Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The Big Crunch - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VIII.06
Meditation VIII.06 - The Big Crunch - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
The nature of the universal1 has this work to do, to remove to that place the things which are in this, to change them, to take them away hence, and to carry them there.2 All things are change, yet we need not fear anything new. All things are familiar to us; but the distribution of them still remains the same.3
(1) Matter has two aspects, active and passive. The passive is distributed randomly throughout the universe. The active aspect permeates all of space and expresses itself as the various forces and fields of ordinary physics - although the particulars of the various forces and fields were not understood in ancient times. In ancient times the active component of matter was viewed as a universal intelligence and referred to collectively as Logos. When localized or referred to as acting on a specific region of space, the substance of Logos was referred to as pneuma. Pneuma was viewed by the ancients as a material with unusual properties capable of animating or moving passive matter. In living rational organisms pneuma was imbued with an intelligence which in the microcosm - the individual human being - expressed itself as reason.
(2) The universal acts on all things resulting in a continuous series of transformations both on the small and larger scale. Nothing is ever static. Even those things which appear static undergo continuous change or decay. This is the nature of universal law.
(3) In spite of change, transformation and reorganization, there is an apparent constancy in the order of matter. The motions and decays apparent throughout the cosmos are balanced or offset by a a series of counter-transformations as new matter reorganizes or is reborn resulting is an overall equilibrium. These two principles - central to Stoicism - express the bedrock natural laws of Stoic Physics which in modern terms can be stated as the first two laws of thermodynamics: the conservation of energy, and the principle of entropy, or the relentless decrease in the amount of available energy throughout the universe. To offset this seemingly paradoxical situation - the fact that the universe tomorrow is indeed different from the universe of today because the available energy is in decline - the Stoics developed a model of cyclic rebirths on a grand scale. The universe, in this model, is born in fire (an ancient version of the Big Bang theory), but in time will recycle - presumably when all available energy is exhausted - and will reemerge in a new birth or second Big Bang (preceded I would suggest by a Big Crunch). This series of rebirths repeats indefinitely. This ekpyrotic cosmic model has modern proponents and is discussed in more detail in the annotations on Meditation IX.14 (p. 28-29 in the book).
Russell McNeil, PhD, is the author of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Selections Annotated and Explained by Skylight Paths Publishing. The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book. The published selections are referenced in this Blog by page number and section.