I want to know how God created this world. I’m not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details. – Albert Einstein
In the previous article I presented the notion that there exists a class of ideas that are “eternal”. In other words they do not change with time. In fact they exist outside time and space, and the idea of a triangle is an easy example. The geometry of triangles was as true three thousand years ago as it is today, and will be just as true in three thousand years from now. This geometry does not wear out, change shape, or change in anyway with time.
Spinoza proposes that the world of ideas is essentially a universe that runs parallel to the world of physical things (extension is the term he uses). All physical phenomena take place in the context of time and space. They occupy space, and they change with time, whereas ideas do not. It’s a novel idea that the world of ideas is a different dimension, and one that we have access to. And just like physical things, ideas can vary in significance and quality. As far as Spinoza was concerned, the most significant idea was that of God, although we should not imagine that he is talking about the “old man in the sky” God. Spinoza’s God is a much more subtle idea – an idea that attempts to understand the fundamental nature of existence. Einstein was a fan of Spinoza, and concurred that knowing God’s thoughts and forming an idea of God was fairly important.
The more I think about Spinoza’s assertion that the world of ideas is a parallel but quite separate universe, the more sense it makes, and I’ve been pondering this for years. We should not confuse ideas with images and language, these are just representation in the physical world – the parallel equivalents. Since the idea exists in the world of ideas our physical brains simply get the relevant images and words to communicate it. SO if we talk about the definition and properties of a triangle, we use words and images, but all the time we reference the idea of a triangle.
Einstein was seeking very high quality ideas, and his General Theory of Relativity is one of the most sublime ideas ever to grace a human mind. Of course, contemporary society is desperate for us to believe that there is nothing but stuff. The world of ideas will be a new universe for many people, and just as we might savor a fine wine, snow boarding, fine art and so on, so we can savor fine ideas. It’s a whole new world.