Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Did Prochronic History Really Occur?

This post is exploring certain aspects of my Neo-Omphalos theory, so if you want to become more familiar with what that is, see here.

Before we get into the point of this post, remember that the Neo-Omphalos theory posits that the universe that was created in six days a few thousand years ago was created with not only a present moving into a future, but also a past history as well.  The universe was created, then, in that sense, as indefinitely old.  The creation history in Genesis and subsequent history is called (following Philip Gosse's own terminology in his book Omphalos) "diachronic" history--"diachronic" meaning "through time."  The past history created by the creation of the universe is called "prochronic," meaning "before time."  I find this terminology useful and will use it in this and presumably subsequent posts on this subject.

Now, one question that needs to be explored more fully is whether or not prochronic history really occurred.  In my original paper (linked to above), I argued that one of the differences between Gosse's original theory and my own is that I take more seriously than Gosse apparently did the fact that any history existing in God's mind is going to be substantial and to have reality.  Even what we imagine is real.  It really occurs in our minds.  If I imagine a pink dragon, that pink dragon really exists in my mind.  However, it does not exist in the external world, it is extremely hazy and insubstantial compared to the things that do exist in the external world, it is vague, perhaps incoherent, and temporary (it vanishes as soon as I stop thinking about it, get distracted, etc.).  However, if God holds something in his mind, since he is omniscient and perfect, that thing is going to be perfectly substantial, thorough, coherent, etc.  In fact, all the world we live in and our very selves only exist because God holds us in being, and he does so (being an infinite Mind) by viewing us as existing.  His perceptions of reality, unlike ours, do not simply find things the way they are, but make things to be the way they are.  So if God views the created universe as implying a prochronic history, that history is going to be real and substantial.  It is not a fake history, or an appearance of a history that never really occurred, but a real history, full of real events and real characters, just like diachronic history is.

I also mentioned in my paper that although it is the case that both diachronic history and prochronic history are real, yet this does not mean that both are on the same level.  I mentioned that one might be tagged on as a back story to the other.  I want to elaborate on that a bit here, because I think that there is more that needs to be drawn out on this point.  One reason why we ought to think more about this aspect of the relationship between diachronic and prochronic history (beyond simply that it is good to get at the truth and understand reality as accurately as we can) is that God's view of history, expressed in the Bible, strongly suggests that God views prochronic history as subordinate to diachronic history.

The Bible gives us a timeline of history stretching from the time of the last recorded letters of the apostles all the way back to the creation of the universe.  This is diachronic history.  Prochronic history is nowhere to be found in any of this.  It is simply not mentioned as being a part of history.  Now, one could argue that this is because prochronic history is not real and NO is false; but we need not say that, nor should we, because, as I showed in my paper, the existence of some kind of prochronic history follows necessarily from the very idea of the creation of the space-time universe.  So if there is, and must be, some kind of prochronic history, why does the Bible not include it in its narrative of history?

I think the answer is that God does not view the events of prochronic history as events of real history.  He does not see these events as occurring on the timeline of the history of our universe.  But surely he must view them in some way, for they are real.  So how and where does he see them as existing?  I posit that God sees prochronic history not as events occurring in history's timeline, but as a conceptual implication of the nature of the created universe created by the creation events of diachronic history.  In other words, God views diachronic history as the real narrative history of the universe, while he views prochronic history as a conceptual part of the essence of the universe that exists in diachronic history.

To perhaps illuminate this idea further, imagine that you have a time machine, programmed to follow the narrative of history.  You go back in time to explore the history and origin of the universe.  What will you find?  I am proposing that you will find nothing but diachronic history, and you will go straight back to the six days of creation.  Perhaps you would be puzzled, wondering where to look to find prochronic history.  You won't find it as events on the timeline of history.  Instead, you would find it if you were to examine carefully the essence of the universe that exists along the timeline of history.  If you examine the created universe, you will see embedded in or logically implied in its essence another narrative, different from that narrative played out in history's timeline.  This narrative, conceptually built into the essence of the created universe and the essences of the things in it, is the prochronic history.

