Frontpage Summary Full text (free) Audiobook (free) Buy the book Videos Podcasts

15.22. Emergent meaning

Emergence is the primary mechanism in our theory and is involved everywhere and at all levels of the universe. Here's an example of how emergence creates meaning from printing inks.

Let's say that the Pattern, the zero-point field in physics, is the book we just discussed.

The universe is a reading, an interpretation, a conception of the Pattern. It is the conception, the narrative that is experienced.

To read feels like something. Sometimes the story is so well told, and the images that arise in your mind are so vivid that you «live yourself into the book». It feels like it's about you and that you are almost inside the story.

The grains in the ink in the book are then the points. The letters, words, sentences and narration they form are emergent notions.

A letter is an emergent interpretation of a particular pattern of dots with ink. Another part of the Pattern is interpreted as another letter.

The different letters again form a pattern. These are interpreted as words. The words become sentences etc.

That is how abstract meaning arises from printing ink's «material» grains.

The principle of emergence is universal.

Take a movie.

Every second, some twenty photographs light up on the screen. These are static, motionless images – bright spots on a canvas. Nothing moves; nothing «happens». But in your mind, the images come to life. A story is formed, meaning – through emergence.

Then take the universe.

In the Experiencer's interpretation of the Pattern, in the narrative, the points form a three-dimensional space. This room is conceptualised and experienced as something «spacious». The spaciousness is the quale.

If you do as the physicists do and go all the way down to the very least, you will find no room or time. You will find no meaning by studying printing ink as such, nor any romance by examining the grains on the film roll.

The principles of how this works are always the same, but as emergence occurs in many generations, the interpretations become increasingly higher order.

What was initially simple and uniform quickly becomes complex and fragmented.

The Experiencer sees pictures, hears sounds, imagines weight and touches.

These phenomena are not subject to the speed of light. They follow laws of «higher order», i.e. emergent laws – derived from the sum of everything that has preceded. Newton's mechanical laws are a good example.

As said earlier, most natural laws emerge from the experience of the Pattern. The laws that created the Pattern, on the contrary, are fundamental.

A law is simply a notion, knowledge, of what something is, that is, what we have so far called a concept.

For example, it means that the first time something was interpreted as an «apple», a «law» was established, i.e. knowledge that all patterns that are sufficiently similar to an apple, are an apple.

Should a later apple have significant deviations from the law of what an apple is, either the interpretation must be extended to include the deviation as well, or a new concept must be created, maybe, «pear».

For example, suppose the apple in question has only an unusual colour, but still the shape, texture, smell and taste of apples in general. In that case, the new colour is included in the definition.

The modified definition is then of a higher emergent order because it further encompasses a new aspect of «apple» and replaces the previous understanding of what an apple is.

The new, expanded interpretation wins.

It takes over as an attractor.

We thus see that the concept «attractor» in a slightly expanded sense also applies to interpretations and laws.

The strongest interpretation wins.

That also gives associations to Darwin's theory of evolution.

It also leads to the concept of masking, meaning that something stronger masks something weaker, such as when the Sun rises in the morning and masks the light from the stars.

Masking (and normalisation) is central to the formation of the notion of you as a separate individual. We will discuss that in the later chapter on dissociation.

The mechanism of emergence explains how a group of elementary particles can be interpreted as an atom, atoms as molecules, etc. – all the way up to «apple», «forest», «planet», or «galaxy».

It is always the highest emergent interpretation of what is currently in focus that is experienced with associated qualia.

The underlying components, such as the atoms of an apple, are there and can be studied individually, but we do not experience trillions of atoms; we experience an apple.

The underlying is masked.

This is how meaning arises from meaningless atoms.

Because meaning is, in reality, abstract laws of interpretation, we assume that meanings as such are abstract and belong to a separate sphere.

That is wrong.

Meanings do not exist as something separate; they are nothing in themselves. Meaning is created by the Experiencer, who is also us, to understand and experience the world.

The consequence of our theory of idealistic emergence is that one meaning is as «true» as another, but it is always the strongest meaning that wins.

There is no fundamental law about what is one or the other, ugly or pretty, right or wrong. Ethics is nothing God-given.

Everything we see around us is equally «valid» because it is our own, or for the time being, the universal Experiencer's, subjective interpretation that has become «law».

This principle we will see later also applies to you and me as individuals.