So how does the Copenhagen Interpretation solve the enigma of the existence of the universe in an epoch prior to the human observer despite quantum theory’s requirement of a measuring agent for the actualization of potential events? The answer begins by postulating that there need not be a subjective agent, such as a physicist’s mind, imposed by the concept of measurement. Atomic events (at least in human understanding) start with the division of the world into ‘the object’ and ‘the rest of the world.’3 This latter entity includes or consists of a complex quantum system that constitutes “a kind of incessant self-measurement system that allows the system as a whole to display fixed and definite properties even though the underlying quantum state is in constant flux.”4

This process called ‘decoherence’ by its adherents implies that the universe possesses a capacity that permits the very subatomic events instantiating its existence. The similarity between this characteristic of the universe and the theologians’ concept of aseity or self-causation for God is uncanny. If we combine this ‘decoherence’ of the system with the presumed timelessness of the quantum flux from which the system arises, we arrive at the scientist’s equivalent of a necessarily existent and self-developing entity as ultimate reality. However, the physicist will likely balk at comparing this picture to that of the traditional descriptions of God, partly because of its chance or chance-like form and partly due to the absence of agency or intention generally ascribed to deity.

Nonetheless, ultimate reality for Heisenberg and the quantum physicists comes down to subatomic particles with inexact location and momentum following statistical patterns of behavior although specific events only occur by virtue of a transcendental system of self-measurement. Unlike Einstein, Heisenberg does not invoke God, an ideal mathematics, or a self-governing order. However he invites us to a fascinating discussion with two other early physicists on science and religion which is the subject of the next blog. Join me next time for a rare look behind the curtain.


3Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2007. ISBN 978-0-06-120919-2, page 29.

4Lindley, David (introduction) in Werner, Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2007. ISBN 978-0-06-120919-2, page xxix-xx.


“Thomas Gradgrind, sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over. Thomas Gradgrind, sir—peremptorily Thomas—Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to. It is a mere question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic.” – Charles Dickens, Hard Times.

In out examination of scientific accounts of ultimate reality we have begun with the material structure of reality or matter itself. Last time I summarized the thoughts of Albert Einstein who invoked a transcendental umbrella over his understanding variably expressed as “Spinoza’s God,” a perfect mathematical substructure, or the fundamental rationality displayed by the universe. I move now to the less lofty but no less intriguing picture drawn by Werner Heisenberg.

Weisenberg enters into quantum theory midstream to discover that reality is not quite as expected from common experience or from classical mechanics. At the subatomic level is found an inherent inexactness: a quantum object is neither entirely a particle nor entirely a wave and it is not possible to determine the exact position and exact velocity (momentum) of any particle. It turns out that measurement defines a thing, hence our knowledge of the world appears arbitrary and subjective. In his words, “what we observe is not nature in itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning.”1 Furthermore, quantum uncertainty is instantiated in nature itself and the actualization of events depends on an observer making the measurements.2

But this leads to a startling enigma: How did the objectively real universe come to be from the quantum vacuum or the big bang in the absence of a measuring or observing agent? The theist eyes an entry point for God as observer in the origins of material reality. However the answer offered by the mid 20th century quantum physicists (known as the Copenhagen Interpretation) dismisses the divine and proposes an unexpected transcendental configuration within this otherwise hard realism.

(continued next post)


1Lindley, David (introduction) in Werner, Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2007. ISBN 978-0-06-120919-2, page xiv. We are reminded of Kant’s thing-in-itself.

2Here we are reminded of Aristotle’s potentia prefiguring actuality.


