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Volume 3: Beyond Ritual -- Part 10: Additional Topics --- Chapter

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Yael Dragwyla First North American rights

email: words


Volume III: Beyond Ritual: Historical, Philosophical, and
Scientific Considerations --
Essays on the Cutting Edge of Esoteric Science
Book 10: Additional Topics
Part 21: Gedankenexperiment:
To Construct an Experimental Paradigm to Determine Whether Values Have
Absolute or Only Relative Frames of Reference

Do morals, ethics, and other value-systems refer to absolutes, that is, frameworks of reference that
never change, regardless of changes of circumstance or displacement in time or space? Or do they refer
instead to relative entities whose natures necessarily vary with circumstance? Philosophy of values the
body of scholarly and psychological thought concerned with systems of ethics, morals, and other
standards by which sentient beings act and live has long debated this question. Do our beliefs about
right vs. Wrong, good vs. bad/evil, desirable vs. repellent, pleasurable vs. painful, etc. concern things that
are true for all eternity and throughout the universe, unchanging from lasting to everlasting, the moral,
ethical, and esthetic versions of the Ether of pre-Einsteinian physics? Or are their objects localized
phenomena which must necessarily change according to changing circumstances of history, biology,
culture, ecology, and various other factors?
The Classicists tend to opt for the Absolute; the Moderns, for Relativity. The theists and the atheists
go beyond mere tendencies. The first group holds that morality, even ethics and esthetic standards, are of
God and from God, and as eternal and invariant as God. The second group contends that God is a fiction,
and all systems of value ultimately come from man, that utterly ephemeral being. The linguistic schools
of philosophy, on the other hand, believe that the entire argument turns on semantic points rather than on
matters of objective fact, so that by restating the question properly, the argument could be resolved right
then and there as an artifact of semantically charged discourse. And so it goes.
In a sense the linguistic philosophers are right. These arguments do all turn on semantics as well as
anything else, and, as a result, tend to become circular at the drop of a categorical imperative. The
Good, the True, and the Beautiful must exist; therefore they do exist. That must is of course
elliptical, concealing a wealth of emotion-charged ideas, theories, and experiences the logical of which,
while quite real and whole, is generally unconscious, or at least unspoken, and would be of far more
interest to a psychologist, sociologist, or sociobiologist than to a general philosopher or theologian. So if
an objectively verifiable answer is ever to be found to the question, Do values, whether they concern the
Right, the True, the Just, the Beautiful, or anything else, refer to timeless, universal phenomena, or are
they only relative and continent in nature?, then an experimental paradigm, by which this question can
be subjected to objective, repeatable testing, must be designed. How is this to be done?
In fact, an excellent model already exists for construction of all such paradigms. This is so
regardless of whether the intended subject of a given test is part of the real, physical universe; the
real universe of things in accord with the collective consensus, such as written statutes and similarly
numinous entities nevertheless having (by the deliberate choice and actions of sentient beings)
objectively verifiable reality; or the universe of noumena, unreal entities such as ideas, creations of the
imagination, thoughts, emotions, values, etc. This model is the one used for the Michelson-Morley
experiment, first performed in 1887. The purpose of this experiment was to determine whether the
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observed speed of light varies in a manner dependent upon the relative motions of observers and
observed, hence whether an absolute physical framework of reference, the Ether of pre-Einsteinian
physics, exists or not. If the observed velocity of light is dependent upon the motion of the observer
relative to the observed, then there does exist such an absolute reference; otherwise, there can exist no
such ultimate, absolute framework of reference for the physical universe.
The mechanics of the experiment are simple. A planet in the Solar System is selected that is far
enough away from Earth to give significant experimental variances, should these exist, as a result of our
