This is something I wrote when I was recently asked to contribute to the Huffington Post Weird News, but apparently it was too weird for them; then again it’s not really news. It’s just a bit of nonsense really.
According to physics we might be living in a simulation. Apparently it’s been an undercurrent in physics for some time, that you don’t need the matter or energy to make up the universe that we experience; you just need the information about the matter or energy. (The HuffPost has been reporting on this for some time.) As someone who has long held the view that ours is an ordered information universe this is not a new idea and I first came across it in Ramsey Dukes’ book Words Made Flesh in the eighties. (Other, more high profile, philosophers have been laying claim to similar ideas but personally I think they’re all Johnny-come-latelies) The HuffPost article explained Dukes’ idea that computers become complex enough to simulate universes and that the universe within the simulation becomes complex enough to simulate another, and so on downwards. The implication is that we are extremely unlikely to be the top of the chain.
So if that is the case we really ought to be able to find evidence of that wherever we look, and not just in particle accelerators. So I thought let’s take something, or someone, as far removed from particle accelerators as you could think of. Let’s take the new Pope.
My view of the ordered information universe is that the information in the universe is ordered by virtue of symbolism. The equations that physicists use are important but only at the levels that they work. People don’t experience the universe on that level. We don’t experience equations in everyday life. I prefer to work with more basic symbolism, symbolism from before the dawn of science. One of those symbol systems is that of Earth, Water, Air and Fire.
Now I don’t believe that the universe is made up of Earth, Water, Air and Fire but let us not forget that these are just symbols. A friend of mine is a physicist who has been working at the Joint European Taurus project in England where they have been attempting to generate fusion power. He likens the four elements to the four states of matter. Earth = Solid, Water = Liquid, Air = Gas, Fire = Plasma. Of course the people who came up with the idea of Earth, Water, Air and Fire had a necessarily primitive view of reality so they expressed them in terms of the most easily understood examples, hence the four elements. (Cultures in other parts of the world came up with their own systems but they bear striking similarities.)
So if this is the case, and don’t forget it’s only a model, can we apply the elemental model to Pope Francis and if so where would he fit in? Which element best describes the new pope and the way he behaves? Can Popes generally be classified in this way? Now you might think, being the pope with his direct line to God and all, that might make him all airy, spiritual perhaps. God lives in Heaven, which is generally considered to be up, the Devil lives in Hell which is generally down. (The Pope is certainly not Water as that would make him Poseidon which is a completely different pantheon, a different model of reality perhaps?) It might be possible to match the Pope up with Plasma that some might say is a bit like spirit, as fire is quite ineffable. But what is the basic quality of a Pope? I would suggest infallibility. The point is that what the Pope says is the word of God. God speaks through the Pope and I would say this doesn’t point to airy spirituality.
The element of Earth differs from the other three by virtue of its very reliability. What makes the element of Earth different from Water, Air, and Fire is that all three are fundamentally changeable whereas Earth is solid, unchanging, reliable, infallible, at least in its natural state. The Catholic model of reality has to work like this. To question the Pope is to question God. If we question the Pope we’d have chaos, or democracy, and in a hierarchical religion we can’t have either of those. But to be truly infallible, reliable, you have to be solid, of the earth. Pope Francis might be the most infallible yet (if it is possible to have degrees of infallibly) he seems to be of the Earth, of the people, unmotivated by the higher spiritual bullshit of the Vatican and of self interest. He drives around in an old wreck of a car; he lives in a humble apartment. If this is the case it may be that he is the closest to infallible that we have ever seen. The irony being that to be this close to God you have to be close to the Earth and the lives of ordinary people.
Like I said, just a bit of nonsense. The Pope’s really made of cheese.