Last time I postulated that one scientific version of ultimate reality is the fundamental nature of matter and presented as an example a simplified version of physical reality according to Albert Einstein. This might lead us to reject a transcendental expression for this view except that Einstein himself seems to imply one. One of his biographers, Ronald Clark, tells us that “even he [Einstein] with his great formula about energy and mass agreed that there must be something behind the energy”4 Einstein never abandoned belief in ‘Spinoza’s God,’ an intangible, impersonal, deity instantiated in the world itself “with its infinitely marvelous structure operating at the atomic level with the beauty of a craftsman’s wristwatch and at a stellar level with beauty of a massive cyclotron.”5 Einstein echoes Kierkegaard when he states, “…if you ask me to prove what I believe, I can’t. You know them to be true but you could spend a whole lifetime without being able to prove them. The mind can proceed only so far upon what it knows and can prove. There comes a point where the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge, but can never prove how it got there. All such discoveries have involved such a leap.”6

It appears that Einstein also connects ultimate reality to mathematics: “In a reasonable theory, there are no (dimensionless) numbers whose values are only empirically determinable.”7 One senses he believes physical reality is undergirded by a pure mathematics. This forms another objection to the uncertainty principle and his disbelief in “God playing dice” with the universe – the laws of ultimate reality should be perfect. Rabbi Goldstein, with whom Einstein communicated, interpreted his remarks, “Einstein points to a unity,” which if carried to its logical conclusion “would bring man to a scientific form for monotheism.”8 Virgil G. Hinshaw, Jr., a philosopher and Einstein contemporary, concludes that Einstein appears to adopt a “cosmic religious feeling,” a kind of religion which he lives.9  Unfortunately, Einstein chose not to respond to these recorded interpretations of his mindset, so it is up to the reader to determine if these assessments are accurate.

However we can look for the answer in Einstein’s 1941 essay, Science and Religion where he argues that scientific knowledge and rational thinking help us understand what is, but not what should be, nor a sense of ultimate and fundamental ends. In his opinion, the general rules established by science determine the reciprocal connection of objects and events in time and space suggesting an order that leaves no room for causes of a different (i.e. divine) nature, even if a personal God can never be refuted. Nonetheless his final conclusion is sublime:

“But whoever has undergone the intense experience of successful advances made in this domain [science], is moved by profound reverence for the rationality made manifest in existence. By way of understanding he achieves a far-reaching emancipation form the shackles of personal hopes and desires, and thereby attains that humble attitude of mind towards the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence and which in its profoundest depths, is inaccessible to man. This attitude, however, appears to me to be religious in the highest sense of the word.”10

Perhaps it will never be said better by anyone.


4Clark, Ronald W., Einstein: The Life and Times. The World Publishing Company, New York and Cleveland, 1971. Page 19.


6Ibid.,page 622.

7Ibid., page 19.

8Schilpp, Paul Arthur (editor), Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist. Open Court, La Salle, Illinois, 1970. Page 660.


10Einstein, Albert, Out of My Later Years. Philosophical Library, New York, 1950. Page 29.


“Physics is an attempt conceptually to grasp reality as it is thought independently of its being observed. In this sense one speaks of ‘physical reality’ ” – Albert Einstein.

They simplest concept of ultimate reality refers to the nature of matter itself. Over 2,500 years of human effort have failed to make fully comprehensible the substrate of reality – matter. I would like to start late in that dialectic to set the stage, with the thoughts of Albert Einstein.

Einstein never seems to have become comfortable with quantum mechanics, especially the concept of uncertainty. He felt the theory was incomplete since it undermined a strictly causal or deterministic universe and fostered one manifested by chance. Beneath this objection lies a critical philosophical question: Does a physical reality exist independent of whatever observations we make about it? Another great physicist, Niels Bohr scoffed at this challenge arguing that all we can know is the results of experiments and observations, not some ultimate reality that lies beyond our perceptions.1 With these two positions we are in a sense back to Plato’s belief in the perfect ideas or forms mirrored in imperfect reality contra Aristotle’s descriptions of reality as it is. We are also reminded of Kant’s unknowable “thing-in-itself,” and with the conflicts between empiricism and idealism and between realism and nominalism.

