world-views, not vice versa. Accumulation of a surplus led to class divisions which led to kingship which led to the idea of the divine right of kings. The abstract idea did not precede the social relationship although it was possible for generations of humanity to believe that the idea had come first. The idea was thought to have existed first in the mind of God or in the minds of the founders of civilizations...

Alma reflects that:

"...no individual being can conceivably experience...the entirety..." of reality (p. 806)

- and therefore wonders:

"...just whom or what is reality real to." (p. 806)

But she has answered her question. No individual being can experience all of reality. Reality can be real without being, in its entirety, experientially, real to anyone. I argued with a guy who kept trying to say that, if an event was not experienced, then it did not happen, to which I replied "non sequitor." There must have been events before the first conscious being began to exist, as a result of which that being began to exist.

"This World And Nearer Ones"

The title of this post is a phrase used by Brian Aldiss. See here. I think that the phrase is particularly appropriate to some alternative reality fiction - starting with the fact that every work of fiction is set in an alternative reality. See here.

In Alan Moore's Jerusalem (London, 2016), Alma Warren reads Herbie. See image. She refers to "...the once-important Comics Code Authority..." (p. 785) but does not mention that the Authority was overthrown when an issue of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing was published without the Authority's approval.

Alma illustrated the cover of an Elric book by Michael Moorcock although this cannot be exactly the same Michael Moorcock who is quoted on the back of Jerusalem. She is friendly with fellow artist Melinda Gebbie although Alma's version of Melinda Gebbie cannot be married to the author of Jerusalem.

Alma shops in Martin's Newsagent - see image - where she converses with Tony and Shirley Martin. I expect that, like Michael Moorcock and Melinda Gebbie, the Martins also exist in (at least) two worlds.

Alma has seen Tony Blair and thinks about both David Keogh and Leo O'Connor. See here. It's a strange world - or two or three.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

'tHooft

In Alan Moore's Jerusalem (London, 2016), Alma Warren reads 'tHooft. Alma asks: why do different laws apply to subatomic particles than to stars and planets?

Why not? Hegel argued that quantity affects quality. It would be more surprising if nuclei and electrons were exactly like stars and planets. Maybe several micro-states correspond to a single maxi-state?

Alma thinks that:

"...if there's no quantum indeterminacy, then there's no free will." (p. 782)

But there is no free will in any case. Freedom is absence of constraint, not randomness. People are most predictable when acting freely. A pacifist saint will not kick a dog that bites him whereas an aggressive drunk will.

Alma wonders why populations, like masses, are predictable whereas individuals, like particles, are not. Asimov makes the same comparison in his Foundation series. James Blish demonstrates determinism in The Quincunx Of Time as Alan Moore does in Watchmen.

Falling One By One

"'What was it Mephistopheles said? "Why, this is Hell, nor am I out of it." The totems are falling all around us as we sit here. One by one, Rosenbaum; one by one.'"
-James Blish, "A Dusk of Idols" IN Blish, Anywhen (New York, 1970) , pp. 105-135 AT p. 135.

"Ideas of self, ideas of world and family and nation, articles of scientific or religious faith, your creeds and currencies: one by one, the beloved structures falling.

"Whooomff.

"Whooomff.

"Whooomff."
-Alan Moore, "Clouds Unfold" IN Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), pp. 757-775 AT p. 775.

Blish ends a short story by telling us that our totems are falling. Moore ends a chapter by telling us what those totems are: ideas, faiths, creeds and currencies. Moore also provides sound effects.

An uncanny textual parallelism.

Consciousness

St Michael comments:

"I keep up with the continuing argument over 'Intelligent Design', although if one subscribes to late twentieth-century ideas of consciousness as an emergent property, the disagreement vanishes. If self-awareness can emerge from systems that have passed a certain threshold of complexity, then is not the expanding universe of space and time, by definition, the most complex system that can possibly exist?"
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 769.

Hold on there, Michael. I think that an individual human brain is more complex than the cosmos considered as a system of galaxies? Also, that the universe was simple before it became complex? Thus, it was not originally complex/intelligent enough to design itself.

Why should awareness arise from mere complexity? An analog computer, however complex, merely applies rules to symbols without exercising any awareness/consciousness/knowledge/understanding of the meanings of the symbols. Thus, the computer simulates but does not duplicate intelligence. An artifact that did duplicate intelligence would be not an analog computer but an artificial brain.

Empirically, only brains generate consciousness and brains exist only in organisms. Naturally selected organismic sensitivity to environmental alterations quantitatively increased until it was qualitatively transformed into conscious sensation. From this I deduce that organism-environment interaction, not mere complexity, is necessary for consciousness - also that that interaction cannot have been designed.

