A brief meditation on whether one was preset at the birth of the physical universe

An Hermetic Ascent (an assumption of the cosmology of contemporary physics):

My birth certificate affirms that I was not born until 1988 and that was less than 13.8 billion years ago. But I wonder what the birth certificate means exactly. My body certainly doesn’t consist of the same particles as ostensibly constellated on that September day any more than Theseus’ ship after every plank is replaced. The same is also changed in bulk and proportion, so neither is the mass the same, nor the ratio. Obviously “me” is not identical with my physical dimensions or constitution. It is also not the same as my psychic constitution, since I cannot remember my experiences of three decades since. In fact, ordinarily I cannot even claim unbroken recollection for three days, or even three minutes. Instead, my waking mind appears traverse the threshold of sleep in cycles, microcycles, and epicycles. I cannot issue the performative contradiction of claiming that I do not exist, since I would be the one to issue it and also the one whose existence I were to deny. I must conclude, therefore, that I am not my physical (i.e. spatial) nor my psychical (i.e. temporal) constitution. Rather I must say that I have a body and I have a soul, but not that I am these things. What remains when I have cast off the spatial and temporal bodies which I ordinarily say “I am” but which I should more accurately say “I have?” I don’t know how to answer, because it would seem that everything that could be said in response would not be it, and for that reason had been cast off in the exercise above and furthermore would be the one saying, which could not then be said of.

My soul is the spiralling moth, which only attains the lamp of its desire by ceasing to be itself. I imagine the exercise above as a winding ascent to the mountaintop of apprehension. With every level that I climb, there stands guard an angel who exacts a toll before one may proceed. [1] And so one by one, I leave behind me those things I called myself. Furthermore, I must continually retrace and then reascend, since I was compelled to leave the notebook that I attempt to record this journey withal at the first stop—at the mountains very base—and with every descent, a thousand æons seem to interpose themselves between me and the height that my mind had once attained, so often the pen simply hovers and my memory bends on vacancy.

“The owl of Minerva only flies at midnight” and up to the tree-line, as it were, so all I am left with are some few reflections. The mountain is extraverted peripherally into the space-time manifold, and its summit is nestled in the clouds of the “Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation,” at the dawn of time and the edge of space. It also unfolded from its summit to its base—cosmoperipheral mountains are the inverse of geological ones, since their apex is at their periphery. It is clear that “Leyf” is a creature of the lowlands. Only if I leave Leyf behind, then there was no time when I was not. 1988 is the same as 13.8 billion years ago. Everywhere is the center when I have no standpoint: “before Abraham was, I AM.” But obviously not me, for all of the reasons above.

[1] One is reminded of the Cherub and a flaming sword in Genesis, of Jacob who wrestled with the angel to win a new name also in Genesis, or of the final stanza from Rilke’s Der Schauende, to which I offer the following translation below:

Whoever was beaten by the Angel,
(Which so often declines even to fight)
Goes away upright and rightened
Made greater by the hardest hand
Which kneaded him as though to sculpt him.
Winning is no temptation.
In this, his evolution: to be conquered 
By beings of ever greater might.


Wen dieser Engel überwand, 
welcher so oft auf Kampf verzichtet, 
der geht gerecht und aufgerichtet 
und groß aus jener harten Hand, 
die sich, wie formend, an ihn schmiegte. 
Die Siege laden ihn nicht ein. 
Sein Wachstum ist: der Tiefbesiegte 
von immer Größerem zu sein.


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