Einstein strong belief in the rational order of Nature (which he thought would be undone by both atheism and uncertainty) originates in a fundamental observation:

“The very fact that the totality of our sense experiences is such that, by means of thinking, it can be put in order, this fact is one that leaves us in awe…The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility…The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle.”2

In short, Einstein feels the world of the atheist or of quantum uncertainty would be chaotic and unfathomable to the human mind, which, at least for Einstein, is clearly not the case. Instead he feels there is an objective reality which underlies the great scientific advances over human history and which validates science itself (in essence a kind of pragmatic proof of that objective reality).

Einstein’s objective reality consists of interchangeable matter and energy as demonstrated by his famous equation E=mc2. Matter is also somewhat different than common experience might suggest; particles of matter can be seen as special manifestations of fields. In his words: “We could regard matter as the regions in space where the field is extremely strong… a thrown stone is, from this point of view, a changing field, where the states of greatest field intensity travel through space with the velocity of the stone.”3 Einstein accepts that quantum theory reveals discontinuity at the subatomic level and thus probabilistic laws at that level. And of course there is his formulation of space and time as a unity, the very fabric of the universe.

This brief and obviously incomplete description of Einstein’s views may be interpreted as his scientific vision of ‘ultimate reality,’ but there remains in addition his more transcendental construal of this picture which we will address next time.

(continued next post)


1Einstein, Albert & Infeld, Leopold, The Evolution of Physics. Simon & Schuster, New York, 2008. ISBN 978-1-4165-5945-0, page xix.

2Ibid.,page xxi.

3Ibid.,page xxiii.


 “There are two objectionable types of believers: those who believe the incredible and those who believe that ‘belief’ must be discarded and replaced by ‘the scientific method.’ ” – Max Born.

There is a remarkable variation in the understanding of ultimate reality described by the great thinkers, and for that matter as held by all of us. One possibility is that the differences are apparent, but not real. The other is that people have differing beliefs that cannot be reconciled. This seems to be the crux of the question facing us in this section – that is, are the plethora of different understandings reconcilable into a singular meaning or are they abidingly distinct, in which case, how do we determine which comes closest to the truth?

At the most fundamental level, there are three conceptual categories regarding ultimate reality: (1) the materialist/scientific, (2) the transcendental, and (3) the religious. These can be further broken into subcategories. Materialist understandings of ultimate reality sort into at least four ideas. The first addresses the very nature of matter such as string theory or the particle zoo. We might include in this group the pre-Socratic efforts at identifying the most basic entity (water, air, the unbounded, the eternal fire, unchanging reality, etc.) The second possibility is the universe or multiverse itself, the sum total of all the energy and matter in this mega-reality. The third is the source of the universe or multiverse, i.e. the timeless, apparently necessarily existent quantum vacuum from which all substantial reality is created. The last is the most speculative; that the universe or series of universes might somehow instantiate a consciousness, or perhaps more accurately a super-consciousness.

The transcendental understanding of ultimate being recognizes non-material entities as the supreme form of existence. Ultimate being in this category can be individual ideas such as reason, logic, or even love or it can be more generic as in the case of Plato’s belief in the forms or perfect ideas. In this category we may also include an all-inclusive consciousness or unity, or perhaps a great ‘Spirit.’ Each of these separates material reality from some higher level immaterial reality which is ultimate.

The third category of understanding ultimate reality is the religious, that is, God or a divine being is ultimate. Here there are three models: God as an anthropomorphic or rational agent external to and creative of the universe. The second model asserts God is not an agent in the sense we are, but entirely different – perhaps substance or all-being  – and as such is the substrate as well as the origin of the universe. Last is the model of God as totally ineffable, understood only negatively or as what it (or He) is not – exemplified most famously by thinkers who adopt the via negativa).

We begin next time with the scientific or materialistic viewpoint.