test, for reasons discussed below; but large enough, even so, such that even at that distance, its large
surface area reflects a great deal of sunlight, as observed from Earth. Clearly Jupiter is the best choice
for the purpose, though Saturn could do, if necessary.
Next, we need to obtain the interference spectrum of the light coming to us from whatever planet we
have chosen for the experiment. We therefore split the light from the planet into two beams, refract each
beam by means of a prism, and then converge the refracted beams together to produce an interference
spectrum. Depending upon how we do this, when we have obtained the interference spectrum a series
of lines from different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum arranged along a line perpendicular to the
light-beams it will show a certain number of discrete lines per inch, black against a rainbow for an
absorption spectrum, colored lines on black for an emission spectrum. (Since sunlight, even sunlight
reflected off the surface of a planet, is white light, emitting in all portions of the visible spectrum in a
relatively even distribution of wavelengths, the average number of lines per inch tends to correspond to
the actual number of lines per inch for any given example of such an interference spectrum. Complicated
statistical sampling methods, or surveys of hundreds and hundreds of such interference spectra, arent
needed to determine this average. It is sufficient to be able to see the pattern and count the lines, which
should be quite clear and distinct if the experiment is properly performed.)
Now Jupiter and Earth move at different velocities relative to each other at different times. When
our planet is more or less between Jupiter and the Sun, so that Jupiter can be found anywhere from 120
to 180 across the sky from the sun, as observed from Earth, Jupiter seems to move westward through the
heavens, night after night, for about four months out of every year. The rest of the year, Jupiter seems to
move eastward along the ecliptic. There are many other variances in the motion of Jupiter relative to
Earth as well. If an Ether exists, such that all things move relative to it, but it is itself unmoving and
fixed, permeating the entire universe, then reflected sunlight coming to us from Jupiter at one time of the
year will be moving more rapidly relative to that Ether than it will at another. In that case, since light
behaves like a wave under the conditions standard for this test, the wave-crests of that light would arrive
more frequently than at the other time of year, and the observed number of interference lines per inch
should vary depending upon the positions of the Earth and Jupiter relative to each other in their orbits
around the Sun. (Thus if the planet is not far enough away, such variance, if it exists at all, would be
much too small to be observed.)
As it happens, both when this experiment was first performed and in numerous tests since, no such
variance has ever been observed. This implies not only that the Ether doesnt exist, but also that the
speed of light, c, is invariant regardless of the relative positions and velocities of observer and observed.
This result inspired Albert Einsteins work on the Special and General Theories of Relativity, and paved
the way for the thirty years that shook physics. That finding was one of the most significant events of
human history, for it opened the biggest can of worms a nuclear-powered one, yet of which anyone
had then ever conceived.
Now, it is possible to perform this same sort of experiment upon so-called noumena such as ethics,
morals, and other standards of value. All of these are judged within the context of real situations
involving real living beings, behaving in objectively observable ways, with objectively observable effects
of their behavior upon other living beings and their world as a whole. The universe of moral discourse
may itself be noumenal, invisible, and otherwise inaccessible at least to mortal ken; but the realities of
behavior and its consequences judged in reference to that universe are as objective and amenable to
observation by ordinary human beings as, say, the motions of the planets, the growth of plants, the
motion of a dropped rock or a bullet fired from a gun, or any other physical phenomenon. Let us
consider a thoroughly generalized situation of the sort about which human value-judgments might be
made. What are is most basic aspects?
Such a situation involves X number of living beings, each related to all others and to the non-living
things encompassed by that situation. The maximum number of these relations is

