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by James C. Clar

Credo ut intelligam.

Anselm, Proslogion

Zoticus sat at the desk in his study. He was surrounded by armillary spheres, intricately wrought alembics and retorts as well as by a seemingly disorderly profusion of scrolls and codices in a variety of languages both ancient and arcane. One particular tract, which he had managed to translate with some difficulty from the Arabic, had proved especially fruitful. The breakthrough which he had managed to achieve as a result was the culmination of a lifetime of research and experimentation.

But how to disseminate the information and knowledge he had so laboriously acquired? His was a skeptical age and his work was looked upon with everything from condescension and amusement on the one hand, to outright disdain and even hostility on the other. What was more, Zoticus was old. In spite of what he had learned, his own days were numbered. He was desperate to find someone to whom he could bequeath his wisdom and who would be both willing and able to carry on his work. Apprentices like that were few and far between at any time and in any place, but here and now they were particularly, acutely scarce. The old man sighed and rubbed his temples.

There had been that young man last year. Zoticus had so hoped that he would persevere. Within weeks, however, the novice – despite his aptitude and keen mind – had succumbed to the poison of doubt. He had demanded “proof.” Proof of what, Zoticus had wanted to ask? But he knew that such an approach would have been futile. The youth insisted that he needed to “know” so that he might believe. The secret, as Zoticus himself had ascertained, was that one must first believe and only then might one truly come to “know.” Zoticus was convinced that one either understood that esoteric truism intuitively or one did not. And if one did not, there was no means that had yet been invented to alter such an individual’s outlook or hermeneutic.

Zoticus’ epistemological musings were interrupted by a forceful knocking at his door. He rose stiffly and shuffled slowly into the hallway. A draught of cold air intruded and the oil lamps began to flutter as he opened the outer door. Before him stood what he could only assume was another candidate. This young man, however, was carrying a dead owl. Zoticus had seen far too much in his long life to be shocked or even surprised. Owls, of course, were mystical animals associated with inner wisdom, transformation and intuition. If nothing else, he was intrigued.

“I will forsake all … my family, my friends, and my career to become your apprentice,” Zoticus’ visitor stated without preamble. “First, however, you must prove that what is rumored about you is true,”

The determined young man issued an ultimatum. “Raise this bird to life and I will stay.”

Zoticus couldn’t help himself. He stroked his long white beard and, despite the supplicants’ obvious gravity, the old man began to laugh. “Another one,” he muttered as he shook his head in frustration and dismay.

As Zoticus was shutting the door the startled and bemused would-be apprentice hurled the dead raptor at the old master’s feet in frustration. Unfazed, the elderly scholar closed the door completely and threw the latch. He bent and picked up the owl’s lifeless body and carried it gently, reverently back to his desk. Setting it down, he softly intoned an ancient formula with great conviction and authority.  Almost at once, the animal’s hooded eyes began to flutter.



James C. Clar is a teacher and writer who divides his time between Upstate New York and Honolulu, Hawaii. His short fiction, book reviews, author interviews and articles have appeared in print as well as online. Most recently his work may be found on Antipodean SciFi, The Collidescope and Half-Hour-To-Kill.

Philosophy Note:

My story plays in a fanciful way with some of the following ideas.
A. Especially of late, my students struggle with the idea that “faith” and “belief” may be considered modes of knowing. When asked how we come to know, they answer: direct experience, indirect experience and logic/reason. Such knowledge, they argue, can be proven. By that they mean proven by empirical or logical means. I then ask them, how do you know your parents or significant others, let’s say, love you? Can you ‘prove’ it? We can cite evidence to support our belief that we are loved, but we simply cannot prove it in a strictly empirical fashion. Yet we base many of the most important decisions of our lives on such ‘knowledge’.
B. To what degree do we shape the world in which we live with our belief? Does our belief in some way come before our knowledge of the world and therefore is it a prerequisite to such knowledge? If so, how objective is the knowledge that we acquire, really?
C. Finally, the story touches on the power of words, of language, to create and influence the world in which we live. Many ancient cultures believed resoundingly in the generative, creative power of words. Fiat Lux!

Nothing Could Be Something: A Parable of Sorts

by Robert L. Jones III

G. K. Chesterton once wrote that materialists address the easier questions posed by the universe, ignore the more difficult ones, and then retire to their tea. Accordingly, a particular individual of this persuasion discovered a problem inherent to his materialism. His conceptual universe consisted solely of matter, energy, and the forces that governed their operation, and it followed that his thoughts and his personality were nothing more than patterns of electrochemical impulses coursing along randomly evolved neural circuits. These explanations begged the questions of what all this really meant and from what it had originated. Accepted chemical and physical theory presented much for consideration.


Electromagnetic energy was made of photons which had no mass. Matter was composed of atoms which contained protons, neutrons, and electrons within spherical, mostly empty volumes. Protons and neutrons were combinations of quarks held together by gluons. Evidence existed that electrons, once thought fundamental, were divisible into spinions, orbitrons, and holons.

