WE should get one thing straight at the beginning – although this book is written by a respected member of the scientific community, it is not a book about science. It is about those aspects of philosophy and theology that border on the scientific enterprise, which is quite a different thing. The book’s title derives from Edward Harrison’s central thesis – that there is a distinction between the Universe and various universes.

The Universe is the real thing – everything that exists. It is also, according to Mr. Harrison, forever unknown and unknowable. A universe, on the other hand, is the conception people have of the makeup of the Universe at any given time -what most scientists would call a model of the Universe. It is this distinction between the Universe and our ideas about it that occupies the first section of the book. Mr. Harrison, who is a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Massachusetts, sees human history as a long succession of universes, each representing a different mask behind which the true Universe hides.

The most primitive mask is the magical universe. This is a universe pervaded by spirits, a world in which everything is alive. As human society advanced, this mask was replaced by the mythic universe, in which a single god or a hierarchy of gods created and rule the world. The Greeks developed what Mr. Harrison calls the geometric universe, with the earth surrounded by crystal spheres carrying the planets and stars on their courses. St. Augustine tried to replace this mask with a more religious one – a universe with a Christian God watching over and imparting meaning to everything. Finally, this religious mask was replaced by the clockwork universe of Isaac Newton and the Enlightenment scientists, a universe that may or may not have been initiated by a god but is now ticking along according to natural laws that can be discovered by the human mind. The modern mask of the universe, the one to which Mr. Harrison devotes the greatest amount of time, is one characterized by unseen atoms, unseeable quarks and distorted space-time.

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Shreyas Malik

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  1. bwinwnbwi 20/06/2010 at 11:59 Reply

    Ubhayatra Sadasat Samanvayah

    HE is equally both saŤ and asaŤ (Real and non Real)

    Hi. I enjoyed reading the above post, so I took the liberty to check out a bit of your website and came away with the above quote. That quote is also important to me because I have based my own understanding of God, i.e, “me” on how I interpret it’s meaning. I also have read Harrison’s “Masks of the Universe” and the following quote (see below) from that book has been, in part, responsible for the development of my own cosmology, a cosmology that includes “HE (the “affirmative ideal”–the logically implied God of all religions) that is equally both saŤ and asaŤ (Real and non Real). Thanks for the opportunity to post.

    From my blog entitled,The Embedded Logic Of Reciprocal Movement’s Synchronic Axis:

    As we attend to psychological “mind stuff” time speeds up. Nature’s meaningful and cyclic events can be measured, time as change is, typically, how we think of time, but that kind of time is not the time encountered in inquires concerning the meaning and significance of embodied physical events. If we are ever going to appropriately respond to the big questions, “time of mind” must be included, in one form or another, in the response. The physicist Edward Harrison, in his discussion of Relativity, tells us that this second nature of time (he calls it the time of becoming) is precisely what is needed if we are to put a “human face” on science. He says:

    “In one sense we are aware of time as a state of being throughout which things are diversified. From this point of view the now embraces all time—the past, present, and future—in a state of being. This is the aspect of time that has been spatialized and woven into the fabric of space-time. But in another sense we are also aware of time as an act of becoming, of one state of being flowing and wheeling into another state of being…The now of today with its past, present, and future is different from the now of yesterday with its past, present, and future. The tapestry of being in each act of becoming is rewoven. This aspect of time defies spatial representation. It has been omitted from the physical universe because we have so far not learned how to express it either linguistically or mathematically. To condemn the act of becoming as an illusion oversimplifies the world in which we live….If we cannot put the now with its act of becoming into the physical universe, then it seems safe to say that we cannot put consciousness and its awareness of free will into it either. We have failed to represent in the physical universe even the rudest aspects of ourselves as experiencing individuals. Possibly the next major step in the design of universe will be the discovery of a more sophisticated way of representing time.” (Masks Of The Universe, 1985, p. 155-56)

    In the time of becoming, civilizations are born, endure, and are sometimes destroyed. Anthropologically speaking, at the time when animals refused to passively accept their environment and instead worked to actively transform that environment, that was also the time when animals acquired the rudimentary beginnings of time of mind (the implicative-affirmative’s symbol-generating capacity)—the birthright of inquiry, analysis, conscience and imagination. So, we might ask, is it possible to reconcile this new concept of “time” with the time-concepts of science? Or, put it another way, maybe this new concept of time can help us to better understand why relativity theory and quantum mechanics are irreconcilable scientific theories.

    • pratapsmalik 22/05/2013 at 21:01 Reply

      Hi bwinwnbwi

      your views are welcome. My website under some circumstances beyond our control is not working properly. We hope to get it restored within two weeks or so. Thereafter we would have a very significant discussion on this subject.

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