[4]  Contentment and the Meaning of Life (66 posts divided as follows)

Introduction (6 posts 3/28/22 – 4/8/22)

Wisdom of the East (12 posts 4/11/22- 5/6/22

Ancient Western Thinkers (12 posts 5/9/22- 6/3/22)

Later Western Thinkers (6 posts 6/17/22 – 6/29/22)

Psychology (13 posts 7/4/22-7/20/22 and 8/1/22-8/8/22)

Silence. Solitude, & Asceticism (9 posts 8/10/22 -8/29/22)

Horace (2 posts 9.7/22 and 9/9/22)

Summary and Synthesis (8 posts 9/12/22 – 9/28/22)

[5]  Ultimate Reality and the Meaning of Life (begun 10/7 with 4 introductory posts so far)

Along the way, I stopped to blog on some of my current reading:

[1] Fake News (12/12 and 12/14/19),

[2] The Philosopher’s Magazine (1/11/19),

[3] Before the Big Bang (2/27 and 3/1/19),

[4] We Are Not Alone (3/29 and 4/1/19),

[5] Is Life Worth Living? (5/8 and 5/10/19),

[6] God and Physics (7/8 and 7/10/19),

[7] Revolutionary Deism (7/12 and 7/14/19),

[8] Does God Exist? (10/28 and 10/30/19),

[9] African Philosophy (2/3/20, 2/5/20, and 2/7/20),

[10] Finding Wisdom (5/12/20 and 5/15/20),

[11] Who is a meaning of life for? (8/31/20),

[12] Happiness and Meaning – Susan Wolf (10/30/20 and 11/2/20)

[13] On the Meaning of Life – Will Durant (1/13/21, 1/15/21, and 1/18/21),

[14] 1984 by George Orwell (5/21/21 and 5/24/21).

[15]  Ultimate Questions by Bryan Magee (5 posts 9/24/21-10/6/21).

[16]  Fallen Leaves by Will Durant (5 posts 12/31/21-1/10/22)

[17]  On Death by Milton Mayer (5 posts 3/16/22-3/24/22)

[18]  Lucretius (6/6/22)

[19]  Jerome (6/8/22)

[20]  Father Ananias Solem (4 posts 7/22/22-7/30/22)

[21] Where Did The Universe Come From (3 posts 9/30/22 – 10/5/22)

It was a pleasure to welcome a guest blogger, Barry Zern, who presented an alternative view on God (10/14/20 and 11/16/20-11/21/20). I thank him for his contribution and would be happy to receive others from readers.

I also related some philosophical thoughts on Helping the Homeless (5/17/21 and 5/19/21), on the COVID-19 vaccines (6/21/21 and 6/23/21), and on Substitute Teaching (8/31/22, 9/2/22, and 9/5/22).

Over the last three years, the site had over 10,000 visits by over 7,000 different users from at least 129 different countries on six continents. Besides the main page the most visited page was The Summum Bonum (post on 1/23/19 and Appendix Table 2 and Diagram 1). The most visited current reading was We Are Not Alone.

The extended version of the book I hope to publish is currently about 90% complete. I have been unable to find time to keep up the Table of Contents nor produce an appendix or index given the immense amount of time required to write three blogs per week while working near full time.

From here that I will finish the section on Ultimate Reality and The Meaning of Life which I believe will require at least another 60 posts or about 20 weeks. I hope to close with essays on the integration of the four components, and perhaps analyze how various traditions and individuals encapsulate this format. With good luck I hope to develop a final synthesis by this time next year in my ongoing public search for enlightenment.

I hope this quick review helps summarize the composition of the site and helps those who wish to return to past sections in their own journey. It remains my passionate goal to present a system of practical philosophical guidance that, to my knowledge, is unavailable elsewhere in modern form.


“True philosophy is that which makes us to ourselves and to all about us, better; and at the same time more content, patient, calm, and more ready for all decent and pure enjoyment.” – Johann Kaspar Lavater.

Last week marked the fourth anniversary of the first post on this site. As at the first three anniversaries, I think we should pause to take stock of our progress. The attentive reader knows that the majority of the  623 posts to date are not random essays, but a late draft of a philosophy book which seeks to draw together the thoughts of many great philosophers for constructing a meaningful life while factoring in appropriate advances in our scientific understanding of reality. Unfortunately, a final draft will have to be dramatically abbreviated which will be a later endeavor. For today I will summarize the road we have traveled to provide context for new and intermittent readers.

