© Gus Koehler

Useful Hints for Reordering the Universe

Gus Koehler, Time Structures

Alfonso the Wise, King of Castile (1221-1284) said: “Had I been present at the Creation, I would have given some useful hints for the better ordering of the universe.”

What would King Alfonso the Wise have to know about space/time ordering to make useful hints to God?

The problem of “better ordering” the universe is a challenging but important one. For example, King Alfonso the Wise might like his ministers to develop better government policies, or to help his health care corps reduce family conflicts or improve a patients’ psychological or physiological functioning. The problems of existence and life are so chaotic, however, that the King’s best intentions are thwarted.

One problem God appears to have created is that social/psychological/space/time chains of activities are less a fixed sequence of handily separated elements than they are a continuous flow of a changing patterning process. These processes have many properties including stochasticity, sensitivity to initial conditions, and chaotic transitions and variation. In addition, although these flows of growth and development occur at some place and at some time, the flows are not the same in every place and time. For example, Bateson pointed out that science is done in a particular kind of space/time labeled “laboratory”, a space/time with rules and assumptions about causality that may be quite different from “the wild’s”.

But perhaps, Alphoso the Wise might feel that, at least, space itself is more ordered, with a fixed structure to the patterned relationship between objects or fields (mapping of like qualities for example). However, if space is ordered, different spaces might be differently ordered. For example, there are spaces such as King Alfonso’s royal space, his subjects’ personal spaces, social space, legal jurisdictions, geographic space, the space between physical objects like neurons or atoms, fields of various types, and the relative space of Einstein. Each space has its own measures for representing “distance” (note how the concept changes from one space to another). Some measures are quantitative, others qualitative; some are continuous, some are discrete. Each space seems to have its own order. Perhaps, the King might wish to order spaces uniformly and in a corresponding fashion.

However, the King of C. might be perplexed by questions such as: How does one type or level of space relate to other space-like representation of objects? For example, brain space vs. the space of social objects sensed? How do the spaces link? Are they separate or “small worlds” nested together? What effect does a change of scale or variations of types of space have on experimental results? Are there specific spatial effects that could affect experimental outcomes? How do we deal with heterogeneity of different types of space that are distributed across a study area? How does distribution of observations in space or multiple space dimensions affect regression measurements and other statistical tests? His Majesty might, then, easily desire some order to the relationships among spaces.

The King’s ordering of space would require, however, that space be unchanging. Space, however, sometimes appears to be, itself, a patterned formation (limit cycles, attractor, etc). That is, space itself is a some-thing that may emerge with time. The concept of space-time captures this ordering. Can the King use time to order space? Unfortunately, not.

St. Augustine asked: “What is time? If no one asks me, I know but if I wanted to explain it to the one who asks me, I plainly do not know.” Is time, as Bergson (1910) suggested, a psychological phenomena and not “out there”? Is consciousness a “now”, emerging from an on-going blending of past-present-future related to action (Lloyd, 2002) ? Is time absolute (background dependent) in the sense of Newton’s absolute “t” time? Or is time an emergent from the interaction of two or more entities (background independent)? (Calendar and Edney, 2001)

The concept of time we choose has very important implications for the laboratory space/time in which we choose to collect data or to run our experiments. For example, “virtual computer time” is not “wild life time”. The decision also has important implications for scientific explanation including the style of time supporting scientific writing (Ricoeur, 1983). Time and space appear to be always changing. Alphonso the Wise (but probably now confused) may strain to understand the conflict between his internal time, conventional world time, and emergent, natural time. How can His Royal Highness order the universe? Must he dangle between body, soul and eternal times and spaces, or must he be outside of space and time? Floating in an impossible Cantorian space outside of the universe itself.

There is a wider context that may help HRH firmly find his ordering place in the universe. J.T. Fraser (1975, 1998), in his book Of Time, Passion and Knowledge, offers a five-level, hierarchical theory of time and associated causality. Here are the levels from highest to lowest:

1) Nootemporality is the temporal reality of human mind or noetic intentionality. It is characterized by the ability of the intellect, as distinguished from sensible apprehension, to apprehend distinctions between categorical meanings, called past and the future, relative to the present. Its level-specific causation is "noetic intentionally in the service of symbolic causes.”


