Walking across America, you could discover vast quantities of things that look and feel exactly like dollars and cents, but they aren’t dollars and cents until the US government creates their monetary reality. You could walk across fields and through forests and over mountains, but they aren’t fields and forests and mountains until someone creates these abstract categories and the words to identify them, distinguishing them from what they are not and separating them conceptually from their opposites. You could be walking across the surface of the third planet orbiting a particular star in a particular galaxy, but… The raw stuff is different from its meaning; to assign meaning to raw stuff is to perform an act of creation.
Once you have the idea of a universe in mind, a lot of revolutionary possibilities present themselves. The universe could be made up of things other than what happens to be the case in our universe – there could be two moons, say, or the world could be enshrouded in a perpetually gray and translucent ganzfeld, or there could be a world with no sea or no solid ground. New things could be created to populate this universe by fashioning them from raw materials. New properties could be defined for making sense of things that already exist: heavy and light, near and far, structure and function, atomic weight. Different realities could be created, based on principles other than sheer material existence: good and evil, beautiful and ugly, happy and sad, just and unjust, sincere and disingenuous.
Which is the more powerful act: to create all the things that populate the heavens and the earth, or to create systems of meaning by which the heavens and the earth become reality? An individual insect can die at the same instant that another one hatches; a whole species of insect can come into existence, thrive, and fall into extinction; mountain ranges can be lifted up from the sea, slowly crumble to rock, and sink back into the deep; a star can form, generate enough gravity to support a solar system and enough energy to support life, and then collapse and disintegrate. These are physical events involving the creation, transformation and destruction of matter. However, until they find their place in a system of meaning, these events and things have no reality.
Cups are cups because intelligent beings created a category called “cup” and stuck all the cups inside it. Men are men because God created a category called “man” and stuck all the men inside it. Matter wedded to idea is reality. If God pulled all the men back out of the category, the category “man” would persist in the mind of God, and the creature formerly called “man” would persist in nature. But the category would be empty, and the creature would be nameless…
…While writing my book about Genesis 1 I kept having the weird feeling that I was writing fiction. These four preceding paragraphs are part of that book, a book that in a world just slightly different from this one is becoming hugely influential in certain circles. Here in this reality, a couple days ago, I wrote a first installment in a “Ktismatics Manifesto.” Then the next day I wrote about a particular kid to illustrate alternative psychotherapeutic realities, and I find it a lot more fun to spin out interpretations of this one particular kid’s story and what might happen to her in those stories than to establish the abstract principles of reality theory. Perhaps the Ktismatics Manifesto would be more interesting as pamphlet that exists as part of a fictional reality, rather than as a work of nonfiction in this reality. It’s like in Donnie Darko, we find out that Grandma Death is Roberta Sparrow, author of The Philosophy of Time Travel. We know the book exists, we get brief glimpses of its cover and pages, we know that it’s changing the world Donnie Darko inhabits, but the book itself exists only in that reality. In our everyday reality that book, even if it had been written, would likely never get published or be read by anybody.
I’m starting to get the feeling that it’s time to create a fictional reality where some eccentric cat has written the Ktismatics Manifesto, and it changes that world.