After a few introductory posts on defining philosophy and the site’s mission, I jumped into the Big Picture – the reduction of practical philosophy into its two major divisions:

[1] The nature of reality (9 posts from 11/9/18-12/3/18), and

[2] Ethics (13 posts from 12/5/18-1/4/19).

The key takeaways were that reality and ethics manifest at five levels or tiers, each of which requires reflection in fashioning a flourishing life – internal (the self), proximate (that which we directly contact), societal (the human world we know less directly), cosmic (Nature and the celestial), and ultimate (the transcendental). The nature of these tiers and our conduct with regards to them define the boundaries of the project.

I next took on eight special topics essential to expanding our understanding of reality and ethics that are the substrate for any system:

[1] Good and evil (10 posts from 1/6/19 -2/6/19),

[2] The question of God (19 posts from 2/8/19- 3/27/19),

[3] Body and soul (15 posts from 4/3/19 – 5/6/19),

[4] Death and immortality (24 posts from 5/13/9- 7/5/19),

[5] Free will, fate, and human destiny (42 posts from 7/17/19 – 10/23/19),

[6] Teleology (40 posts from 11/11/19 – 1/31/20),

[7] Suffering (40 posts from 2/10/20 – 5/11/20; including 7 on the COVID-19 pandemic).

[8] Certainty (38 posts from 5/18/20 – 8/14/20).

Conclusions on the big picture and the eight special topics were included in 5 review posts (8/17/20 – 8/28/20).

After that extended preparatory work, we arrived at the focus of the project- a systematic exploration of the concept of a meaningful life and a detailed analysis of the various components.

[1] Introduction to the Meaning of Life (21 posts from 9/2/20 -10/12/20 and 10/19/20-10/28/20).

[2] Virtue and the Meaning of Life (83 total posts divided as follows)

Introduction (5 posts 11/4/20-11/13/20);

Virtue and Self (13 posts 11/23/20-12/21/20);

Virtue and Others (10 posts 12/30/20-1/11/21 and 1/20/21);

Societal Virtue (13 posts 1/22/21-2/19/21);

Cosmic Virtue (40 posts 2/22/21-5/4/21 and 5/16/21-6/3/21);

Ultimate Virtue (1 post 6/7/21); and

Conclusion (2 posts 6/9/21-6/11/21).

[3] Purpose and the Meaning of Life ( 103 total posts divided as follows)

Introduction (4 posts 6/14/21 – 6/18/21 and 6/25/21);

Purpose and Internal Reality (6 posts 6/28/21-7/9/21);

Purpose and Proximate Reality/Others (41 posts 7/12-9/22/21; 10/8-10/11/21, and 10/18-11/1/21)

Purpose and Cultural Reality (30 posts 11/3/21-12/29/21 and 1/12/22-1/21/22)

Purpose and Cosmic Reality (20 posts 1/24/22-3/9/22)

Synopsis (2 posts 3/11/22 & 3/14/22)



“God is the ultimate limitation, and His existence is the ultimate irrationality… No reason can be given for the nature of God because that nature is the ground of rationality.” – Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World.

Last time we investigated the spectrum of theories regarding what ultimate reality is– from traditional descriptions of God to the physicist’s entirely material universe from nothing to more transcendental concepts such as order, rationality, spirit, or being to the extreme view of absolute nothingness or non-being. Today I hope to delineate the understanding we will adopt for the remainder of this section starting with two supposed characteristics and their application to the subject.