So Gosse was not that far from the mark when he described diachronic history as "real" and prochronic history as "not real" but only "ideal," existing not in reality but only in the mind of God.  Of course, all reality exists in the mind of God, so the terminology is a bit misleading.  And we must remember, as I said earlier, that any narrative existing in the mind of God is going to have a full, completed, coherent, and solid substance due to the lack of limitations in God's mind.  In its own sphere, then, prochronic history is going to be just as real and substantial as diachronic history.  However, though both are real in their own spheres, the relationship between the two allows us to see some merit in Gosse's original terminology.  Diachronic history is the actual narrative of history, while prochronic history exists not as events on the timeline of history but only as a conceptual part, or a conceptual implication, of the essence of the created universe.  Prochronic history might very well then be called "ideal" as opposed to the "actuality" of diachronic history, even though both are real in their own spheres.  Prochronic history is not a fake, nor is it the case that the world is designed to appear to have some characteristic that it actually does not.  For God to have made the universe in this way would be for him to have associated falsehood with the basic nature of the universe, and I believe that this would have been contrary to his nature as a being who hates falsehood and loves truth and created the universe to reflect his own non-deceptive values and goals.  (It was this concern which was probably the main thing that led Christians to reject Gosse's original idea.)  No, prochronic history is a real part of the universe--so the appearances of a previous history in the universe match up with something real about the universe--but its relationship with diachronic history is such that it is attached onto it as a conceptual part or implication of its essence rather than its events being included as distinct events on the diachronic timeline.  This is why we can talk of the prochronic history of the sun, for example, coming into being along with the sun as the sun is created in the creation events of the diachronic timeline.  The prochronic history is created by the creation events of the diachronic timeline, and it is accordingly subordinate to it.  And that is why the Bible traces history not through the prochronic timeline but through the diachronic timeline all the way back to the beginning of creation.  God views the diachronic timeline as the true narrative of history, recording the true, ultimate origins of the universe, while he views prochronic history not as the true history or origin of the universe but as a conceptual component of the created universe.  Every moment of time implies a preceding moment (that is, the earlier moments are included as part of its conceptual essence), and yet also God, through the events recorded in Genesis, created time and space a few thousand years ago out of nothing.

UPDATE 6/19/13:  I think it will also shed light on this subject to link it to the potential/actual distinction I discussed in my original paper.

In my paper, I discussed the paradoxes that arise from the concepts of space and time (and dimension and extension, more broadly).  I showed how the paradoxes are solved by recognizing that space-time reality only exists in the viewpoints of finite perceivers.  The creation of the space-time universe was the creation of a finite point of view.  This allows us to distinguish between potential and actual in our discussions of the infinites we run into in any examination of dimensionality.  So, for example, every moment in time implies a preceding moment, and thus the universe must have a potentially infinite past.  Yet, because time exists only in the viewpoints of finite perceivers, time in actuality only goes back as far as it is viewed/experienced by finite minds.  Thus, the actual past is finite, and we avoid the paradoxes of an actual infinite past.  The past goes back as far as the finite viewpoint perceives it, and then its actuality stops or has a starting point.  Anything before that, since not actually viewed, exists only in potentiality.  That is, the events of the potential past history before the first moment actually perceived by a finite mind are never actualized.  They exist only in the sense that there is a definite potential form that they would take if they were viewed by a finite mind, derived from the definite nature/will of God who is their source.  That is, if I could go back into that potential past and actualize some moment in it, there would be a definite form that moment would take, and it would be in logical continuity with that which comes after it, both in potential and in actual history.  But in fact, since it is not actually viewed, it remains only potential and not actual.  Or we could say that it exists only as a conceptual implication of actual history rather than being actualized as events within actual history.  Or we could use the language of a back story tied on as a conceptual implication to an actualized story.  Etc.

This potential/actual distinction exists in all other areas where we have potential infinites in the world as well--such as in space, in the calculation of pi, and in the divisible pieces of material objects.  Pi is an interesting example, and one I didn't discuss in my original paper.  Pi, famously, is potentially infinite, in that one never can come to the end of calculating it out.  It can be calculated out forever.  But because actual infinites can't exist--the space-time world being inherently finite--it will ever only be calculated out to a finite degree, no matter how amazing our future computers become.  Beyond the point of the most distant calculation yet made, pi goes on with potential infinity.  But, as dimension exists only in finite viewpoints or in finite perception, the further decimal places of pi do not exist in actuality but only in potentiality.  That is, there is a definite form that will arise, logically connected to what has come before, at any point in the stream of decimals.  But the form is only potential and never actualized unless some finite mind actually calculates it out to that degree.  Again, this solves the paradox that would exist if we imagined that pi actually exists somewhere calculated out to infinity.