Miracles And Me

In Alan Moore's Miracleman, the Qys inhabit vast structures from which they can look down through apertures at wardrobes of alternative bodies held in stasis in underspace.

In Moore's Jerusalem, builders and souls inhabit a vast structure from which they can look down through apertures at the static world lines of the three dimensional mortal realm.

I think that there is some parallelism between these two scenarios.

I would like to read a prose novel by Alan Moore in which Michael Moran/Marvelman/Miracleman flies down to converse with other characters. Moore certainly transformed MM into a character substantial enough for treatment in a purely verbal medium.

"Now. Here. Me."
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), "CLOUDS UNFOLD," pp. 757-775 AT p. 757.

As Kant observed, every self-conscious being thinks:

"I see -,
"I think -,
"I know -,
"I am -."

Fill in the blanks.

The transcendental self is common whereas the empirical self, when the blanks have been filled in, is not. However, the transcendental self is a temporally enduring subject of consciousness spatially separated from temporally enduring objects of consciousness, including other subjects. That much at least is common.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Destructive And World-Changing Events

History has turning points like the agricultural revolution and the World Wars. Such world-changing events are reflected in mythology, e.g., by the Flood, the Ragnarok and Armageddon, and also in modern works of fantasy:

in DC Comics, the Crisis on Infinite Earths destroyed the multiverse where characters who were fictional on one Earth had been real on another;

in Black Easter and The Day After Judgment by James Blish, the demons win Armageddon, thus changing the theological regime;

in Jerusalem by Alan Moore, a chimney called the Destructor symbolizes the destruction of dreams and hopes and affects the way that people think so that their ghosts and memories smoulder and Heaven itself burns.

Events on these fantastic realms affect the everyday world:

"'If Mansoul itself wiz on fire up in this new century, then wiz it any wonder you've got living people doing stupid bloody things like that?'"
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 727.

The speaker nods towards a suicide bomber eternally exploding in the hereafter.

Upstairs

Upstairs is a place from which it is possible to look down on cross-sections of world lines in the mortal realm. It follows from this that the world lines of bodies Upstairs are at right angles to the world lines of bodies in the mortal realm.

However, is Upstairs also a place that changes along the same temporal dimension as the mortal realm so that it, Upstairs, is in a different state in the early twenty first century than it was in the late twentieth century? This latter proposition would entail that world lines Upstairs are parallel to those in the mortal realm.

It is also possible that, since I am blogging while reading, I am getting it all wrong. However, in that case, my errors will be way stations along the road towards completer comprehension.

Two Scenarios

Neither of these scenarios corresponds exactly to what is presented in Alan Moore's Jerusalem (London, 2016). However, I clarify simplified scenarios in order to approach an understanding of greater complexities.

(i) Two people, A and B, time travel. They meet in 2025, then, shortly afterwards from A's point of view, they meet in 2006. The meeting in 2006 is not necessarily shortly after the meeting in 2025 from B's point of view. It might be some time before or a long time after. While in, e.g., 2025, the time travelers live through that time in the same way as anyone else. Also, either A or B can meet his older, then younger, self while time traveling.

(ii) A and B do not time travel but move around in their three (or more) spatial dimensions like anyone else. However, our temporal dimension is one of their spatial dimensions. Some other dimension, possibly one of our spatial dimensions, is their temporal dimension. They meet in 2025, then, from both their points of view, meet again in 2006. While in, e.g., 2025, they see not a man walking along a street but the man's world line extending along the street's world line. They cannot meet themselves.

I clarify these scenarios because I wonder whether aspects of both are present in the text.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Completing Causal Circles II

See here.

The same logic, i.e., consistency between propositions, is applicable to any narrative whether or not the narrative involves time travel. Thus, if we know that E occurred and if we also know that E could have occurred only if deliberately caused by Bill, then we validly deduce that Bill deliberately caused E. If we ask, "What would have happened if Bill had decided not to cause E?," then the answer is that E would not have occurred.

If E occurred and if we think that it could only have been caused by Bill but are reliably informed that Bill did not cause it, then we can only conclude that we were mistaken to think that only Bill could have caused E. The only impossibility here is the following sequence:

E occurred;
only Bill could have caused E;
Bill did not cause E.

None of this is changed by the additional datum that Bill time traveled from after E to before E in order to cause E.

Two Perspectives

SPOILERS etc. I am discussing details in Alan Moore's Jerusalem (London, 2016) on the assumption that blog readers either have read the book or don't mind being told details.

It has been said that there is a lot of violence against women in Moore's works. There is more in Jerusalem. It is all perfectly valid. There is a lot of violence against women in life which fiction, however fantastic, reflects.