Ultimate reality for many of the great thinkers includes ideas of the divine and of the supernatural; perhaps we can fine tune our concept by analyzing these terms. Divine is defined by my dictionary as “of or pertaining to a god, especially, the Supreme Being.”1 It can also refer to a sacred entity, or something “godlike” or “befitting a deity.” Supernatural is defined by the same dictionary as “of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural, unexplainable by natural law or phenomena.”2 I suppose a case can be made that we may apply the word divine to all understandings of ultimate reality (“Supreme Being” and “befitting a deity”), but we need to restrict supernatural to an extra-cosmic creator or perhaps transcendental concepts (truth for instance is not clearly demonstrable in nature).

From this exercise, it appears that a composite ultimate reality – such as the universe or multiverse plus some or all transcendental concepts- best meets the criteria for both divine and supernatural as well as ultimacy. Thus I will intend for future discussions that the term ultimate reality refers to an entirely comprehensive reality – the quantum vacuum (nothingness), the universe (and, if real, the multiverse), and the highest transcendental concepts (especially logic, truth, mathematics, order, intelligence, spirit, ethics, love, and beauty) – arrayed as a unity, an absolute whole, or the totality of Being (material and immaterial). However a creative force or agent responsible for or underpinning  material and transcendental reality (should one be identified) will meet these specifications.

This then will be the paradigm against which the descriptions of the great thinkers will be measured and the essence we seek to contact, and with which we hope to interact and eventually assimilate. This understanding of ultimate reality has been and is the source of creation and creativity, the object of mystical union, and the means to enlightenment. Our journey has just begun!


1Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, Barnes & Noble, Inc. 2003. ISBN 0-7607-4975-2, p. 575.

2Ibid., page 1911.


Mortimer Adler muses over the fact that everyone uses the word “God” but almost no one can explain what they mean by it. He defaults to St. Anselm who thinks the word “God” means “that than which I can think of nothing greater” i.e. the (singular) supreme being. God is unique in that it cannot not exist and its existence is like and unlike the existence of everything else, and one unlike feature is that God is uncaused or self-caused (aseity).1

Dagobert Runes defines God thusly, “In metaphysical thinking a name for the highest, ultimate being, assumed by theology on the basis of authority, revelation or the evidence of faith as absolutely necessary.”2 However he also defines [the] One as the Supreme idea (Plato), the absolute first principle (Neo-platonism), the universe (Parmenides), ‘being as such’ (Plotinus), the metaphysical world-ground or the ultimate reality, or the world-soul or the principle of the world conceived as reason (nous). The One may be conceived as an independent whole or as a sum, as analytic or synthetic, as principle or ontologically.3

Runes also defines The Absolute as the terminus or ultimate referent of thought or the Unconditioned. He tells us that Fichte uses it to mean the “Ground of the Real’ and Schelling as a spiritual unity behind all logical and ontological oppositions, that is, the self-differentiating source of both Mind and Nature. Hegel uses it to mean a timeless, perfect, organic whole of self-thinking Thought. The Absolute may also refer to the All or totality of the real, but conversely in the East the Wu Chi (Non-Being), Tai Chi (Being), even the Tao (The ‘Way’). In Indian philosophy the Absolute may be seen as Brahman (the Real), Bhutatathata (Thatness), or a pure eternal consciousness. In the West the All may refer to substance (Spinoza). 4  

God as ultimate reality can have other connotations as well. For the Hebrews, Jahweh self-defines for Moses as the “I AM.” Zarathustra suggests it is Arta (“Righteous Order”), the “Good” or perhaps arkana (“Infinite Time”). The Stoics imagine an aether endowed with Mind or ‘divine providence. Mohammed sees a living, self-subsistent, unity with 99 names or traits.5 Nicolas Cusanus implicates a high order Mathematics while Bruno translates the universe into an infinite and divine being which is both immanent and transcendent. Montaigne and the Christian Neoplatonists think God is entirely ineffable.6 Berkeley argues God is the source of all the ideas underpinning a purely immaterial reality. Hegel thinks God is Absolute Spirit incarnate in history. Others see ultimate reality as the Perfect Being, or as a Whole or Absolute Causality (Schleiermacher), as Organism or Process (Whitehead), or even Infinite Being as the ground of finite being (Tillich).7