To tie this back to the discussion of Neo-Omphalos, what I propose is that the actual, finite past of our universe corresponds to diachronic history, while the potential, infinite past corresponds to prochronic history.  In creating the space-time universe, God created a finite point of view in which space and time exist.  This creation is recorded in Genesis 1-11.  The creation of the finite point of view corresponds with the creation of the actual universe and the commencement of actual history.  Actual history carries on until the end of the world (at least), so long as God continues to preserve in being this continuous finite point of view.  The finite point of view in which space-time exists seems basically to correspond with the human point of view, as humans are the focal point of the creation and it is within the story of the human race that God carries out his purposes for history.  The universe began to be created five days before Adam and Eve were created on day six of the creation week; but even though there were no humans during those first five days, the creation was building up to them, and they were the pinnacle of what was being created.  This is why the creation of the universe during all of the six days takes place from a human vantage point.  For example, why is the earth created on day one (and then further organized on days two and three), while the sun and stars aren't created until day four?  If you look at it in one way, this appears very strange, considering that the earth is a very, very small speck in a gigantic universe.  That which was created on day four astonishingly dwarfs that which was created in the first three days.  Wouldn't it have made more sense to have created the stars first, then the sun, and then the earth?  Perhaps so, if we are imagining the creating taking place from the vantage point of someone somewhere out in the universe far away from the earth.  But God creates the world from the vantage point of someone standing on the earth, and thus the earth is formed first and then things are formed around it.  This is because creation was the creation of a finite point of view, and that point of view was the point of view of the finite beings that are humans.

So actual history begins when the finite viewpoint begins, which is on day one of the creation week.  However, temporality necessarily involves potential infinity, because every moment implies a preceding moment.  So when God brought the actual universe into being, attached to it (so to speak) was a conceptual, potential back story or past history potentially infinite in scope.  This is the prochronic history.  Since the events of prochronic history do not occur during the period in which the finite viewpoint actually exists, prochronic history, unlike diachronic history, remains only potential and never actual.  Thus, we can and should say that actual history is diachronic history and prochronic history is not actual history but only conceptual and potential.  It exists not as actualized events but only as a conceptual implication of diachronic reality.  But it is also true that, while only potential and conceptual, it has a definite form just as the further potential calculations of pi have a definite form.  Therefore, we can say that, in its own sphere (that is, taking into account its potential as opposed to actual nature), it is a real part of the creation.  And since it is tied into the creation as part of its nature, the definite form of prochronic history will leave marks in the nature and essence of diachronic reality.  So, for example, if we find dinosaur fossils in the ground dating back to 70 million years ago, these fossils are there and have the form that they have not for no reason, but because they are the logical implication of certain aspects of prochronic history.  So, on the one hand, we do not say that the dinosaur lived in actual history, for it lived only in the potential, conceptual history that is prochronic history.  However, on the other hand, we do not say that the fossils were planted in the ground as a deceptive appearance corresponding to nothing real.  They do correspond to something real--they correspond to the definite events of prochronic history, and their nature is determined not arbitrarily but by the logical relationship that exists between themselves and certain prochronic events.

This is why we have an account of diachronic history in Genesis, while mainstream science (that is, the historical sciences such as paleontology) only tells us about the prochronic history.  Genesis is God's eye-witness account of what actually happened in the past, while the natural sciences can't actually go back and see what happened in the past.  They can only examine clues embedded in the universe and try to infer from them some past historical narrative.  Since the universe was created in light of a prochronic back story and with an intended overall continuity with that back story (though with some significant, but probably not typically scientifically noticeable, discontinuities arising from the diachronic creation narrative), the clues that natural scientists find tend to be tied to the universe's prochronic history.  There is no way to tell from these clues by themselves whether the narrative they point to is diachronic or prochronic, and so Naturalistic scientists (and more liberal Christian scientists who don't take Genesis's historical claims seriously enough) tend to assume they are piecing together diachronic rather than prochronic history (though they don't put it that way, of course!).  This is why they think that science and Genesis are in conflict.  But they aren't, if we add the insight that the natural clues point to prochronic rather than diachronic history.  (I'm assuming in this discussion, of course, that mainstream science is basically right in many of its fundamental assertions about the age and history of the earth and universe.  I'm actually not convinced that that is necessarily the case, but one can only talk about so many things at one time!)

Again, in short, diachronic history corresponds to actual history as it is actually viewed within the created finite viewpoint in which exists our actual space-time universe.  Prochronic history, on the other hand, corresponds to the non-actualized potential or conceptual history that exists as appended onto diachronic reality as a logical aspect of its nature (in that temporality requires a potentially infinite past).

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