So everything consisted of particles of one kind or another arrayed in motion through empty space. Quantum effects allegedly produced the simplest of these from nothing, and this raised the disturbing possibility that everything had arisen from and was reducible to the same. Even the faithful have their doubts. Prone to introspection, the materialist examined his.

Mind was indistinguishable from body. Mentally as well as physically, he was a finite but ever-changing association of matter and energy, and this implied that he might be a manifestation of nothing. In arriving at this conclusion, he confronted his chief complaint against his materialism: nothingness was not enough.

Impenitent but searching for answers, he grasped for salvation through geometry. Euclid’s Elements became his nightly panacea, his “now I lay me down to sleep” before turning out the lights. The logic of this ancient work reassured him, for it reminded him of what he needed to believe, an inference both elegant and pure: nothing could be something. In light of this revelation, he considered the nature of pure geometric forms.


A point had no height, width, or depth. Being of no dimension, it was a position without volume or mass. It was the most elemental of geometric concepts.

A line was made of an infinite number of points. With length but not width, it occupied only one dimension.

A plane contained an infinite number of lines. Being flat, it possessed length, width, and area but no depth. From its infinite points, any two-dimensional geometric figure could be constructed. A circle, for example, consisted of infinite points, all at equal distances from a central point and all in the same plane. It had a radius, a diameter, and a circumference, and it encircled an area which was not intrinsic to its nature.

A sphere consisted of an infinite number of points at equal distances from a central point and all in an infinite number of planes, making it three-dimensional. It completely surrounded a volume but had no volume in itself.

Whether in one, two, or three dimensions, all of these forms and countless others were made of nothing and had no mass or energy, but they were real.


These considerations offered hope, and they culminated in a series of appearances.


At fifteen minutes before midnight, the materialist looked up from Euclid’s Elements. He rubbed his eyes, and there it was: a minute distortion in his field of vision. It reminded him of light passing through an imperfection in a pane of glass, and it appeared to be in the center of the room. He glanced in multiple directions. The visual distortion remained stationary, so it wasn’t in either eye. He blinked. The spot remained. He stood up, took a few steps forward, and passed his hand through it, but it was still there.

Geometric definitions flickered in his mind, and he suddenly realized what he was seeing: visual evidence of a perfect, geometric point. Because it had no dimension, only position, he wasn’t seeing the actual point. He was seeing an indication of where it was, somewhere within the tiny volume of altered wavelengths. This implied a disturbance of air molecules, a refraction of light, and it resurrected the spectre of nonmaterial causation.

The point began to move erratically but in a way that implied intelligence. Something had emerged into the air, and it evidently was assessing its environment. From whence had it come? Was it from an unknown universe, or had it arisen spontaneously, nothing from nothing but still something?

The point widened its apparent search. When it reached the far wall, it disappeared. The materialist sprang from his chair and ran into the next room to follow the peregrinations of his visitor. It had passed through the wall, which was not surprising given its absence of volume and mass. After careening about briefly, it disappeared through the ceiling.


Another visitation occurred the next night. Initially, the point didn’t move. Then it grew rapidly into a line resembling the seam between two fused pieces of glass. Reaching to and presumably through the walls, the line remained stationary and then shrank back to a point. Whatever was behind this activity seemed to be learning, and it had achieved extension and contraction in one dimension. Having completed this operation, the point vanished.


On the third night, the point reappeared, and it extended into a curved arc which quickly formed a complete circle. Motionless and resembling the margin of a lens without any housing, this figure hovered vertically in the approximate center of the room. The materialist stood up from his desk and walked slowly around the circle.

As he did so, the circle appeared to change into an oval, then a vertical line, and back to an oval. It was a circle again when he reached the back side, so it was stationary. The different shapes depended on his angle of observation. Again, he wasn’t seeing the circle directly. He was seeing only where it was, and the pure figure was invisible within that space. The entity behind its construction had achieved two dimensions.

The materialist moved back to view it from the side, but now it rotated on an invisible axis to follow him. This gave it a more ominous aspect. The roles of observer and subject ostensibly had been switched, and the circle reminded him of a hollow eye. He couldn’t explain why this bothered him as much as it did. Perhaps it was the sheer emptiness of the figure mixed with a sense of intent.

The circle didn’t collapse back into a point after this. Rather, it flattened into a horizontal line as if winking, and then it disappeared.


On the fourth night, the materialist woke with a start. It was not yet midnight. His room was dark and silent, but he knew he was not alone. Reluctant to turn on the light and afraid to leave it off, he wrestled with these options for several minutes. In a spasm of decision, he reached for the lamp on his nightstand and flipped the switch. Wavering on one elbow, he slowly turned his head.

The geometric eye was back, but it was larger. More than two meters across, the optical distortion filled the zone defined by its margin. It had become a circular plane with radius, diameter, circumference, and area. It reminded him of a colorless bicycle reflector, and its bottom was mere inches from the level of his bedroom floor. He abruptly pushed himself up into a sitting position and kicked off his covers.

The disk moved toward him and encompassed the foot of his bed. It moved across the mattress, reached his feet, and slowly began to pass through him. He slid backward but was stopped by the headboard of his bed. The bottom of the disk was obscured by his mattress, but he could see the top half moving up his legs and into his upright torso. It caused no pain, produced no pleasure. It neither injured nor invigorated, and its product was the absence of sensory effect.