We surmise from this presentation that Ultimate Reality, at least as expressed in the term ‘God’ or the divine, varies from thinker to thinker and particularly over time. Ontologically it is typically inclusive of the universe and all existing things. It is is identified as supreme, perfect, infinite, and self-existent. It may be as much the ground of reality as its creator and may represent a process as an organic rather than fixed entity. It has many non-physical attributes including intellect, spirit or soul, goodness, and mathematic elements. Fewer thinkers take the opposite approach and define God negatively either as totally incomprehensible or as a state of complete nothingness. We will need to take a step back from this diversity of opinion next time to configure the meaning we will use for the rest of this section.


1Adler, Mortimer J., Adler’s Philosophical Dictionary. Simon and Schuster, New York, 1996. ISBN 0-684-80360-7, pages 96-100. One is impressed how well the quantum vacuum of the physicist fits Anselm’s description.

2Runes, Dagobert D., Dictionary of Philosophy. Philosophical Library, New York, 1960, p.118.

3Ibid., page 219.

4Ibid., page 2.

5Brandon, S.G.F., Idea of God from Prehistoy to the Middle Ages in Wiener, Philip P, (editor), Dictionary of the History of Ideas Volume II, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1973, pages 331-346.

6Collins, James, Idea of God from 1400-1800 in Wiener, Philip P, (editor), Dictionary of the History of Ideas Volume II, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1973, pages 346-354.

7Gilkey, Langdon., Idea of God Since 1800 in Wiener, Philip P, (editor), Dictionary of the History of Ideas Volume II, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1973, pages 354-366.


“Well, they believe that when they have listed all His names – and they reckon there are about nine billion of them – God’s purpose will be achieved. The human race will have finished what it was created to do, and there won’t be any point in carrying on.” – Arthur C. Clarke, The Nine Billion Names of God.

The first issue we confront in discussing ultimate reality is the need to analyze the meaning of the term, particularly in contrast to similar terms. Take for example the scientific concept where the word ‘cosmos’ would seem to fit the bill. However if some experts are correct and our universe is merely one of many or even an infinite number of universes, then the word ‘multiverse’ should be the more valid understanding. Alternatively if each universe within the multiverse is shown to originate from a single quantum vacuum, then we might reasonably consider it to be ultimate reality since it is logically first and the source of all the entities in the multiverse. This version is particularly intriguing as the quantum vacuum is the physicist’s version of nothing, and some philosophers have speculated on whether  ‘nothingness’ might be ultimate reality. Nonetheless one will still need to address how the material cosmos is integrated with immaterial facets of ultimate reality such as mathematics, truth, logic, love, beauty, etc. The task, it turns out, is more difficult than we initially expected.

The second ambiguity requiring further scrutiny involves the question of God, to wit, is there a single deity and is it reasonably considered ultimate reality? Of course if the ‘creator’ of the universe (or the multiverse) is an agent rather than a quantum space, there will still remain the question of whether it was itself created. If that being which created our universe was created by a still higher being, than the higher being is a better candidate for ultimate reality, leading us in a different direction than if the creator of our universe was not created. Even then there will remain issues of the relationship between the ‘Creator’ and immaterial facets of reality. Do mathematics and logic emanate from God of are they instantiated in a different kind of reality, and if so, which one is ultimate?

A third distinction is that of permanence. Ultimate reality, we suspect, cannot fail to exist – it is both eternal or timeless and necessarily existent. This attribute is typically assigned to Western deity, but it also seems to be assumed by the physicist in regards to the quantum vacuum. Of course intransience is also assumed for immaterial reality as well; that is, the number 2 will always be 2, a triangle is eternally three sided, and a true statement (when strictly formulated) is by definition forever true.

From this exercise, we come to the following conclusion: ultimate reality requires the nature of being (1) original or originating, (2) timeless and indestructible, and (3) comprehensive, i.e. both material and immaterial.

(continued next post)