Fractal Mind

According to Wikipedia:
A fractal is a natural phenomenon or a mathematical set that exhibits a repeating pattern that displays at every scale.  Fractals can be nearly the same at different levels.  Fractals includes the idea of a detailed pattern that repeats itself. From <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal>

Romanesco broccoli.

The fractal shape form of a Romanesco broccoli.

Being philosophically curious, whenever I have the time, I began to wonder if this concept of a repeating pattern of ever larger scale could be found in other areas of life and being in the universe.

I used to believe that animals did not have any such thing as a “soul” and that whatever resemblance they showed to humans in terms of personality and emotion and intelligence was merely coincidental – that they were strictly running on instinct whereas we humans ran on free will and self-determination.

My view has changed.

I still believe there is a unique creation in humankind – the Imago Dei breathed into us as the clay of Adam became our flesh. However I am confident that there is far more to the rest of creation than I was previously willing to give it credit for. Whatever a “soul” or “mind” actually is, I now believe it is present in many other creatures. Our beloved and missed family canines demonstrated such a wide range of emotion and love and personality that I had to re-think my impressions of animal “instinct”. Watching the local murder of crows in the greenbelt across the street had me re-thinking even more…

What if…
What if there is a fractal pattern to consciousness and awareness – to “minds” or “souls”. If so, humans are certainly on the scale somewhere – but where. I think we tend to assume because we have largely reached the top of the food chain, that we would also be at the largest extent possible of the fractal mind scale – but is it true?

Before wondering further, lets remind ourselves of the common definition of “mind”.

Mind (mīnd/)
noun

  1. the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.
  2. a person’s intellect.

Insects demonstrate some fascinating aspects of intelligence and awareness, but on a much smaller scale than dogs or dolphins or Donald Duck. If we apply the concept of a fractal to the general philosophical idea of mind, we see patterns in behavior and in awareness at even the smallest scale and they develop and enlarge and repeat. I know that evolution is commonly credited with developing progressively larger brains and other biological advancements, and since I’m growing a bit tired of that conversation, I won’t protest if you insist it is true… but again – what if life is less of a growing progression and more of a weakening reflection? What if all of the minds found in creation represent just a portion of a much grander fractal design – one that continues repeating much smaller than our science has imagined, and much larger than our minds are really capable of grasping?

Romans 1:20
For His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.

What does the bible mean when it refers to God’s eternal nature? Is it just how long He has been around? Of course the Eternal God is outside time (whatever that means) and has always existed and will continue to exist in the unimaginable distant future.  In Hebrew, El Olam – the Everlasting God. Olam means “forever, perpetual, old, ancient” – of infinite future and infinite past.

Psalm 90:2
“Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God”.

He was before all time and all worlds. But is this all that “eternal” means? Is it just a reference to how many birthday parties He gets to have? Is there more? What would it mean to call Him the Eternal Mind? Or could we even begin to ponder more than our current position on the mind-scale?

I like the idiom that says:
A stream cannot rise above its source
There is a very basic principle at work in our universe which any thinking Christian needs to have built into their intuition. The concept is best illustrated with the natural behavior of our earths system of rivers and streams.

One of the laws of nature is that the headwater (source) of a stream, river, brook, etc., will always flow downward. In other words, if a stream is coming out of the ground at 300 feet above sea level, it will never naturally flow uphill to 400 or 500 feet. With rivers and streams, it is obvious that gravity is the primary cause of this phenomenon, but the concept also applies to other areas.

For example, a creative being will never create something greater than itself. We humans, of course, have many fantastic creative impulses and we have made some pretty fantastic stuff as a result. But many might assume that making other humans is the most amazing creative achievement we are capable of. However because we are mortal, even with all of our wonderful creative, and procreative power, we will never (within our own power) give birth to a “greater” being such as an immortal angel.

In the same way as a stream will never rise above its source and we will never create something greater than ourselves, a complex mind system (one capable of understanding) will never fully comprehend a system which is more complex than itself. To us, the human mind represents the most complex thing we might ever understand – simply because it is that thing with which we do all of our understanding – it is the source of that stream so to speak. Should something of greater complexity and power than our brain exist, we will never be able to fully understand it.

Some religions, largely Eastern systems, are essentially pantheistic – which means they suspect that everything that is, is God. The ant, the rat, the cow and cousin Kate – along with all the stars and floating dust in the universe – all essentially equivalent and identical to God. I used to think this was crazy thinking… but now I wonder if their viewpoint has some hint of truth. Of course their concept of God, for as large as the universe is, is ultimately too small. It is attempting to understand God from an assumption of being on the same exact scale as God.  But maybe Pantheism is seeing some things accurately from it’s a particular location on a fractal scale.  In some sense, all that is seen, and all that is not, represents a much larger reality and perhaps even demonstrates some beautiful patterns. In some sense, the ant and the rat and the cow are special – perhaps even sacred – because they are a part of the whole of the creation God invented in order to reflect Himself on a smaller scale.