i = 1 + 2 + . . . + (X-1) + X = (X)(X+1)/2
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This number, which is a maximum, not necessarily an actuality, varies only as the number of living
beings in the situation. As some enter it and others leave, this number necessarily changes.
Each being exhibits various sorts of behavior, affecting some or all of the other beings in various
ways. These effects include changes in the nature of the relationships among these beings, ranging from
the biological and ecological, through the social and psychological, to what might be called the spiritual.
In addition, the behavior of a given being may directly affect only the non-living portions of the situation,
but the changes this brings about in these abiotic aspects of the situation may in turn affect other living
beings, or even the original one exhibiting that behavior.
Relationships are multidimensional. When the nature of one changes, the strength of one or more of
its components varies, sometimes becoming stronger and more intense, sometimes becoming weaker or
even being nullified. In this way relationship itself can be quantified, its various qualities being
considered to be dimensions of relationship, the intensity of the latter comprising the scalar components
of relationship. Relationship can thus be represented as a vector, which can be mathematically analyzed
as such.
In the same way, behaviors, their consequences, and related phenomena can be represented as
vectors and analyzed as such. Ultimately, for purposes of mathematical analysis we can consider a
situation of any kind which contains living beings to be a set of X such beings, interrelated in

Y (X)(X+1)/2

ways, exhibiting Z behaviors. In turn, each such behavior can be represented as a vector, having E
effects upon other living beings and non-living things which share the situation with the being exhibiting
the behavior; each of these effects can likewise be represented as a vector.
The living beings and non-living things in the situation as elements of the set, and the vectors that
represent behaviors and their consequences, are all as well elements of a system in a universe of moral,
ethical, or other valuational discourse. Like the elements of any other set, these can be counted just
like the interference lines in the Michelson-Morley experiment described above.
We now ask: If we move this situation in time and/or space, through history, from one culture to
another, from one species or other biological taxon to another, even from one planet, whole stellar
system, or universe to another, what happens? Do the number of moral elements in that situation change
as the context, the phenomenal matrix in which it is embedded does?
Something rather peculiar happens at this point. Moral, ethical, artistic, or other valuational
absolutists will emphatically deny that those elements do change in number, regardless of changes in the
context in which they appear. After all, an absolute is an absolute. If morals, ethics, or other values and
value-systems are indeed absolute if Good and Bad, Right and Wrong, Holy and Evil, Beautiful and
Ugly are absolutes, unchanging over time and space and regardless of context then the elements of
which they are composed, by which they manifest in the world, cannot change!
Ah, but that creates a problem. Here we stumble over a semantic confusion. Why do we assume
that the manifestations of these things as they appear in our humble Earth Plane are anything more than
shadows of the ultimate reality, what that may be? Isnt it far more likely, as the Idealists believed, that
the events and phenomena which make up the world of physical experience and objectively observable
phenomena have about the same relationship to Ultimate Reality that biological traits of any organism, or
even the physical molecules of DNA in the nuclei of its cells, have to the genetic information encoded in
those molecules? Or the relationship which a discrete, physical copy of a book has to the contents of that
book, the information it contains? Or the relationship which a computer program has to the physical
media which encode and facilitate it? Or, to return to our original model, the relationship which the
interference patterns cast by the light of the Sun as reflected off Jupiter, observed in Michelson and
Morleys laboratory, and refracted and recombined in their experiment, do to light, to energy itself,
whatever the latter might actually be?
The elements of any situation which has moral, ethical, or other meaning for us, there to be read out
by us, are just the interference phenomena which exist as artifacts of the interaction between the
universes of value and our sensory and perceptive equipment, the latter embedded in and dependent upon
the normal, workaday, physical universe of scientific, rational discourse. So if there is a moral Ether or
an ethical Ether, or indeed absolute frameworks of reference for any phenomena of value whatsoever,
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the number of these elements observed in any such situation should vary as the situation itself is shifted
over time and space relative to its original matrix in human history, natural history, the physical
universe, etc.
If the number of these elements does not change as the situation shifts across time and space, this
implies that there is no such absolute standard of reference for phenomena of value.
At this time, I dont have the means to carry out such an experiment. In fact, my concern here isnt
even with the hypothetical outcome of such an experiment.
Rather, I find the counter-intuitiveness of the implications of the method of analyzing results of such
an experiment, as just discussed, to be the most interesting part of this Gedankenexperiment. Usually we
expect moral absolutes to be reflected in the real world in the unchanging aspects of things, and likewise
that moral (or other valuational) relativities will be mirrored by variations in the situations in which they
are manifest in the real world in kind with their nature. But in fact the just the reverse is true. Moral,
ethical, and similar absolutes must cast shadows in the mundane world as various as those cast as the day
passes by sunlight across an alpine landscape, changing according to resultant variations in the cultural,
historical, biological, and other objective matrices in which they manifest. If no such variances can be
observed, then matters of value are relative in nature, not absolute.
Yet another curious thing comes out of this. Suppose we conduct such an experiment, and find that
valuational elements in any given situation do not vary regardless of changes in circumstance and
context. Such a result would imply not only that there is no absolute valuational framework of reference
against which all other things are measured; but also that for each observer conducting the experiment,
since no change is observed relative to the observer, the observer itself provides its* own framework of
reference for the judging, against which no variance is observed.