Here, a violent rape is perceived from two perspectives hundreds of pages apart. In the mortal realm, a policeman tells a published poet that a prostitute has been attacked. In the immortal realm, ghosts witness the rape and can see that a demon is driving the car. The novel seems to have rambled but is pulling itself back on course towards a major event in both realms.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Completing Causal Circles

This post on the circular causality paradox has been occasioned by reading Alan Moore's Jerusalem (London, 2016), BOOK TWO: MANSOUL, Forbidden Worlds, pp. 675-714, but the example has been simplified for discussion purposes.

Assume a single, continuous, immutable timeline:

at time t3, Bill learns of event E that had occurred at t2;

Bill time travels to t1;

between t1 and t2, Bill realizes that E will occur only if he deliberately causes it;

so what happens if Bill decides not to cause E?

The answer is that, if Bill were the kind of person who, in those circumstances, would decide not to cause E, then E would not have occurred and Bill would not, between t1 and t2, be deciding whether to cause it. There is a relevant event in Audrey Niffeneger's The Time Traveler's Wife. Knowing that a picture has been seen undated in the future, the artist decides to date it...but later trims the date off. But I think that I first encountered this aspect of circular causality in a short story by Brian Aldiss.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Eternal Questions

"...this had all occurred a billion times before."
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 678.

In "Eternalism," does each event occur just once but timelessly or many times, thus recurrently? Are we static or repetitive? If the latter, have there been a billion or beginningless repetitions?

In Jerusalem, time traveling ghosts can relive bodily experiences or remain disembodied. Thus, they can live again a billion times.

The Dead Dead Gang is given a task to perform, does not know how to perform it but does know that it will be performed. This is possible given the dual premises of time travel and an immutable timeline.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Hereafters

Again I wonder about the value of detailed fictional accounts of a hereafter. Or are they fictional? We might differentiate four kinds of accounts:

(i) ghost stories or other fictional works in which survival is a mere fantasy premise;

(ii) works in which, although the author does believe that there is a hereafter, he does not claim to know any of the details and therefore must invent such details for fictional or allegorical purposes, e.g., CS Lewis' The Great Divorce and The Last Battle;

(iii) works of fiction set within what the author believes is the real hereafter, e.g., Richard Matheson's What Dreams May Come; Arthur Conan Doyle's The Land Of Mist; some passages in Aldous Huxley's Time Must Have A Stop;

(iv) works that simply describe the alleged hereafter, e.g., the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

In which category is Dante's Comedy? Alan Moore's Jerusalem is somewhere between (ii) and (iii), I think.

Some Ovid

("Ovid banished from Rome" by Turner.)

I was puzzled by an Ovid quote in Alan Moore's Jerusalem (London, 2016):

"Neve Liturarum pudeat: qui viderit illas. De Lachrymis factas sentiat esse meis." (p. 633)

After struggling with a dictionary, I googled. See here, lines 13-14. This fits the context. It is as if we have been transported to a literary hereafter where all the texts and their meanings are preserved forever.

Neil Gaiman's Library of Dreams contains all the books that have never been written, maybe including the adventures of Alan Moore's Dead Dead Gang? - although those adventures do exist as a fiction within the fiction. The Gang are surprised to be told:

"'Tetsy and I count ourselves amongst your most ardent admirers, and now here we are, right in the middle of your "Choking Child" chapter, saying all the parts of dialogue that we've already pored over a dozen times.'" (p. 624)

This is something that I imagined in childhood: reading a narrative in which I was a character, then looking up to see that the events described in the narrative were happening.

Meanwhile, the Library of Dreams must have a small annex for all the works that did get written?

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Temporal Scenery

HG Wells' Time Traveler sees his environment accelerated forward or backwards. Some time travelers see nothing. A philosophical article on "Doctor Who And The Philosophers" argued that, if a time machine travels from London, 2000 AD, to Manchester, 1900 AD, then the visible, tangible vehicle should be seen moving slowly south throughout the twentieth century.

Alan Moore's Dead Dead Gang in Jerusalem (London, 2016) walk along a bridge from which they see that:

"...several different eras were all happening at once.'" (p. 618)

Structures crumble, vanish and reappear and historical periods are superimposed.

"...the sky was marbled with the light and weather of a thousand years..." (p. 619)

Quite a thing.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Salamanders

In Jerusalem (London, 2016), Alan Moore describes the Great Fire of Northampton, 1675. This is historical. However, he describes the Fire as witnessed by time traveling ghosts who see the Salamanders in the flames. This is fantasy. Moore's Salamanders, resembling young women with flames for hair, do not speak but merely laugh whereas, in Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates (London, 1986), Salamanders, here called "yags," converse with the magician who has conjured them. (pp. 259-269) They sound like violins and assume "...roughly human shapes..." like "...burning giants." (p. 260)

The Anubis Gates, involving gods, magic and fantasy time travel, is on the same wavelength as Jerusalem and as Neil Gaiman's The Sandman.