Something unseen, something without a body, was experimenting. Beginning with none, it had achieved one and then two dimensions, and it had just finished examining a third. The next logical step would be for this nonmaterial intelligence to assume a three-dimensional form.


On the fifth night, the point grew into an arc and then a circle. The circle extended into a sphere. As the materialist walked around this newly created figure, the perfection of its form remained constant from multiple angles of observation.


On the sixth night, the point grew into a variety of two and three-dimensional figures, disappearing and reappearing between each new formation. These constructions became increasingly complex, and an idea occurred to the materialist as he watched. Was he being instructed? He wondered if ancient philosophers had invented geometry or if they simply had been shown.


On the seventh night, the point rested.


There were no further visitations. In their aftermath, the materialist often considered the phenomena he had observed, but the question of origins remained intractable to satisfying analysis. His interpretations repeatedly snagged on Plato’s ideal forms and Aristotle’s unmoved mover. This prompted him to wonder whether he was good enough for nothing, and whenever he engaged in these deliberations, he experienced a persistent craving for tea.



Robert L. Jones III holds a doctorate in molecular biology from Indiana University, and he is Professor Emeritus of Biology at Cottey College in southwestern Missouri. His work has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Star*Line, Heart of Flesh Literary Journal, and previously in Sci Phi Journal. Samples may be viewed at

Philosophy Note:

Since the age of fifteen, I have been intrigued by the philosophical underpinnings of geometry. In this story, I have mixed this interest with the concepts of nonmaterial existence, nonmaterial causation, and the logical consequences of materialism.

The Story Of Atoms

by Geoffrey Hart

In the beginning was the first scientist — the God Particle, GP hereafter. (Even in the beginning, scientists loved their acronyms, abbreviations, and clever wordplay, and GP was no different. And, of course, GP was ineluctably masculine, since back then, only men could be scientists. There being only one of him, that was less sexist than it might seem to modern sensibilities.)

Darkness was upon the face of the universe (for back then, there was only one), and GP looked upon it and saw that it was good: it had the simplicity of a really good Japanese watercolor, though, of course, such things had yet to be invented. Best of all, it left everything to the imagination, which was a more effective technique than overexplaining and overcomplicating everything. That was to come later, when universities were invented.

After a time — unquantifiable, because time was still a new thing, the paint still drying and GP not quite sure whether quantification was as good an idea as it had seemed at the time — GP began to feel just the slightest bit lonely. After all, what good was a universe if there was no one else to appreciate it? So in a fit of enthusiasm, GP created another being with whom to share the void. Let’s call her “GP Prime”, or “Prime” for short, for there would eventually be mathematics, mathematical tradition, and the notation it spawned. More importantly, of course, any good story needs conflict, and laying claim to first rank, first causes, and first publication was a primary source of conflict then, as it is now.

Prime was very impressed with the universe; there was, after all, nothing else quite like it. But after a time, she noted a certain sameness to it. With no light, there was only structure and symmetry to gaze upon, and though it was an admirable and symmetrical structure, it was a trifle… bland.

“GP, I think something’s missing,” she ventured.

“Why? It’s perfect and, by definition, cannot be improved upon.”

“While I concede, for the sake of argument, that perfection is perfect, I’m not sure it’s sufficient.”

“What would you add?”

“Hmmm… perhaps a little… light?” And there was light, a warm reddish background glow that both illuminated and concealed, and now the structure and symmetry stood out and could be more easily appreciated.

“But… But… It leaves nothing to the imagination!”

“Don’t over-react. It’s only a little light. Be still, and I’ll fix it.” And Prime created shadow, and GP saw that it was good.

“I like that shadow.”

“Thought you might. But why stop there? For example, all that structure is perfectly lovely, but what’s it all in aid of?”

“Well… us, really.”

“Why not try a little of this, instead?” And Prime created atoms, and GP saw that they were good.

“Huh. Never would have thought of that on my own.”

“Of course not. That’s why we have peer review.”

GP was a little miffed, but deeper down, felt something he’d never felt before. Intrigued. Despite his trepidation, he could hardly wait to see what Prime had up her (thus far, entirely metaphysical) sleeve. “What else have you got?”

“How about this?” And where once there were atoms, perfect and indivisible, now there were subatomic particles.

“Neat! Can I name them?”

Prime nodded, secretly pleased.

“Let’s call this big one a proton. And this smaller one an electron.”

Prime pursed her lips. “And just to shake things up, how about this?” And a third particle appeared.

“Ooh! That’s transgressive… it’s… unbalanced! What will you call it?” GP was, after all, perfectly willing to give credit where credit was due. Eventually.

Neutron. And here’s another cool thing:” Prime disappeared the electron.

“Wait: where’d it go?”

“Into the proton — and now it’s a neutron!”

“Put it back. I like having three different particles.”

