Theosophy is a study of inquiring into the nature of reality. A number of varying types of methods are employed to understand and explain this, by Philosophers and the Scientists alike. From the scientist’s point of view the question can be approached better if we could figure out whether the nature of Reality was Analog or Digital?

Within the context of this discussion, Analog is something which is continuous and reducible to a mathematical algorithms and digital is what is considered to be discrete or discontinuous in general.  As this Wikipedia page states:

A digital system is a data technology that uses discrete (discontinuous) values. By contrast, non-digital (or analog) systems use a continuous range of values to represent information.

Thomas J Mcfarlane, a distinguished physicist, has tried to look into this in his 2011 paper titled, “The Distinct Nature of Physics and Cosmos”  summarizes that:

it is concluded that any description of reality by physics is necessarily discrete at its foundations. This conclusion points to a more fundamental insight into the nature of reality beyond the scope of physics.

While looking into how physics works, he further quotes Heisenberg:

... The measuring device has been constructed by the observer, and [so] we have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning. Our scientific work in physics consists in asking questions about nature in the language we possess and trying to get an answer from experiment by the means that are at our disposal.

So, wherever in nature we find order, it may be possible to reduce to it to a mathematical formula and therefore an analog form. But what about where there is chaos or where the information appears in discrete values? McFarlane concludes:

Reality in its totality, then, encompasses both the cosmos (order) and its complement (chaos).But, more fundamentally, it is prior to the even distinction between cosmos and chaos, form and formlessness, discrete and continuous. Its ultimate nature is therefore ineffable, beyond the scope of mathematics, physics, and even thought itself, which depends on making distinctions. Insofar as it can be known at all, it must be known through other means.

Will Future Theosophies  attempt to know the nature of the reality by other means as suggested by McFarlane, And will those means be Analog or Digital?

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Replies to This Discussion

Good question!

I believe Buddhism sees time as discrete.

well. I would go with what we know. No one knows.

The question is probably relative to how it is phrased, and that it can be both discrete and continuous simultaneously. Wave behavior implies continuous and particle behavior implies discrete (well, kind of). To ask the question as an either/or excludes the other possibilities. So, the question is ill-posed. However - I reserve the right to make a discrete change of opinion at my leisure. I am curious to hear the other views. Physics is a bit mute at this point.

(FQXI - great place to visit).

Being human there is no way of explaining "what really is" with the human vernacular.  Any discussion on the transcendent must begin with that understanding.

John Mead wrote "well. I would go with what we know. No one knows."  This is not quite so, I know; however, I cannot convince anyone of that because of the human vernacular.  For example: Carl G. Jung said, "I don't believe there is a God, I know that there is a God."  He was hounded for the rest of his life because people wanted to know what he knew.  There was no way he could explain it to them because the human vernacular is too terse.  How can any human being encapsulate the essense of what he knows in a word or a few short words: only God can and did do that.  All the individual can do is be succint  in what he says and hope that that suffices.

Think about it.  How can Theosophy be any different in the future than it is today?  The Transcendent can only be discussed indirectly and by analogy.  Even that is ambiguous at best.  There is no way of explaining the transcendent where it will not be interpreted from many different perspective and probably none from the point of view that the author is coming from.

I hate to sound pompous but from my perspective this is THEOSOPHY 101.

Theosophy is an insideous science because it cannot be explained by sitting someone down and giving him the facts.

Theosophy is not liken to a scientific experiment where it can be demonstrated scientifically how you know something, say from the sacred scriptures (as I am accustom to do), then have another individual go to a different section of the sacred scriptures and apply the same rules and technique and WALLA you decode the text.  It is not that simple because each section of the sacred scriptures have different graphic images that are codified to the text.  Though the the basic mathematics are the same throughout the sacred scriptures the interpretation of the different sections of the sacred scriptures will be conceptually conveying different spiritual ideas..

All we can do here in the twenty-first century is to understand how theosophy was conveyed by our ancestors.  I truly believe that when we in modernity see it and understand it we will realize that we cannot improve upon it.  All we can try to do is ape their techniques and methods.

"Reality in its totality, then, encompasses both the cosmos (order) and its complement (chaos).But, more fundamentally, it is prior to the even distinction between cosmos and chaos, form and formlessness, discrete and continuous. Its ultimate nature is therefore ineffable, beyond the scope of mathematics, physics, and even thought itself, which depends on making distinctions. 'Insofar as it can be known at all, it must be known through other means.'"


The final poser is a teaser. Understanding the nature of Brahm or Aakaal would appear to be the ultimateTruth. Excepting for some (mostly) non-Semitic spiritualists who have attempted this, major religions have comforted/enslaved us with their dogmas. Oddly, rationalists such as Stephen Hawkings have ingeniusly 'analogued' the beginnings of the universe to the concept of time and entropy in the big bang theory. To them, any speculation on the 'before' contains a lexicon that is meaningless. The digitalists are humbler, looking for God/Reality in the Gaps. For materialists, the leap from Newtonian certitude to quantum physics is nightmarish. Scientists who 'will' themselves to stretch the boundaries of credulity could be considered as essentially theosophical. Learning for them, is not just finding ulimate solutions during a journey, but delighting in whatever nuggets they pick on the way.