One of the Jerusalem ghosts lists the kinds of elementals for us:

Salamanders, fire;
Undines, water;
Sylphs, wind;
Gnomes, Urks or Urchins, earth.

Lastly, without looking it up now, I think that Narnians saw Salamanders deep underground?

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Roaming The Universe

(The Boroughs, Northampton, 1965.)

Are dead souls free to roam the universe? I doubt their existence, let alone their mobility. However, speculative fiction about the hereafter can both delight and enlighten.

In CS Lewis' The Great Divorce, the dead can:

remain in the grey town that will turn out to have been Hell;
take the bus to the foothills of Heaven, then climb into the mountains;
haunt libraries to see if their books are still being read;
bother those women we call mediums.

Hell, Heaven or Earth: fairly comprehensive.

In Alan Moore's Jerusalem, the Dead Dead Gang:

have amazing adventures, adding time to their directions of movement;
give each adventure a title like an episode of a series;
in 1645, watch Cromwell writing a letter to his wife on the eve of the Battle of Naseby;
in 2025, eavesdrop on a black woman berating a Council Department on her mobile -

- the supernatural, the historical, the mundane and everything between. We join them in imagination and reflect on life along the way.

Planes Of Reality

When the angle walks upon the mortal world (see here), he wades through the ghost seam which comes as high as his thighs. (p. 548) Watching from Upstairs, Michael sees "...the stacked-up planes below." (p. 550) "...underneath the ghost-seam..." are "...the twining spark-lit fronds of coral that were living people..." (p. 551)

I think that the mortal world should comprise the world-lines not only of human beings but also of every material object and particle? Michael thinks that the angelic fight is affecting the lower planes. This would mean that, in the temporal dimension of Upstairs, the history of the mortal world was different before the angelic fight than it was during the fight.

When the Dead Dead Gang watched Parliamentarians before the Battle of Naseby, I thought that they were time traveling in the mortal world. However, the text sometimes implies that they are in the ghost-seam, e.g.: "...the ghost-seam's murk..." (p. 577) Is the ghost-seam both a plane above the mortal world and the mortal world as seen by ghosts? This is the sort of uncertainty that we have on first reading a complex text. I remember, with Watchmen, not knowing how many super-powered beings there were and not realizing that Rorschach had been in our faces from page 1.

I have only just passed the half way point of Jerusalem.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Ghosts, Dimensions And History

Of course, ghosts and their environment are ectoplasmic, not material, so they do not need an extra dimension although apparently some spiritualists welcomed the idea of extra dimensions. Ectoplasm has been exposed as fraudulent. See here.

Fiction about time travel can be used to impart information both about dimensions and about history, as in Alan Moore's Jerusalem (London, 2016). The ghost John thinks that Prince Rupert was Charles I's son, not his nephew.

Ghosts make excellent time travelers. See here. Being invisible and intangible, they cannot alter past events. Thus, Oliver Cromwell writing a letter to his wife is unaware that John is reading it over his shoulder. (Cromwell's statue (see image) holds a Bible and a sword, representing theory and practice.)

In Jerusalem, a suicide bomber spends eternity in his exploding form. Other ghosts give him a wide berth.

Cromwell and suicide bombers: two phases of our history.

Mythical And Modern Cosmologies

Myths focus on Earth and even on one part of Earth whereas modern cosmology shows Earth as minute. Works of fantasy reflect this dichotomy:

in James Blish's Black Easter, a conjuration in Italy triggers Armageddon - but how is the rest of the universe affected?;

in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, the Endless are personifications of Destiny, Death, Dream, Desire, Despair, Delight/Delirium and Destruction throughout the cosmos yet seem to focus almost exclusively on Earth;

in Alan Moore's Jerusalem, the angles/angels focus on Earth and do so through Northampton.

When an angel strides across the mortal world (see here), we realize, on p. 551, that this is specifically the human mortal world, not the entire universe. So maybe there is at least one more dimension involved - one that enables the "angles" to bypass innumerable galaxies and to focus on the surface of a single planet?

The Angel On The World

Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016).

Angels are called "angles" or "builders" but I'll stay with "angels" if that's ok. An angel strides above the mortal world:

"His naked feet...appeared to walk upon the writhing coral carpet that was what the mortal world looked like seen from Upstairs." (p. 548)

How many dimensions are involved here? (We have been told that there are ten or eleven in total.)