*Observer in the context of scientific discourse means anyone or anything recording data about the
objective universe. This can be anything from a human being to a camera to a rock in which fossils
are embedded (the rock observes the passage of biological time in terms of the biological data of
fossils that become entombed in it. For more on this, see the note, below.

Either way, the results are counter-intuitive and not reassuring to either camp involved in the
controversy. What the implications of that may be, I leave for another essay or the readers research.

Nota Bene

How do we define any of the various universes of valuational discourse, those of e.g., morality,
ethics, esthetics, etc.?
Morality is always defined in the context of, and in terms of the impact of our behavior and existence
upon, those or that to whom we are obligated. These can include individuals, such as parents, friends,
lovers, mates, etc., as well as whole groups, such as family, community, clan, society, culture, nation,
world, etc.
The language of morality is similar to that of ethics, in that it requires the use of should and
ought. Implicit, if not actually explicit, in moral thought and discourse is the idea that these shoulds
and oughts are backed up by power in some form, the power of sentient authority as opposed to the
mindless, non-responsible raw power of purely physical processes in short, the power to reward and
punish. But this idea is generally absent from purely ethical thought. Morality assumes that one
should do something as an alternative to catching some sort of what-for. Whether from other people
or an angry and vindictive deity of some kind. In addition, morality also sometimes includes the
assumption that good or right behavior is ultimately always rewarded, sometimes in the here and
now, sometimes after death by the God or Gods. In short, morality is a function of what Freud identified
as the Superego, based at least as much on fear as anything else.
In contrast to this, ethics are defined in terms of what we love or care about, or identify with, and are
grounded in conscience. Reward or punishment for given behavior comes as the purely natural
consequence of behavior in a particular context, and is thus defined rationally and objectively rather than
in terms of fears and hopes concerning rewards or punishments at the hands of other people or
supernatural overlords, as is the case for morality. Obviously emotion as well as reason enters into our
concerns with morality and ethics. Where we are concerned with morality, we are other-directed,
looking to others whether mortal or supernatural for cues as to what we ought to do in various
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situations. Ethical concerns, on the other hand, come from what we ourselves prefer to do in a given
situation, based on our beliefs about the probable results of the consequences of our actions in that
situation, regardless of what others might think about it. Still, both ethics and morality have in common
their concern with other beings like ourselves, that is, like us at least in certain important aspects of mind
and will. Others here might include only ones nearest and dearest, or the wider universe of
community or clan or nation and culture, or it might be expanded to include numerous other species, the
whole planet, the Gods Themselves. In any case, both ethics and morals are always concerned with
others, with our relationship to them and the impact of what we are and do upon them and their well-
being, with others as subjects as well as objects.
Esthetics doesnt necessarily involved more than one subject, i.e., the person whose esthetic
responses are under consideration. An esthetic response to something is simply a avoidance-approach
tropism, either innate or conditioned that is, essentially a matter of taste, however complex, whether
innate or acquired. An esthetic reaction to something is essentially a matter of the sensorium, one which
doesnt necessarily take into account the possible consequences of ones actions upon anything else,
including the object to which ones has that reaction. It is not inherently concerned with obligations,
punishments, rewards, or consequences. It involves only ones immediate reaction, however complex or
educated, regardless of anyone else, to a given sensory aspect of a given object. Of course, esthetic
responses may be confused with moral or ethical ones. Examples of the first are social climbers who are
at least as much concerned with impressing their (intended) peers with their good taste and esthetic
sensibility as with anything to which that taste and sensibility may be applied; we see the second in
certain types of psychological disorders. But taken by themselves, esthetic reactions and judgments are
fundamentally both amoral and unburdened by any ethical considerations.
There are other valuational universes, but they are either similar to these, or else are Kronecker
products synthetic composites of these three basic ones.
There is also a question concerning whether, in the case of valuational phenomena , observer and
observed are moving relative to each other, as is true of, say, Jupiter and the Earth or any other two
separate physical frames of reference involved in a Michelson-Morley-type experiment. In a
fundamental sense, yes, they are.
On the one hand, we have already postulated varying the circumstances or matrix in which a given
valuational situation is embedded. Mathematically, there is no essentially difference between physical
motion and displacement in time and space i.e., variation of embedding of anything, including a
situation. Though in both cases different types of motion or variation exist, with different mathematical
descriptions, it is possible to describe both mathematically in a manner that satisfies the experimental
paradigms which are concerned with them in the first case, experiments in physics such as the
Michelson-Morley experiment, in the second, our Gedankenexperiment, described here.
On the other hand, an observer may be something as seemingly inert as a rock, in which geological
eras are recorded in the form of fossils, stratigraphy, and weathering; or as mindless though active as a
camera, tape-recorder, or notebook; or a living being such as ourselves. But in every case the observer is
itself part of the real, objective universe, hence subject to the ravages of entropy and the repairs thereof
achieved by anabolism, Joes Garage & Espresso Bar, or sheer natural accident. As implied by the
Second Law of Thermodynamics, the latter never completely cancel out the former.* Hence in time all
things are qualitatively transformed, slowly or quickly, by means of processes we know as growth,
development, evolution, death, and birth.

