In the beginning . . .
Strangely, the idea for Between Space began, not as a book or a blog, but as an idea for a kind of public art installation set within a contemplative garden and meant to be enjoyed in complete silence. Along with passive activities such as just spacing out, lunching in the quietude, or finding solace in the wee hours of a lonely night, the “consciousness garden” would host a revolving schedule of exhibits which would investigate reality and consciousness within the framework of established science. Installations by suitable contributors would unfold through a series of stations placed throughout the garden. Between Space was designed as an exhibit of eight meditations, each meditation representing an important component of its concept for the workings of consciousness.
Although the silent garden never came to be, Crisp Lettuce Press published the meditations as chapters for the first edition of Between Space in 2014. The more deeply detailed, illustrated revision of the book has been available since June of 2019.
Evolution of a new idea
The idea behind Between Space, the thing which facilitates the workings of consciousness, is something we might call “inter-spacial abstraction.” ISA, in turn, is dependent upon the idea that space comes in bits, a mainstream scientific concept known as “quantized space.” In short, if space comes in bits, then we may inquire as to what's between the bits. Within this setting, the book explores how self-awareness and ongoing cognition can occur by means of Simultaneity and Observation, the well-established effects of special relativity and quantum mechanics.
If abstraction is a “real,” immaterial effect experienced by cognitive creatures and cannot be found here in space-time, perhaps abstraction, including your mind, may be found between space, a realm of “non-space.” Most of the book is dedicated to an explanation of just how the quantum and classical effects, above, facilitate the cognitive interaction we observe between our truly abstract mind between space and our material brain “here” in space-time; the so-called “hard problem.”
The evolution of my own proposal for the workings of consciousess most likely began with my own unguided interest in science growing up in the 1950’s. In the decade following the atomic bomb, you can imagine how nuclear war was on everyone’s mind. An early memory from this period include “Duck and Cover.” I also remember the crew of the aircraft carrier, Enterprise, photographed in formation on its deck to spell out the relativistic equation, E=Mc2, by which the bombs worked and the giant ship patrolled the planet for years without refueling. These, plus occasional news items and science programs formed my entire awareness of Special Relativity until—flash forward four decades—one evening, now many years ago, when a program called “The Elegant Universe” by Brian Greene aired on our San Francisco public television channel, KQED.
Programs of this sort always present w-a-a-a-y more information than can be absorbed in one sitting. To my surprise, however, with long exposure now to some of the vocabulary and ideas, I suddenly found myself able to follow along! So I bought his book, read the first part two or three times, and began to understand something of Special Relativity. And then, like the Ginsu knives, the deal got impossibly better when the book introduced this very weird thing called Quantum Mechanics. I could scarcely believe what I was reading. I felt as if some important aspect of consciousness was being revealed to me. Was this real? How could I not have known about this? As for myself, vaguely conscious by the mid-60’s, any California-esque idea I might have had about consciousness or its workings would have been highly “organic.” But here, for the first time, my introduction to QM caused me to feel that, whatever consciousness is, it could somehow be explained in a proper manner.
By this time I had been making wooden instruments for most of my adult life. Instrument making is a most pleasing and contemplative sort of occupation for those patient persons who are ok working alone with wood and in poverty. In more recent times, these monastic qualities were put to the test when I tried making the glass parts for a telescope. You can easily imagine how activities such as these provide lots of time for rumination and so, as I worked, I mused upon the cosmological mysteries of relativity and quantum mechanics with which I had become recently acquainted and soon found myself re-focusing old philosophies of mind toward a new idea of consciousness. Surprisingly, this cosmological cud chewing provided new ways to think about death as well and this is when the idea for that art project came to mind and which led, instead, to the first edition of my book.
A book about the workings of consciousness
As humans, we are able to anticipate the end of life and, whether we are aware of it or not, every aspect of our experience here is affected in some way by this bleak prospect. To comfort ourselves around the inevitability of this final event, we often engage in practices which rely upon faith and wishful thinking, but our consolation is often short-lived when we see that such ideas do not comply with every-day experience. Science, however, can be more satisfying because it relies upon knowing (“science” from Latin, “to know”) and allows us to consider the most striking feature of ourselves, our individual consciousness, as an entity with a life of its own, unaffected by death.
Despite the extraordinary sound of this statement, much of the science upon which it relies has long been accepted, while some of the science depends upon observations which are still open to interpretation. All of it, however, is astounding because it describes an amazing reality which is not part of our daily experience. Consequently, the concepts have been difficult to accept, let alone understand. Therefore, the book attempts to explain in a hundred pages the workings of consciousness along with the supportive science in common language for the benefit of most of us who have little or no background in math or physics.
If we have thought about it at all, we have usually concluded that consciousness must be an effect produced by our brain, and this we call “brain-emergent consciousness.” It’s the position of mainstream science and, with BEC as our premise, we might just proceed with our investigation. However, the workings of consciousness have remained so elusive by this approach that we should begin instead with a description of the very domain in which our brain exists and from which science has assumed consciousness to emerge, the domain of space and time. And so, in part one of the newly revised book (2019), we re-consider space and its particles of matter and energy. We also introduce a couple of new ideas; potential places in space and time called “quanta-cubicles” (Calm down, they’re just locations) as well as a realm of “non-space” (Hey! Relax!) which exists right here between the space and time with which we’re familiar. Towards the end of part one we look at the strange world of tiny particles, the “vibrational idea” behind their physical reality, and the strange effect of quantum Observation. The consequence of all this is inter-spacial abstraction, or "ISA,” a name we might consider for the idea described in the book. The significance of ISA becomes clear in part two where we explore consciousness and the surprising way in which it interacts with your brain. Toward the end we speculate as to what might be going on.
If it is compelling at all, this little book is but an outline for an idea whose credibility awaits the rigor of much scrutiny. Meanwhile, whether you believe in an afterlife or are a confirmed atheist, I hope it expands the way you think about consciousness, the universe, and your connection to everything in it.
The first revised edition, June 2019
Aside from its consequences for the workings of consciousness, the idea that space comes in bits can change, literally, everything. For this reason, it was challenging to focus on the subject of consciousness alone without cluttering the text with additionally fascinating-but-unrelated material. Although such material has grown since the first publication, it has been removed to an appendix in this edition. In this way, the book has remained focused upon the more fundamental components of ISA accompanied by a number of new illustrations. Alternatively, while basic concepts about time and Simultaneity are important to our understanding of consciousness, they are not new, and likewise, this tidal wave of basic information has been removed to the appendix, leaving a cleaner description of consciousness in its wake.
Unsurprisingly for a new idea like ISA, some of its basic ingredients have required adjustment and elaboration since the first edition. Perhaps the most important of these was the idea that a qubicle, or location in space can become “occupied” by a particle. Rather, the qubicle itself becomes entirely condensed down to the size of a distinct particle and this has had important implications for gravity, as explained in appendix G. In the five years since its first publication, the thought process by which your mind interacts with your brain has been explained in much greater detail accompanied by several new illustrations.
Gary Blaise makes Clavichords in