The length of the carpet is its temporal dimension;
its breadth and depth are two of its three spatial dimensions;
its third spatial dimension is rotated out of sight;
the angel also has three spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension;
however, his three spatial dimensions correspond to the length, breadth and depth of the carpet;
his temporal dimension might correspond to the invisible third spatial dimension of the carpet?

Thus, a mere four dimensions are sufficient to account for the angel on the world.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Angels

(The image is from Lucifer by Mike Carey, published by DC Comics.)

""...the Master Angle Mikael himself, conflated with Saint Michael of renown..."
 -Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 535.

For some reason, angels are called either angles or builders. The description of the Master Angle's "...face, wide as a circus tent..." (p. 552), rising into view over the handrail of a balcony as he hauls himself upward reminded me of a similar scene with the giant Michael chained below a railing in Lucifer but I was unable to find that picture to copy here.

In Jerusalem, some chapters, like the encounter between the prostitute and the published poet, are novelistic narratives whereas the conflict between the two angles reminds the reader of fight scenes between super-powered beings in graphic fiction.

Of Time And Tunes

Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016).

Michael choked to death on a Tune. See image. As a ghost, he has time traveled. He is now watching a fight between two angels, having previously seen one of the angels wounded and coming away from this fight, so he wonders whether even now, in the mortal world, his mother is unwrapping the fatal Tune.

No. Michael, like all the dead, now exists and thinks in a second temporal dimension. In every moment of this second temporal dimension, all the moments of the first temporal dimension coexist as cross-sections of a linear extension which is described as a "...coral carpet..." (p. 548) beneath the feet of the fighting angels.

"'Everything in the universe of space and time is going on at once, occurring in a glorious super-instant with the dawn of time on one side of it and time's end upon the other.'" (p. 412)
-copied from here.

Everything in the mortal world, not just Doreen unwrapping the Tune, is happening simultaneously while Michael watches the angelic fight.

An Unexpected Hereafter

When Europeans crossed the Atlantic, they did not find what they expected. If there is a hereafter, which I doubt, then it is very likely to differ from what anyone expects. In CS Lewis' The Great Divorce, there is just as much disagreement after death as before it although the spiritual and moral issues remain eternal.

In Alan Moore's Jerusalem (London, 2016):

"'Wiz you expecting it to be like this when you wiz dead?...'
"'Of course I wasn't. I don't reckon anybody thought that it'd be like this. None o' yer main religions sussed it...'" (p. 511)

"...innumerable monks of different dates and different orders, all with very little to debate except how wrong they'd got the afterlife..." (p. 540)

I expect that some readers will be amused at the monks' expense but will be any better equipped or prepared? If there is nothing or if everyone forgets everything, then we will not be able to tell the monks that they were wrong.

I may be getting some of these details wrong but it seems that, in Jerusalem, a departed soul can:

linger invisibly in the mortal realm;
time travel in that realm;
re-experience all or part of its mortal life;
linger in the ghost-seam between the mortal realm and Upstairs;
go Upstairs;
while Upstairs, walk in either direction along a long balcony or causeway;
at intervals along the causeway, look down through apertures into the mortal realm, now perceived as four dimensional;
descend into lower realms, then re-enter Upstairs at an earlier point in its history;
thus, time travel Upstairs as well.

"This is most strange," as Horatio said to Hamlet. How do all these times and motions fit together? If apparent motion in three dimensions is really extension along a fourth dimension, then is motion along the fourth dimension extension in a fifth dimension?

Philosophy And Science

This post is a response to Alan Moore's Jerusalem from the perspective of having just read Carlo Rovelli's  Reality Is Not What It Seems.

In quantum gravity theory, space-time is not a four dimensional volume but an interaction between quantum fields. If I were to philosophize without any scientific input, then I would suggest that:

space is the relationship between material bodies;
each body's relationship to other bodies is that body's position;
bodies move, i.e., their relationships change;
therefore, there is a second order relationship between positions changed from and positions change to;
that is a relationship of before and after or of earlier than and later than and thus is a temporal, not a spatial, relationship;
thus, time is not just more space;
if two bodies are one foot apart and one moves away at one foot per second, then the separation of two feet is one second later than the separation of one foot and the second is not another foot.

However, because natural philosophy has become empirical science, we are informed that:

each body is a large number of particles;
each particle is a quantum of a field;
space-time is both a single set of relationships and a field;
there is an attempt to unify the fields.

But some conceptual/philosophical issues remain. If we conceptualize space-time as a four dimensional space and, if we also regard consciousness not as a cerebral process but as an immaterial entity moving along the fourth dimension of the human body, then we not only introduce a second temporal dimension but also reintroduce Platonic-Cartesian mind-body dualism. We might want to do both those things - although I don't.

