Monday, 21 July 2008

Heaven (2)

Warning, there may be some physics in this post.

Then the angel showed me the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear. Down the middle of the city street, on either bank of the river were trees of life, which bear twelve crops of fruit a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are the cure for the nations.

The curse of destruction will be abolished.
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city; his servants will worship him, they will see him face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And night will be abolished; they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign for ever and ever.

Rev 22:1-5


The new Jerusalem is/will be timeless and eternal. However, those there present will have some notion of time. They will sense the flowing of the river and the ripening of the fruit on the trees of life. This would suggest that the inhabitants of this wonderous place are not in a state of perpetual ecstacy. Surely such a permanently heightened state would prevent one from experiencing much other than that state.

The notion of time we have due to the relative motion of the earth and the sun is entirely missing. It is almost as if the time experienced is entirely liturgical, mapped out for the worship of God.

Does time still have an arrow? Does time still point in one direction? We experience such a time, it is all bound up with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which was succinctly explained by Bertrand Russell as "you can't unscramble eggs". Processes are irreversable, you can't having cooked an egg, un-cook it. My guess is heaven is not governed by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Second Law involves the creation of heat energy that is then wasted as it can't be turned into anything useful with 100% efficiency. The Second Law involves decay and the relentless march of time. With no Second Law present, our bodies would know no decay. There will be no irreversable chemical reactions and that also means no cooking! There is also every possibility that we can eat, and that "food" is transferred into useful energy with 100% efficiency. No waste products would be produced, our food is that which is needed to give us back the energy that we may have expended in our prayers and worship, through our senses and perhaps being chased by the odd playful cherub. Nor does it negate the fact that this food is divine in origin and very special, it is not just about transpiration, it is about Communion.

I assume that the First Law of Thermodynamics still holds (that the total amount of energy is conserved)though it doesn't have to! I don't think the Zeroth and the Third are particularly relevant to my mad ramblings.

So, in heaven I guess time moves on liturgically, which is both circular and linear. There is no entropy and no decay. The experience of time becomes a sensual thing only.

Praying here on earth, to partake in beautiful liturgy with the utmost sincerity and concentration, has to be our surest way of hungering for the gifts of heaven. That type of hunger just has to be healthy. I think I can sell that to teenagers! It beats contemplating images of heaven where everyone is holding hands and singing hymns.

5 comments:

Tom in Vegas said...

Seems to me that if we give either Heaven or the Resurrection a time factor, we have anthropomorphisized the incomprehensible and the unimaginable. I like to think that these experiences stand outside the scope of human comprehension. Perhaps this is the reason why I personally struggle reconciling my faith with the assertions made in science. This is especially true in the field of neurology and the soul. I struggle with these seemingly irreconcilable disciplines constantly, and every now and then I get an email from Metanexus informing me of a symposium taking place somewhere covering this very same topic. I think this year’s conference either took place or will betaken place in Spain.

"Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped." Phil. 2:6

I should meditate on the above verse more often.

Irene said...

Rita, I'm flattered that you took my suggestion (at least, it looks like you did) about St. John.

But then you go beyond the Evangelist by trying to speculate on his words, trying to shoehorn them into our physics.

The problem I see is that there is no way this can be done validly. In a place without time, none of our physics applies -- especially the laws of thermodynamics.

Speculating on the experience of heaven may be good clean fun -- but we never should take the results seriously. There is no way we can imagine what it will be like. We will just have to wait until we get there.

Ponte Sisto said...

Sorry to lower the tone, but whenever I hear the phrase, "Laws of Thermodynamics", I can’t but help think of the Flanders and Swann song, which goes:

“After me...
The First Law of Thermodymamics:
Heat is work and work is heat
Heat is work and work is heat
Very good!
The Second Law of Thermodymamics:
Heat cannot of itself pass from one body to a hotter body
Heat cannot of itself pass from one body to a hotter body
Heat won't pass from a cooler to a hotter
Heat won't pass from a cooler to a hotter
You can try it if you like but you far better notter
You can try it if you like but you far better notter
'Cos the cold in the cooler with get hotter as a ruler
'Cos the cold in the cooler with get hotter as a ruler
'Cos the hotter body's heat will pass to the cooler
'Cos the hotter body's heat will pass to the cooler

First Law:
Heat is work and work is heat and work is heat and heat is work
Heat will pass by conduction
Heat will pass by conduction
Heat will pass by convection
Heat will pass by convection
Heat will pass by radiation
Heat will pass by radiation
And that's a physical law
Heat is work and work's a curse
And all the heat in the Universe
Is gonna cooool down 'cos it can't increase
Then there'll be no more work and there'll be perfect peace
Really?
Yeah - that's entropy, man!
And all because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which lays down:
That you can't pass heat from the cooler to the hotter
Try it if you like but you far better notter
'Cos the cold in the cooler will get hotter as a ruler
'Cos the hotter body's heat will pass to the cooler
Oh, you can't pass heat from the cooler to the hotter
You can try it if you like but you'll only look a fooler
'Cos the cold in the cooler will get hotter as a ruler
That's a physical Law!
Oh, I'm hot!
Hot? That's because you've been working!
Oh, Beatles - nothing!
That's the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics!”

Apparently, CP Snows said, “that nobody can consider themselves educated who doesn't know at least the basic language of Science”; that, therefore, rules me out.

Rita said...

Philip,

Flanders and Swann got it just about right, you don't need more science than that! CP Snow for all talk only increased the gulf between science and the humanities, there still needs to be a paradigm shift away from this very artificial split, back to a more "renaissance man" curiosity for the world (seen and unseen).

Ponte Sisto said...

Hehe! You would despair if I were in your physics class! ;-)