*Or, to quote the re-statement of the laws of thermodynamics by the late, lamented John W. Campbell,
Jr., of blessd memory, editor of Astounding/Analog Science-Fiction Magazine during its heyday:

You cant win.

You cant even break even.
And you cant get out of the game . . .

Both observer and observed thus change the second by assumption, the first as an escapable fact of
physical existence. As motion is identical to displacement in time and/or space of any kind, so
qualitative, irreversible change in any thing is also fundamentally analogous to motion. If nothing else,
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that the observer changes means that its means of perception likewise changes, so that what it knows of
the thing observed must also change as time passes, in accord with the changes occurring in the observer
itself. So this analogy between the Michelson-Morley experiment and our Gedankenexperiment,
described here, is also satisfied.


We live today in a world that is like a closed, pitch-dark room filled with people standing knee-deep
in gasoline. It is evident we all need light to find the exit. But some ways of seeking it are obviously
better than others. Politicians, gurus, and all other such seem to come in two basic types: those who
advocate playing with matches -- and those who are trying to pass around flashlights. We need to make
our choices of group-leaders, mundane and spiritual, as wisely as possible.
So many of our most important conflicts seem to come down to arguing over incomplete
assumptions, not just incomplete data. Take the extremely important debate over womens right to
abortion on demand. The pro-choice faction argues, quite rightly, that what is at stake is a womans
control over her own life and future, the ability to keep from being enslaved by others through having
unwanted pregnancy forced on her through rape. The pro-life faction argues, quite rightly, that legalizing
abortion-on-demand opens the door to legalizing the states right to determine who has the right to have
children, to regulating our fertility for its purposes, which in turn sets the stage for state regulation of the
right to exist, the sort of horror that prevailed in Nazi Germany. Each side of the debate argues that its
consideration is supremely important, which is true. What is overlooked is that both considerations are
supremely important, because both are concerned with preventing murder. The pro-life faction wants to
keep the door on state-ordained murder closed. The pro-choice faction wants to keep the door on state-
and culture-ordained slavery-and-murder-through-forced-pregnancy closed. Both sides are equally
important. By arguing that either is more important, we are making a choice between murder and
murder. We need a moral paradigm that includes both positions in a completely integrated way. At the
turn of this century, the American physicists Albert Michelson and Edward William Morley
demonstrated that the then-current theory of an Ether as an absolute framework of reference against
which all cosmic motion (e.g., that of light) could be measured was not adequate to explain the actual
behavior of light traveling through the vacuum of space. Albert Einsteins theories of Special and
General Relativity were developed to account for the discrepancy between their observations and older
theories. Ultimately a new physics grew out of this, one which preserved Newtonian physics intact but
went beyond it to create models that could explain the implications of sub-atomic physics, etc. that
seemed to contradict Newtonian physics without having to junk the latter.
We badly need something similar when it comes to such profoundly important mortal questions as