Monday, 9 January 2017

A Naseby And A Sadness

In Alan Moore's Jerusalem, a ghost gang discusses what would be an appropriate collective noun for a group of ghosts. They consider "a persistence" and "an embarrassment" before agreeing on "a Naseby" because of the large number of ghosts lingering at the site of the Battle of Naseby. In Lancaster, when half a dozen of us attended the Watchmen film, Andy Diggle asked what was the collective noun for a group of nerds and coined the term, "a sadness."

This chain of association has connected Jerusalem, the English Civil War, the Watchmen film and another comics writer, Andy Diggle. I sometimes worry about running out of material to blog about but it is endless. At this point in Jerusalem, an important and mysterious event is about to occur and more than half of the text still lies ahead of us.

From Hell And Jerusalem

Two massive works by Alan Moore refer to Hinton: Jerusalem and From Hell.

From Hell has four layers:

the history of the Whitechapel murders;
a theory of the murders;
fictional characters and events;
the author's notes, clarifying the three other layers.

I recommend From Hell and Jerusalem, Prelude and Book One, and am currently reading Book Two. When the ghosts entered the realm of the angles or angles, I was reminded of the Qys home planet in Miraceleman. Everything is more spacious and voluminous.

The elaborate hereafter of Jerusalem seems to rule out reincarnation, an idea that many people (not me) now take for granted. Every possible idea seems to be believed by someone.

The Fourth Dimension

Alan Moore's Jerusalem (London, 2016), pp. 512-514 refers to dimensional theoreticians, Hinton and Abbot. Artists and spiritualists got interested in the fourth dimension (p. 514), as did writers:

One of the two minor characters in "The Visitor" is a researcher testing "'...Dunne's theory that dreams can foretell the future.'" (p. 169)

There is a very select list of literary works that refer to Dunne's theory:

JW Dunne knew HG Wells, sharing interests in time and aircraft;
Dunne's An Experiment With Time refers to Wells' The Time Machine;
Wells' The Shape Of Things To Come refers to An Experiment With Time.

Thereafter, works based on An Experiment With Time include:

The Gap In The Curtain by John Buchan;
Time And The Conways by JB Priestley;
Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce.

And works crucially referring to Dunne include:

"The Dark Tower" by CS Lewis;
"The Visitor" by Poul Anderson.

-
copied from here.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Ghosts

It is a privilege to live at a time when it is possible to own a copy of Alan Moore's Jerusalem and a laptop. Literature and philosophy overlap but let's stay with this blog for the time being.

In "Flatland" (pp. 495-565), Moore very convincingly describes what it would be like for a homeless twelve year old to freeze to death - then to exist as an immortal soul recognizing his own dead body. However, is anyone out there really confident that his consciousness is going to continue not only after his body has ceased to function but also literally forever? Reported Near Death Experiences and Out Of The Body Experiences occur while the body is still intact and reviveable.

If I am asked willingly to suspend disbelief, then I am able to comply whereas, if I am asked to believe, then my skepticism kicks in. I do not think that disembodied consciousness is logically impossible. See Minds And Brains. However, mere logical possibility falls far short of verified reality. Surely the evidence implies that psychological processes are generated by, and entirely dependent on, organic and cerebral processes? When I was given a general anesthetic, I saw my consciousness go out like a candle flame.

Music is dependent on musical instruments,
hearing on ears,
dancing on feet,
speech on vocal chords,
sight on eyes,
sensations on nerves,
memory on brain cells with RNA.

If consciousness survives, then I will find out whereas, if it does not, then we will never know.

Philosophical Fiction

Fantasy and sf can dramatize speculative answers to philosophical questions like:

Are ghosts real?
If so, what are they like?
What would it be like to be one?
Are reported apparitions really visible departed souls?
Surely spirits, if they exist, are invisible?
Surely disembodied consciousness is not embodied?
Are apparitions mere after-images or mirages?

Alan Moore's Jerusalem answers the second and third questions. Michael not only theorizes that ghosts hang around at night because they can see well in the dark but also begins to experience this with his own ghostly vision.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Ghost-Storm

Prose fiction is good at different points of view. Twice so far in Alan Moore's Jerusalem, we have read accounts of a conversation from opposite viewpoints.

Sometimes, when reading a prose account of an external event, I think that maybe it needs visual treatment, graphic or cinematic. The hereafter has a ghost-storm when many miscellaneous objects and organisms fly overhead. Some of us are bound to ask: how would this look on screen or in comic strip? Might Jerusalem be adapted? Probably not.