“Very well.” The electron reappeared. “Hmm… then you’ll love this.” And suddenly there were a great many smaller particles humming with energy and bouncing off each other and vibrating and rotating and translating with their enthusiasm. “I’ll call them quarks, and… and…. This undeniably cute one will be Charm, and this one I haven’t completely figured out yet I’ll call Strange, and…”

Enough! Enough! My head’s spinning.” GP was beginning to regret having given Prime both a mind equal to his own and agency to use it.

“But if I subdivide the quarks into these littler things…”

“STOP! NO FURTHER!” GP regretted having to shout, but it seemed necessary to catch Prime’s attention before she got carried away. More carried away, leastwise. Things were still relatively simple, just the way he liked it, but he had a sense of foreboding.

Prime took a deep breath (now that there was something to breathe) and pondered a moment. “Well, if you don’t want more smaller things, how about larger?” She banged two atoms together, and there was a brilliant flash of light.

“What was that?”

“I call it fusion… bang enough little things together and you get bigger things. Bang a few of those bigger things together, and you get even bigger things. I’m going to call them elements.”

“And what if I were to break them apart again?” And GP did, and there was even more light. “Ouch! That stings.”

“I’m going to call that fission. And if you’re going to break the things I make, then you’d best take care.” There was no doubting it; a note of petulance had crept into Prime’s voice.

GP attempted a placating tone. “Nice. What else can you do?”

“Well first, let’s make the light a little more steady. There.”

“Wow. I’m going to call those stars. Because you’re a star performer.”

Prime managed to conceal her wince; it helped that GP wasn’t really paying attention to her, gaze focused on his universe. “OK, good. Now how about these?” Large clusters of atoms came together and began circling the stars.

“Nice. I’m going to call them planets… because… um… they move.”

“You like moving things? How about these?” More atoms came together and started orbiting the planets.

Nice. I’m going to call them moons. But stop: no further. Let’s enjoy what we’ve created before we needlessly recomplicate.”

Prime sighed. We? Even then, before academic review committees and departmental politics, authorship was an issue. “But why stop there? There’s so much more we could create.”

GP, entirely missing how Prime lingered over the we, tried to reassert his authority. “Because it’s my universe, and I say so.”

“That’s easy enough to solve. Here!” And suddenly, where once there was a single universe, now there was a multiverse. “You play with this one, and I’ll play with that one, and when we’re done, we’ll compare notes and see who’s done the better job of putting things together.”

GP tried to push stars and atoms and planets and moons and other things back together into the simple, elegant simplicity he’d created, but Prime, though younger, was not naïve. She’d known this would happen, and the harder GP tried to put things back the way they’d originally been, the harder her multiverse strove to create more of itself.


Prime chuckled. She hadn’t realized just how much she resented being told what she could and couldn’t create or modify or play with. “Don’t like that, huh? Well try this:” And around one of the older stars, on the surface of a planet with a single moon, more clusters of atoms came together and rose from the earth. Some were happy to stay in place; others were restless as the moons and planets and stars themselves, and moved about.


Prime doubled over in outright laughter as GP grew apoplectic. The new things began making their own new things, some like themselves, some not. I’ll call that evolution, Prime said to herself. See how he likes that.

GP tried, with increasing desperation to put things right; Prime knocked them astray again. And so it went through the aeons. Each time GP put the genie back in the bottle, Prime gleefully tugged loose the cork; when GP vacuum-welded the cork to the bottle, Prime invented wormholes; when GP constrained the wormholes to atomic diameters, Prime created quantum tunneling.

Which brings us to the present, the end (for now) of this story of the early days of atoms, and — if you’ll forgive me — the moral of this tale. The multiverse is an endlessly messy place, and it’s not yet clear whether this is a good thing. But it’s what we’ve got, and we’ve got to make the best of it. Occam’s razor tells us we mustn’t ignore the true complexity, but that we must also not complicate things unnecessarily. If we keep trying, someday we’ll achieve an understanding that’s no more complex than necessary. And perhaps that will satisfy GP and Prime enough that they can shake hands, agree to disagree, and get on with figuring out what it’s all in aid of.



Geoff Hart works as a scientific editor, specializing in helping scientists who have English as their second language publish their research. He’s the author of the popular Effective Onscreen Editing and Write Faster With Your Word Processor. He also writes fiction in his spare time, and has sold 60 stories thus far. Visit him online at

Philosophy Note:

The eternal struggle between man and woman seems to be built into the physics of the universe.

The Eye

by Kostas Charitos

Paul, my little nephew, has a magic wand. He is pointing to the sky, trying to create a rainfall, but it doesn’t work.

I don’t know why he brought the wand with him. Every time we go to the countryside he brings an old toy, but usually it’s a starship from the set that I gifted him when he was four.

“Let’s play hide-and-seek.”  I say.

It’s his favorite game.  

He agrees.

I close my eyes; I’m pretending to be a child again, and I start counting: “Five, ten, fifteen…”

I hear Paul’s footsteps as he is running. “I discovered a new hiding place. Not even the Eye could find me there.”  he says and I shudder.

I think about the day when the Eye closed for the first time.

It was 20:35 am, Greenwich Mean Time.

Some people were sleeping under warm blankets, some held cups of steaming coffee and some watched the sky acquiring a small black patch.

