Once upon a time there was a rope and a ladder. Each was highly educated but had different views of reality. The rope believed reality was continuous and offered Einstein’s ideas of the structure of spacetime as evidence. The ladder, on the other hand, believed that reality was discontinuous and its architecture was hierarchically layered. The Ladder was more aligned with quantum theory.
In spite of their scientific differences they both believed in God. The rope embraced a traditional religious system but the ladder belonged to a little known religion called “Swedenborgianism.”
The two came together one day to debate their opposing worldviews. As a topic for their discussion they chose to deliberate on the various cognitive functions of the human mind. Here is how the debate went:
“I believe that although sensing, imagining, thinking and judging are different functions, they are merely the continuous operations of each other,” said the rope. The rope used its long body to make its point. “Sensing takes place at one end of the rope and the higher cognitive functions of reasoning, judgment and abstract thought take place at the other end.”
“That would mean that the various cognitive functions differ only in a linear fashion, as from the color black through shades of gray to the color white,” responded the ladder. The ladder then pointed to the rungs of its own structure and said, “the cognitive operations of sensing, imagining, thinking and higher abstract thought represent distinct steps.”
The rope got all tied up in knots upon hearing this. “Prove to me that these functions of the mind are discrete operations,” demanded the rope. “You’re statement seems counter-intuitive.”
The ladder began to explain the actual differences between the various functions of the mind. “In the operation of sensing like eyesight, objects from the physical world reach the brain through light waves, where they are transformed into picture-ideas. These ideas then accumulate in the memory.
“Yeah, I’m following you so far,” said the taut and attentive rope.
“Well,” continued the ladder, “the memory becomes a new field of vision for the imagination just as the physical world presents a field of vision for the eyes. These two fields of vision are distinct realities. The mind’s imagination represents a distinct new power—the power of simultaneity.”
“You’ve lost me,” said the rope.
The ladder was happy to explain further. “The operation of imagination can look at all the ideas simultaneously that entered the eyes successively. For this reason imagination can recognize harmonies between different ideas within the memory’s field of vision and thus create new creative combinations. Without this function there would be no inventiveness.”
“I think I am following your line of thought even though it is non-linear,” said the rope, who now looked a bit more stretched.
“Now then, imaginative thoughts begin to accumulate in way that creates yet another field of vision for the mind. The next cognitive operation explores simultaneously the creative ideas that were formed sequentially. New combinations and harmonies can be brought together from different creative ideas to create reasoning and judgment. Whereas imagination is an abstraction of ideas coming from the world of senses, reasoning and judgment are abstractions of abstractions and present us with non-material concepts,” explained the ladder.
“What is a non-material concept?” enquired the rope.
“It is something that was not presented to the eyes through the physical qualities observed in the physical world. Through this new layer of abstraction, concepts of justice, ethics and morality emerge. In other words, new meaning is derived from the simultaneous function of reasoning and judging. These abstract meanings cannot be detected by either telescopes or microscopes because they are non-material concepts,” said the ladder.
The rope now had to raise itself off the ground and hang in the air in order to grasp the rarefied words of the ladder.
This pleased the ladder. “Since you are now pointed towards heaven I would like to talk about spiritual or angelic concepts. The mind has yet another level of cognition that is so abstract, its concepts can no longer maintain their involvement with time and locality. This heightened cognitive power can view simultaneously all the best concepts of reasoning and judgment and find new harmonies, which are called God’s eternal truths. In other words, the cognitive powers of angelic perception would not recognize any physical or literal meaning in the stories of Holy Scripture. Instead, angelic minds would simultaneously raise the literal meaning of all the Bible’s words into their psycho-spiritual equivalents. This is why Jesus, who was the Word Incarnate, spoke in parables only to convey higher meaning. The Lord’s words were meant for both human and angelic consumption.”
“I think my mind has reached the end of its rope,” said the impressed cord, being touched to its very fibers by the amazing words and vertical message of the ladder. “Where did you come by this unique knowledge?”
“I read Swedenborg,” said the ladder with a smile. “By the way, some people refer to me as Jacob’s ladder.”