Fictional Hereafters

What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson purports to present an accurate account of what the hereafter is really like whereas The Great Divorce and The Last Battle by CS Lewis are imaginative narratives that address spiritual and moral issues but do not describe the real hereafter. In which category is Jerusalem, Book Two, "Mansoul," by Alan Moore? How much is imaginative fiction and how much is what the author believes?

A Catholic priest merely repeats what he has been taught about Heaven, Hell and Purgatory whereas a Spiritualist medium claims direct contact with the hereafter. Direct contact would be important if real but we have no agreed criteria for assessing such claims. Mediumistic communications are in no way as verifiable as trans-Atlantic telephone calls.

I am not sure on which level to read "Mansoul."

A Little More On Lilith

Lilith:

was an ancestress of the White Witch of Narnia;
is mentioned only once in the Bible and not by name (See Isaiah 34:14);
has a big role in Jewish mythology outside the Bible;
is big in Mike Carey's Lucifer;
is mentioned as "Lil" in Alan Moore's Jerusalem.

Ways Between Worlds

While reading a book, it is impossible to know in advance which word, phrase, passage or concept will inspire the next blog post. These opening sentences of the chapter, "The Scarlet Well," cannot be allowed to pass without comment:

"Straight down the rabbit hole, and through the wardrobe door: it seemed to Michael as if this was a completely proper and time-honoured way to get into another world, although he couldn't for the death of him have told you why it felt like that. Perhaps he just remembered something similar from an old story that had been read to him..."
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 463.

Indeed. The looking glass is another. See Between Worlds. Here is an amazing alternative to the rabbit hole/wardrobe etc:

The BBC showed a serial, The Moondial, written by Helen Cresswell and based on her novel of the same title;
the heroine uses a moondial for time travel;
The Moondial is set in, and the serial was filmed in, Belton House and its gardens;
a moondial (see image) in the grounds was referred to in the novel, then filmed for TV;
knowing only that The Moondial was a work of fiction, I visited Belton House with family and saw the moondial;
when I commented that this was like seeing Alice's rabbit hole or HG Wells' Time Machine, one family member did not understand what I meant - the Time Machine is not real etc!

Moving Through Time?

Looking into the four-dimensional spatiotemporal realm from outside it, what would we see? One character suggests that we would see:

"'...the solid shapes what people leave behind them when they move through time.'"
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 461.

Well, no. So far, we have understood that:

a person comprises a body and a consciousness;
the body does not move along the fourth, temporal, dimension but merely extends in that direction;
the consciousness alone moves in that direction.

This implies a second temporal dimension whether or not this is explicitly acknowledged in the text. Now, the speaker in the passage quoted above speaks as if the entire person, body and consciousness, moves (or perhaps grows?) along the fourth dimension, leaving an extended body behind him. This also would imply a second temporal dimension. Let us differentiate three propositions:

(i) a psychophysical organism extends or (better) endures along the temporal dimension;
(ii) a physical organism extends, and its psyche moves, along the temporal dimension;
(iii) a psychophysical organism grows or expands along the temporal dimension.

(ii) and (iii) require five dimensions whereas (i), which I think is to be preferred, requires only four.

Kinds Of Dimensions

In a flat plane, the two dimensions are merely different directions. They are interchangeable and neither is "higher" than the other although, of course, the plane itself is broader than either of its two dimensions. Our third dimension is literally higher and it is harder to travel in that direction although only because of the local gravitational field. The temporal dimension is qualitatively different at least in our experience. A hypothetical dimension along which alternative universes coexisted would be a third kind of dimension.

How many dimensions and kinds of dimensions are there? In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series, a Patrol trainer says that there are theoretically 4N dimensions. These include at least three spatial and at least two temporal dimensions but what are the other 4N - 5? Alan Moore's Asmodeus says:

"'...there are ten, or at a pinch eleven...'"
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 405.

Asmodeus also says:

"'Everything in the universe of space and time is going on at once, occurring in a glorious super-instant with the dawn of time on one side of it and time's end upon the other.'" (p. 412)

This suggests two possible metaphors:

a series of still photographs represents a person's life from birth to death;
several films are playing simultaneously, each showing, e.g., a different day, week, month etc of the person's life.

See Between Blogs And Dimensions.

Friday, 6 January 2017

"Higher Up"

"'The order comes from much higher up. They all do, you know, in the long run.'"
-CS Lewis, Perelandra, Chapter 2, IN Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy (London, 1990), pp. 160-170 AT p. 162.

"This was more like something designated higher up, by management..."
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 442.

We all know what, or rather Who, CS Lewis means by "...higher up." Alan Moore is hinting at something similar but in his completely different cosmology.