Quoting (inaccurately perhaps) from memory and an unknown source, 'data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, and understanding, not wisdom.'   To this I would add, 'And wisdom, is not reality'.

Yet, we yearn for the truth so that we can be free! As self-confessed innocents/ignoramuses on this trip, we admit that ladders of learning contain many uncertain steps. We stand on the shoulders of  those on the next /other rungs to see further away and within.

I wish us all success in this study.

Ultimately CHAOS is that which the COSMOS [systems of thought: i.e. techniques] attempts to define.  So in every sense CHAOS is that which we all are attempting to grasp intellectually.  In every sense CHAOS is definitively the actual order of reality.  This reality is defined by us as CHAOS because we do not actually see a sense of order in it.

It is interesting the way you phrase "Excepting for some (mostly) non-Semitic spiritualists who have attempted this, major religions have comforted/enslaved us with their dogmas".  Because Semitic spiritualists think in terms of linear thought and have not the ability for circular logic.

Your comment that. "The major religions have comforted/enslaved us with their dogmas", in every sense tells me that you do not understand what religion is all about.  Religion prevents the individual from having a spiritual experience until the individual is ready for it.  Religion is deliberately created to encapsulates the knowledge of the transcendent in mythological clothing and dogma until the individual is ready to understand it.  If this was not so we would have a world teeming with insane people that would have the spiritual experience but not the wherewithal to deal with it.  Our insane asylums are full of such people.

Theosophy is such a system of thought that bypasses the restrictions of religions.  It is a dangerous path that we individuals in Theosophy embark upon because we dare to thread whiere angels fear to go.  But I warn any Theosophist that has such a spiritual experience, in the future, that they have such a lifeline [system of thought: technique] to aid him or her in trying to understand what has happened to them.  In the New Testament this warning is giving through the analogy/parable of the Ten Virgins: five had oil and five were without oil when Christ came: for it was not known the hour that he would come.  The lamp with the oil was the artificial techniques [religious dogma] use to grasp the spiritual vision.


Great replies all. Thanks.

Do we really need to look at Reality through the two lenses of digital and analog? What if it is something else altogether? Neither digital nor analog? What 'Other Means', could one possibly explore?

Capt Anand Kumar:


I am sorry that I did not take your suggestion and read Professor Farlane paper: THE DISTINCT NATURE OF PHYSICS AND COSMOS, before commenting below; however, since reading it I realize that we in theosophy are butting our heads against two diametrically different systems of thought thinking they are one and the same.

I took it upon myself to write Professor McFarlane an email, which I have copied below.  I am expecting a reply and will certainly give you his answer.



Dear Professor Thomas J. McFarlane:
When you wrote, "Reality in it totality, then, encompasses both the cosmos (order) and its complement (chaos)", you had no suggestion that chaos represented the transcendent but rather chaos from your point of view represented the unknown physical universe.  Am I correct in assuming that is what you meant to convey?
I have been studying the abstractions of mathematics as they are derived from the MONAD and not used to measure the physical substances of the universe as in physics.  The dichotomies between two systems of thought can become quite confusing especially when looking back at what Plato and Pythagoras were talking about in contrast to the physics of Aristotle and modernity.
We are not actually on the same page.  The simplicity of the mathematics that I study is not on par with the higher levels of mathematics used to described the physical universe.  I speak of describing the transcendent on a very sophisticated level using simple mathematics.  This is not my discovery but actually directly comes the transcendent.  The transcendent defines itself just as the physical universe does.  All it takes is the physicists to discover the patterns in the physical cosmos.  That is exactly what I do with the mathematical matrix derived from the MONAD.
Plato and Pythagoras were speaking about the transcendent and not the physical universe.  Yet, in looking back over the expanse of history the two diametrically opposites systems of thought that have come down to us seem to be talking about the same cosmos and the same chaos when in actually they are two diametrically systems altogether. I do not know how you did not make this distinction in your paper.
I am hoping that you will comment about this in a return email.
Sincerely Yours,
William John Meegan

Thanks William.

In The Cosmic Doctrine, Dion Fortune describes Ring Chaos and Ring Pass-Not at right angle to each other. So, what may appear as diametrically opposite to us may in fact be closely interwoven.'Order' could be contained inside the 'Chaos' or 'Chaos' could be the first manifestation of' 'Order'. In the language of modern set theory, one may ask which one is the subset of the other?

To begin with the position that what Plato or Pythagoras thought is true in every respect will be killing the curiosity.

I truly admire your effort to engage Prof. McFarlane. We all will learn from his thought on the topic. I am truly curious about what 'Other Means' he has in mind?


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