pro-life vs. pro-choice. Such extensions of current moral and spiritual models may or may not exist, but
we wont know one way or the other until we search for them -- and if they do exist, wed damned well
better find them. Otherwise, we are only choosing between disaster in the maw of Charybdis vs.
catastrophe on the rocks of Scylla. The alternative is to find a course that lets us avoid both and bring the
cargo safely home to port.
For example, in the case of the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate, maybe one resolution would involve a
national combat-arts draft for all girl children between the ages of 5 and 15, courses on combat-arts every
weekend throughout those ten years of life for every girl-child in the country, coupled with a top priority
on research to discover the best possible, most effective means of birth-control prior to actual conception
and provision of such techniques for all women capable of bearing children. Rape would drop to an
absolute minimum, and so would unwanted pregnancies. At the same time, elimination of subsidization
of children by the government through welfare programs would be eliminated -- the only choice open to
women having children they couldnt afford to raise, other than privately funded charities, would be
adoption. This would encourage all girls and women to learn to use effective means of birth-control as
well as to use the combat-arts techniques they had used to keep themselves from being raped by anyone,
including husbands. Sure, it wouldnt be absolutely fool-proof; entropy will be with us always, and
Murphy is Lord of this Universe. But it would drop rape and unwanted childbirths down to a minimum,
and women would be as free as possible. On the other hand, this would avoid asking the state to mandate
and protect a womans right to abortion on demand, and thus keep the state from getting its foot in the
door of the room leading to such things as state-mandated and -controlled reproduction, termination of
life, and so on. It might be the best possible arrangement, protecting both the interest of preventing state-
controlled and -enforced murder and that of the reproductive and other freedoms of all women.
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Who could reasonably object to such a plan? Thats the real point: whoever did obviously would
have interests that conflicted with those protected by that plan. Putting the plan forth would certainly
spark off loud arguments -- and, in the process, reveal the actual motives behind a lot of politicians
rhetoric. So it would serve more than one use: not only would it protect more than one supremely
important interest, in this case, prevention of state-mandated murder/sterilization as well as protection of
womens basic freedom, but it would also be a lovely test of the real motives behind one political
platform or another.
There are many other, similarly highly important debates we all need to look at it new ways, to come
up with similar extensions of current moral and spiritual models that do not sacrifice one absolutely
important moral consideration in order to preserve another. By doing so, not only would we change the
spiritual and political map of the world, we would also throw into high relief the true motives of some of
the trickier characters now on the political scene, including various religious factions, political party
candidates, and others. The Newtons of the spirit require Michelsons and Morleys of realpolitik to test
their basic premises, and moral Einsteins to provide new models that include the old, tried-and-true
models but go on from there with extensions that bring all the fundamentally important interests together
in a way that acknowledges and protects them all.