I was alone in a small office of the Physics department, in front of an old computer, struggling with the presentation of the upcoming conference.

The next day, I read on the internet about the dark nebula, but I didn’t care a lot. Astronomy has never been my favorite field. I was interested in quantum physics, and despite my parents’ objections, I preferred to spend a whole day digging into Bohr’s papers, rather than going out for a coffee with my friends. Maybe that’s why I do not know much about coffee and I don’t have many friends.

The Eye closed again after several months; the last day of the conference.

My speech was successful, and we gathered on the atrium of the hotel to admire the clear sky.

Everyone was stunned as soon as they turned off the lighting and left us in the dark with the candle flames flickering.

I counted at least twenty open mouths. But only one said the phrase that must have been heard millions of times that night: “How do they do this effect with the black pieces?”

As we all soon learned, the gaps, which had filled the night sky like large drops of ink, were no effect. The stars were disappearing without anyone being able to give a logical explanation.

The ones who bothered the most were the cosmologists.

Suddenly, all their theories collapsed like a tower of playing cards. They gathered at conferences, filled the television windows, wrote articles in various magazines, but it was too late. Nobody took them seriously.

Instead, quantum physicists, like me, were standing tall.

We were familiar with the importance of the observer in our experiments, having seen particles appear as soon as we observed them, and others disappear forever when we stopped the detection.

Very soon, the term that would spread like a tsunami in popular culture was born. Some called it god, others supernatural creature or an extra-dimensional observer, but we called it “The Eye”.

And the next time it closed, humanity shuddered. A cold night with a clear sky, we lost the Moon.


I stand now on the edge of the hill, with my little nephew on my side who is trying to gather the clouds with his wand.

I look at a willow that is balancing as if it is about to fall into the void.

The whistling of the wind, the distant horizon and the blue sky make me feel as if I am the last person in the world.

I close my eyes thinking about the questions that trouble so many philosophers:

Is the world still there? Is the sea, the wind and the willow still around me? Is there an objective universe or is everything a creation of our consciousness? If the last man dies, will reality be lost with him?

And finally: Can we hide from the eye? It’s a lot to think about. But I’m afraid we are running out of time.

Somewhere out there, beyond our world, lives the only being who can answer our questions.

Our Observer.

The Eye.

I’m sure it’s futile to try to capture its form or its sensory organs. So, I prefer to imagine it as a small child, in a nearby dimension, which sees us as a wonderful toy. Unfortunately, it seems to be losing its interest in us. Maybe it discovered a neighboring universe and is less concerned with our world. His gaze falls more and more elsewhere, the Eye closes more frequently, whatever that means, and, with it, parts of our world disappear.

I have no idea what attracts it.

Why our galaxy survives while others disappeared? What does the Earth have that the Moon didn’t?

Maybe that’s why there are so many movements that aim solely to get its attention.

Their main slogan seems to be: Do not let it get bored.

It’s unbelievable what people can do once they realize they are in danger.

Giant graffiti in fields with the phrase “WE ARE HERE”, religious ceremonies with small silver oval-shaped ornaments, thousands of naked people wandering in the streets, probably having misunderstood the word Eye.

However, if the Eye is attracted to intelligence, I believe that we do everything we can to take its attention away from our planet.


Paul is, now, chasing a gray-blue lizard. It’s the first time I see such a creature.

“Be careful. Don’t run.” I say to him.

To my great surprise, he stands still. He points with his wand to the sky.

“I didn’t do that.” he says.

I look up and smile.

Fortunately, I’m not a cosmologist.

I’m trying to think of a scientific explanation but I quit.

Maybe the Eye, just as a little kid, missed the small blue planet with the lonely quantum physicist who plays hide-and-seek with her nephew and brought them into its brave new world.

It seems fair but I just wonder how life will be with two moons and a system of shining rings in the sky.



Kostas Charitos was born in Arta and lives in Athens with his family. He has a PhD in Chemistry and he teaches in secondary education. His science fiction short stories have been included in international magazines and anthologies like Future Science Fiction Digest, a2525, Nova Hellas, The Viral Curtain and InterNova. Two of his novels, Project Fractal (Τρίτων Publications, 2009) and Lost Colors: Red (Κέδρος Publications, 2020), have been published in Greek. He is a member of the Athens Science Fiction Club and he co-ordinates its writing workshops.

Philosophy note:

The short story “The Eye” is inspired by the well-known philosophical question: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? This question raises issues about the meaning of observation and perception. For example, we can wonder whether something exists without being perceived by a consciousness. This is connected with the anthropic principle which suggests that the observer may have an impact on the reality that is observed. In physics, the disturbance of a system by the act of observation is called the “observer effect”. You can learn more about these philosophical issues in:
John Campbell (2014). Berkeley’s Puzzle: What Does Experience Teach Us?. Oxford University Press.
Jostein Gaarder(2007), Sophie’s World, Farrar Straus & Giroux.
And if you want to learn about the quantum physics of observation you can read:
Chad Orzel (2010), How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog, Simon Spotlight Entertainment.