But how different! Lewis, a Christian convert and apologist:

“…set out to impose on the solar system a strange Anglican-cum-Babylonian theology and cosmogony..."
-copied from here

- whereas Alan Moore, a practicing magician, expounds kabbalistic theology in Promethea and Jerusalem

Lewis, first person narrator in his own works of fiction, tells us:

"I did not even doubt the reality of that mysterious being whom the eldila call Maleldil and to whom they appear to give a total obedience such as no Tellurian dictator can command. I knew what Ransom supposed Maleldil to be." (Chapter 1, pp. 149-160 AT p. 155)

Here, familiar beliefs, shared by some of Lewis' readers, are presented are perceived by extraterrestrial, even extra-planetary, beings. How will Moore present his "...higher up[s]...management..."? Only further reading will tell. 

Meanwhile, many of us must continue to live and act in the belief that there is no one "higher up," that we are on our own.

Demons In Horror And Humor

"The room stank of demons."
-James Blish, Black Easter (New York, 1977), p. 15.

"You could always sort of tell when devils were about. There was that smell..."
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 430.

"As Commiczar of Brimstone Production & Stenches, Ashmadai rated an office in the third-from-lowest subbasement of the Hotiron Building."
-Poul Anderson, "Pact" IN Anderson, Fantasy (New York, 1981), pp. 211-230.

The devil in Jerusalem is Asmodeus, which is another form of "Asmadai." Thus, we have established some conceptual parallels between texts by three of our favorite authors.

Blish's text is horrific. Anderson's is clearly humorous. Moore's is perhaps both. A sudden switch from humor to horror can be very dramatic.

Life And Death

See Lilith.

The child Michael asks:

"'How does it all work, then life and death?'"
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 412.

The demon is obliged to reply. Cue: exposition/infodump. We recognize Eternalism and kabbalistic theology. There are familiar characters here. Lilith is called Lil!

I need to be convinced that consciousness and memory are independent of the four dimensional realm and not merely an aspect of it. Even if every moment of my life somehow exists eternally, I do not expect to re-experience it.

Hell could be generated by re-experiencing our worst moments and Heaven by re-experiencing the best. We do this partly in memory. I do not expect to exist after death but, if I do, I expect that, instead of moving towards the light, I will be held back by my past actions. Meanwhile, we follow writers like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Mike Carey upward in imagination.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Two Accounts

See "Upstairs" II and Conceptual Issues.

Two possible accounts of a lifetime and an awareness in Alan Moore's Jerusalem:

Assuming Four Spatial Dimensions And One Extra Temporal Dimension
A lifetime extends in four dimensions.
It extends along the fourth dimension as a tunnel.
An awareness is a three dimensional ball of light.
It moves along the tunnel.
Having left the tunnel and looked back, it should see the tunnel but not itself in the tunnel, any more than we see ourselves still walking along the road when we glance back.

Assuming Only Four Spatial Dimensions And No Extra Temporal Dimension
First two propositions as above.
An awareness is a four dimensional tube of light extending along the tunnel.
The awareness views not the entire tunnel but only each three dimensional cross-section.
Having left the tunnel and looked back, it will see itself still in the tunnel.

Conceptual Issues

Conceptual confusion is generated when:

time is spatialized;
statics is reduced to dynamics;
the single temporal dimension is reconceptualized as a fourth spatial dimension

- and yet:

dynamic/temporal processes are assumed to occur within this otherwise static four dimensional space;
thus, a second temporal dimension is tacitly introduced;
in discussion, it becomes unclear which of the two temporal dimensions is being referred to - the first, which has been reduced to space, or the second, which is not clearly acknowledged.

The next post will apply these remarks to recent discussions.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Asmodeus

This is a surprise and a change of scene and subject. In Alan Moore's Jerusalem (London, 2016), Michael, having died, at least temporarily, enters a realm of dreams and demons. We seem to have left the Northampton novel and to have trespassed onto the territory of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman and Mike Carey's Lucifer (see here) as well as of the Alan Moore-created character, John Constantine. See also here.

However, a more apposite comparison might be with Alan Moore's Promethea:

Moore's Promethea puts a superheroine into an appropriately magical and mythological context and presents the author's philosophy.
-copied from here.  

The Asmodeus in Jerusalem reflects that: 

"The rules that governed what he was - essentially, a field of living information - meant that he was more or less compelled to answer any direct question and to do so truthfully." (p. 398)

Demons, as we know, are fallen angels, lying and deceitful, whereas Thoth-Mercury-Hermes in Promethea is - living information, which is what this Asmodeus claims to be. I expect that, by p. 1174 of Jerusalem, these demons will not be what they had seemed. 

Addendum: The punning language in the Jerusalem hereafter also fits Thoth.

"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  "'...as 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?