2) Biotemporal: The inner developmental and growth organization of life. Requires “nowness” as reflexive causality. Biotemporality is the temporal reality of living organisms. The inner organization of life requires "nowness". The biological organism’s characteristic distinction is the ability to distinguish past and future relative to the organization of its’ own growth and development. The organism’s level-specific causality is "intentionality in the service of biological needs", a kind of internal programming that provides internal coordination of a system of oscillators to maintain its continuously developing and growing structure as an open system. Thus every living system maintains by its behavior adopting its own "now" as an organic present, providing the perspective for a past and a future. "In sum: organic intentionality and its corollary, freedom of choice, came about with biogenesis. It cannot be identified in the inanimate world...." (Fraser, 2002, p. 235) In Biotime, causality is emergent.

3. Eotemporal: This is the time of the universe of large-scale matter. Its time is physicist's “t”. It is characterized by a continuous and now-less flow of time. In Eotime, causality is deterministic.

4. Prototemporal: is the time of elementary objects such as quarks, photons, etc. In prototime, causality is probabilistic and stochastic

5. Atemporal: the mode of time characteristic of a black hole. In Atemporality, there is no mode of causation

By now King Alfonso will have come to some understanding of space-time and its possible orderings. It could be a heterochronic, local ordering. Each local background independent time space—whatever its geometry—would have a particular nesting of Fraser’s five temporalities and related causalities. Of course “now” is an emergent property of his biotemporal and nootemporal state. HRM proceeds blissfully at a certain pace and tempo out of his past remembering events at varing depths as he moves in a stately way into an unfolding future. Being observant, Alfonso the Wise might see that velocity cones characterize information, resources, and energy propagation and that exchanges of energies are occurring in background independent space/time. He would of course understand that the way that sensate beings like himself “see-experience” space/time should not be confused or equated with how local space/time is nested and causally entangled; his perception is just one string in the entangling (Koehler, 2003a and 2003b).

What useful hints can the King of Castile provide to God? Clearly, God does not have the King’s perceptual gulf and knows all five layers, causalities, and multiple extensions of time for eternity. Still, Alfonso the Wise’s perception is unique. Perhaps we misunderstand his statement, perhaps he is playing a God joke (Klarwein, 1976). As trickster of God he creates with jokes; in fact “trickster makes this world” (Hyde, 1998).

Perhaps the King’s intention, like all trickster’s intentions, is to throw God off his orderly, patterned pace. It is to open a pore, a small uncontrolled moment in noetic space/time and in some way, into the nest of space/time. Alfonso the Wise is trying to steal “fire” by creating this world through His impertinent statement. God sees all; the King of Tricksters sees only within this pattern. To see the pattern as God sees it is to know the eternal rules of the flow of space/time (Craig, 2001). Alfonso the Wise King of Tricksters, by looking for the pore that opens to the unconditioned, immediate, and concentrated, reveals the unique self and makes this world. He tells God jokes, lies and takes impertinent postures to reveal a higher truth, a “better”ordering, a human ordering. This too is the challenge of chronocomplexity; to find the human, the normative value-making, the pore in limit cycles, attractors and other patterns opening upon what is uniquely human.

Bergson, Henri (1910). Time and Free Will. New York: Harper Torchbooks.

Callender, C. and Edney, R. (2001). Introducing Time. New York: Totem Books. Santa Cruz, CA: Aerial Press.

Craig, William (2001). Time and Eternity. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

Fraser, J.T. (1975). Of Time, Passion and Knowledge. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Fraser, J.T. (1998). From Chaos to Conflict, in J.T. Fraser, M. Soulsby, and A. Argyros (1998). Time, Order and Chaos. Madison, Conn.: International University Press.

Fraser, J.T. (2002). Human Freedom. KronoScope, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 223-247.

Hyde, Lewis (1998). Trickster Makes the World. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Klarwein, Abdul Mati (1976). God Jokes: the Art of Abdul Mati Klarwein. New York: Harmony Books.

Koehler, Gus (2003a). Time, Complex Systems, and Public Policy: A Theoretical Foundation for Adaptive Policy Making. Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology and the Life Sciences, Vol. 7, 1, January 2003.

Koehler, Gus (2003b). Time and Simulation: Some Significant Issues. Prepared for The Second Lake Arrowhead Conference on Human Complex Systems - 2003, Wednesday, March 19th - Sunday, March 23rd, 2003.

Lloyd, D. (2002). Functional fMRI and the Study of Human Consciousness. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 14, 818-831., Aug.15, 2002

Ricoeur, Paul (1983). Hermeneutics and the Human Science. New York: Cambridge University Press.