Rejection Of Empiricism In Applied Metaphysics Leading To Einstein’s Theory Of Sertial Reflectivity: Exegetical Review

by Arturo Sierra

By M. Alvarado, professor of History of Metaphysics at the University of Santiago de la Nueva Extremadura. Translated from the original German by W. Eguiguren. This research was made possible by a grant from the Imperial Institute for History of Metaphysics, sponsored by His Majesty Karl XIX of the Holy Roman Empire, King of Spain and its Territories.


No theory of metaphysics has been subject to stricter scrutiny than Einstein’s Theory of Sertial Reflectivity (TSR), doubtlessly because of its counter-intuitive nature and profound implication. Since the publication of “On the Instantiation-dynamics of Ideal Reflections” (1905), more than a hundred distinct experiments have been designed to test predictions made by TSR, all of which have confirmed Einstein’s basic proposition. Yet many of its more “outlandish” implications have been impossible to test in abstract due to the lack of sufficiently powerful devices. Only in recent years, thanks in part to the Large Concept Collider, the Hubble Celestial Theoscope, and the Ideal Interferometric Group-Class Observator (LIGO), have these been subject to verification. Yet the experimental context of new tests has been ignored or forgotten by researchers. In order to adequately understand the significance of such developments, it is vitally important to contextualize them in a history of metaphysical experimentation. This paper proposes a brief overview of tests in applied metaphysics, from its origin leading up to Einstein, and the significance they had in rejecting erroneous, materialistic thought.

Contemporary metaphysics is built on the presumption, as stated by Karl Popper, that no real knowledge can be obtained by studying matter or by any empirical methods whatsoever. Indeed, empirical is, in philosophical circles, often used as a slur to discredit insufficiently a priori statements, and pseudo-sciences such as physics and chemistry are held in the same bad regard as homeopathy and economics. But this has not always been so. Only since the early XXth century have empirical thoughts been completely rejected, in great part thanks to Einstein’s Theory of Sertial Reflectivity (TSR).

Rejection of empiricist thought has been a long and arduous process in the history of natural philosophy. A complete account is impossible in the given space, but it is hoped that these pages will give the reader a general idea of how metaphysics, over two-and-a-half millennia, managed to expunge all materialistic ideas from its heart.

Empiricist Thought and its Refutation from Antiquity to the Late 1800s

From the very beginning of metaphysics, it has been admitted that the main obstacle in a properly philosophical understanding of reality comes from the difficulty of testing abstract notions. Even though we now know Plato was fundamentally correct in his description of Pure Ideas, subsequent thinkers of Antiquity were still plagued by physicalist thought. Plato was extraordinarily intuitive, but his observation of the Ideal Plane or Topos Ouranos was so limited, no proper account of it could be given at the time. Thus, Aristotle proposed matter somehow affected essential instantiation, and the Stoic school arrived at the conclusion that esse, which they called halitus, was itself material, though of a very special kind of matter.

Yet to these researchers we owe the first attempts at capturing essence separately from the bodies they instantiated. Naïvely, they tried to imprison Ideas in special bottles, quartz crystals, and gemstones. Much later, Descartes would point out that such methods came down to attempts at making empirical what is abstract, a method modern metaphysics has learned to carefully avoid. However, Aristotle and the Stoics had marvelously clear glimpses of Pure Ideas even as they were misguidedly trying to link them to the physical, and so opened the gates to testable abstract theory.

To the Middle Ages we owe not only the first accounts of God’s effect on esse, but—perhaps more importantly—the first systematic devices of abstract testing. Aquinas proposed one of the better-known such tests: in separate chambers (an extremely primitive black box, in fact) he placed a group of faithful Muslims and Jews, carefully recording the effect their prayers had on God’s surrounding presence. As the Muslim devout were replaced one by one with less fervent believers, the Divinity became sufficiently Yahweh-like to be measured as such, even by Aquinas’ poor observation techniques, and vice versa becoming more Allah-like.

A century later, Occam proved that the less determined God was by faith, i. e. considering Them only as immobile first-cause without attributes at all and only subject to negative knowledge, the more arbitrary the Divinity’s influence became. He arrived at this insight when he noticed that inebriation was immoral on a Tuesday, but acceptable next Wednesday. Abstract experimentation such as this had a profound effect on Western religion, and thus European politics, as the Catholic Church banned untestable beliefs. The dogma of testability resolved the looming crisis of Protestantism, as dissidents and the Pope managed to agree on a common criterion for theological proof.

Though intermediate theories should not be forgotten, it was not until Newton’s Principia Mathematica that metaphysics acquired an exact method for itself. Newton devised a way of manipulating separate Ideas by discovering calculus and noticing the effects he could produce on geometrical entities, such as ellipses, when he made minute alterations in the corresponding equations. In this way, he became the first to change the physical shape of an object simply by altering the mathematical description of its circumference, famously making an apple become roughly cubical by misrepresenting the graph that described its circumference. From then on forwards, researchers had intangible indication that matter is determined by Ideas, never the other way around. Though not abstract in nature, Newton’s alchemical discoveries are worth mentioning, as he was the first to transform lead into gold. Unfortunately, the training and time required to think the necessary Ideas for transmutation was, in the end, more expensive than the gold itself.

At the same time, Leibnitz isolated the essence of mathematical objects using the same calculus, which he developed concurrently. Famously, his tampering with the substance of the number 2 caused the financial collapse of 1701, when bankers and accountants were unable to make any sort of arithmetic using even numbers. The intimate relation between Newton’s and Leibnitz’s work led to a warm friendship between both authors, which has since been a model of what can be achieved by collaboration in all fields of philosophy.

Newton’s discoveries allowed Kant to prove that objects-in-themselves could be known and understood as such. His Critique of Mixed Reason definitively showed that Hume’s thitherto incontrovertible theory of causation was wrong, by testing the relation between cause and effect and arriving at methods that could deduce causation from first principle. On the way to a framework of transcendental aesthetics, he also refuted Wolf’s radical empiricism. Kant’s critical opus became the basis of modern metaphysical metatheory for a century to come, often being referred to as Newton-Kantian mechanics.

It was not long before philosophy had its first practical applications. Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier imbued a large ball of cotton with the esse of a cloud, making it float in the air. In the early 1800s, Richard Trevithick, Matthew Murray, and George Stephenson experimented in transference, imbuing completely mechanical apparatuses with the esse of horses and rabbits, inventing the locomotive in the process. Theoretical and praxical metaphysics have always had a fruitful relation since.

The primacy of Idea over matter was further cemented by Darwin’s Theory of Spontaneity. By leaving carefully calculated amounts of raw notions and random materials in sealed glass containers, he produced life-forms such as worms and mice, and later completely new animals, such as dragons and chimeras. Spontaneity showed that organization would supervene on matter even in the case of living beings, the only physical requirement for supervenience being the presence of the adequate mental ingredients.

The Search for a New Anti-Empiricist Paradigm in Metaphysics

Preceding Einstein’s radical insights, a series of discoveries created a crisis in theoretical metaphysics. On the one hand, Lobachevsky, Bolyai, and Riemann developed non-Eucledean spaces, contravening long held hypothesis about the Ideas of geometrical shapes in the Topos Ouranos. On the other hand, Fizeau partially verified suppositions by celestionomer Christiaan Huygens, who in turn had elaborated on experiments made by Rømer in 1676, and concluded that the speed of light in a vacuum was instantaneous. These developments presented serious questions to Newton-Kantian mechanics.

Indeed, tradition had unanimously held that causality, though intrinsically metaphysical, depended on contact between bodies in order to be transmitted. If light, which had recently been proven to be neither a particle nor a wave, and thus thoroughly abstract in nature, could travel instantaneously to any point in the universe, it meant cause-and-effect relations also had to be instantaneous, or at least could be. Meanwhile, the Circle of Madrid, a group of notable metaphysicians who published under the collective name Jaime C. Maxpozo, managed to isolate ser (‘being’) from esse under laboratory conditions, giving rise to Sertial dynamics, again defying traditionally held opinions about the inseparability of being-itself and being-this-ness.

It had been clear for some time that Newton-Kantian metaphysics was in need of a new theory capable of accounting for such phenomena, but attempts at solving the crisis tended to question experimental results, not reworking the underlaying philosophy. Researchers desperately tried to design experiments that would either restrict the speed of light under certain conditions, describe light as a carrier of momentum and energy, or simply deny it could have any effects on its own, i. e. not without materials objects to shine upon. All of these experiments kept coming back with the same result: light always travels instantaneously, it has no physical properties at all, and does not require an object to shine upon in order for certain effects to take place.

The critical experiment was performed by Michelson and Morley. In 1887, they described an ideal triangle with two angles resting at opposite ends of an infinite non-Eucledean space and one angle inside their laboratory. They proceeded to postulate that the points on its vertices were zero-dimensional prisms that could change the color of a light beam in accordance with their angles in regard to the sides of the triangle itself. Such an experiment could not have been designed before the discovery of four-dimensional numbers (quartenions), necessary to describe the angle of zero-dimensional prisms. Finally, they intended to shine blue light and observed that the color coming from the flashlight was determined by the prisms at the angles on the other ends of the infinite non-Euclidean space, emanating inside the laboratory as red or green no matter how exactly it was described as blue at its origin.

Since the light had not interacted with any physical objects at all, and since it had clear effects on its own color, the color-effect had to have happened simultaneously to its cause, the prism at the other end of infinite non-Euclidean space. Moreover, causality did not require interaction with any material stuff. The consequences of the Michelson-Morley experiments were so drastic, both researched kept trying to refute their own work for over twenty years, until TSR gave a framework to explain the results they had obtained.

Indeed, the revelation was baffling. In short, Pure Ideas could have effects on themselves. In this context, metaphysics as a discipline was thrown into great confusion. The need of new models that could explain the interaction between Pure Ideas with themselves and with instantiated reality seemed urgent. Two decades after Michelson and Morley, Einstein’s contributions, though shocking, were admitted to be a revolutionary novel framework for traditional and new problems in metaphysics.



Arturo Sierra (Santiago, Chile, 1987) has published the novel ‘Mundos por venir’ and the short stories ‘Sub temporis’ and ‘Victor, Whiskey, Charlie.’ Recently won the first price in the Poliedro 7 contest with the story “Lemniscata,” to be published in an anthology during 2022. Member of the Chilean Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature (ALCiFF).

Philosophy Note:

Metaphysics is a tempting way to think about reality. Mostly, because it’s fun — as Borges said, a subgenre of science fiction. But it has a tiny problem: there’s no way of deciding if any of it is true, i. e., no testing, no falsifiability. So ideas become fanciful, and almost every philosopher since modern times has declared himself (always him-self, yes) the re-founder of metaphysics, the first guy to discover “firm grounds” on which to start the work. It has all come to nothing. Ok, but what if metaphysics could be tested for? The results became jaberwockianly absurd much faster than what I could have imagined. The author would like to acknowledge professors Correia and Flores, who inspired this experiment with their enlightening courses.


by Tristan Zaborniak

Once upon time, a people (and their gods) lived, rollicking, chortling, sometimes wistful (though never despairing), watching the seasons turn and themselves grow old, all in amiable collaboration with time and admiration of space. They felt themselves comfortably swaddled in unambiguous laws of material and its causality, ordained as to allow precise quantity with rod and with clock, and thus a consistent sequence of consequence.  

And so they went about, measuring goods and their distances of travel, the passing days and years and stars, the sizes and weights of coins, the freeboard of boats and their areas of sail, transactions and cattle, pints and bales, all with scales appreciable to the eye or its slight stretch. A practical people they were.

However, so his story goes, one chance evening Moredictus (among their lot) put to doubt prevailing thought (or its lack thereof on the matter), asking: “What might be eventual, if I were to cleave this wheel of cheese first in half, take one of the following halves and cleave it in half again, repeating this procedure so on and so on, endlessly?” 

In this benign way did begin the beginning of the ending of the end of measure. Frenzied debate swirled and clamored over Moredictus’ dimensionless volumes, birthing a bloated bestiary of other profane quandaries. Informatic singularities, substance without substance, interminable surfaces enclosing terminable spaces, untimable moments and unmomentable times, and beings… civilizations… of scales unseen.

Reason proceeded thusly. If a body may be split unto infinity, then that body is, piece-wise, an infinitude, each piece of negligible proportion and constitution. Therefore, asking how to construct or specify anything of any size requires (in many cases) an instruction set of unending length. One such case is that of an island coastline: shorten one’s rule, lengthen the extent, shorten one’s rule, lengthen the extent. One finds the coastline to be with interminable detail, while the area contained converges to an exact finitude. 

It was then conjectured that if information content is scale-independent, then a body of arbitrary intricacy at scale X may be reproduced exactly at scale Y, where X > Y or X < Y. This led to the inevitable corollary that there might and must dance and sing and multiply persons and beasts unbeknownst to the unmagnifying eye, and untimeknownst to the unmagnifying watch.

Finally, questions of affect and effect lent further befuddling to the burgeoning craze. Assuming an atomic foundation, it may straightforwardly be said that the interactions between atoms yield epiphenomena, interactions between these epiphenomena yield further epiphenomena, and so on. Casting aside this foundation à la Moredictums, all phenomena become prefixed with epi, rendering the dream of reductionism dead and the nightmare of recursion chaotically stampeding, saddled by homunculi.

The people wailed with indignant dread at this affront to sense and logic, and their deities burned in effigy. They felt marooned, their yardsticks and balances and hourglasses and yearnings deceptive and impotent and asinine and vain. They felt themselves a hideous crossbreed of delusion and illusion, an infinitesimal blip located precisely nowhere, lost to some remote corner of an incalculable mandelbulb, bullied by the trappings of existence.

Verging on collapse without conviction or creed, a council was called to determine their faith and their fate. Admit death and join the cold graves of the old gods? Or, admit breath and seek nature’s secret natures anew?

After much deliberating discussion, the latter saw favorable election, and the central pillar to its scheme developed. A story would be written, about a people building castles in the err, convinced of the tautological equation between sense and reality, perceiving of but one scale. The story would recount the sudden, paroxysmic recounting of counting. The story would tell of forlorn angst and abandon, and the project of the dejected people to seek solace in seeking. The story would be printed so small as to reach the hypothesized beings of the scale below, and ask that they pass it along likewise, unless they inhabit the frontier of epilessphenomena, whence they should write to the beings above in iterative succession of their atomism. In this way, the people hoped to resolve their circumstance and circumscale.

You hold in your hands this very story, and we ask you, in turn: are you of atoms, or of continuum?



A vertiginous hodgepodge of maps and territories, quantum computers, wildfire and carbon dynamics, algorhythms, mirrors, and corpuscles and vibratiuncles define this author.

Philosophy Note:

We all know that particles combine to make wholeicles. What if the stuff of stuff were continuous, though? Pursuing this question, in combination with ideas from endosymbiosis and fractal chaos, and inspiration on scale-shift abstracted from Douglas Hofstadter’s Little Harmonic Labyrinth form the warp and weft of this tale.