Dramatic Universe


J.G. Bennett
Talk – transcribed
October 25, 1971 – Group IIA



“Last week we took the topic of hazard, and I tried to show you that we live in a world that is through and through hazardous; and if it were not hazardous, it would not be interesting, it could have no freedom, no potential for transformation; and this would apply not only to the world, but also to us human beings as a race and as individuals. In one way, it can be said that hazard is the price of freedom, but also hazard is the condition of truly purposeful activity. But today we’re going to take as a topic the World.

What can we know about this world in which we live and of which we’re a part? How can we understand its working? The first thing is that the world is clearly a conditioned place, whether it is limited in the sense of whether it is infinite or not infinite, that we can’t know. What we can know is that it’s conditioned. Hazard is associated with the condition of existing in space and time, and our world exists in space and time. But our world can’t be fully understood only in terms of these conditions.

First, we can’t understand ourselves because we find in ourselves something which is not constrained by space and time. Something in us is able to return to the past, to project itself into the future, is able to do more than just watch events as they are occurring, it is able to intervene in events, to take decisions and this something, whatever it is can’t be under the same conditions as that which it surveys, that which it acts upon and we can also be reasonably confident that this something in us is not the only something of its kind in the world and it’s much more likely that it’s characteristic of the world, that it is not wholly constrained and limited to space and time. If that is so, then the world is something greater, not merely in size and duration, but greater in its content and significance than the world that we are able to see and touch, because all seeing and touching is all sense perception, is spatial, temporal.

Our own experience does go in directions that are not wholly contained in space and time. We do experience in depth. We do have simultaneous or synchronous experience. We have, certainly, timeless experience; although most people don’t recognize it for what it is. So, that when we talk about the existing world, I don’t want you to understand by that just the world we reach through our senses and through the concepts that we derive from our sense experience, like the concepts of things and relationships between things. We can say this; that the world is all that we can have experience of, of whatever kind it may be, and all that can be reached by any kind of experience. The world is the realm of all possible experience. This is first definition of the world, the realm of all possible experience. Why all possible and why not all actual experience? Because the world includes the past, and the experience of the past is not actual, it is past experience. The world includes the future, which is not actual, not yet may never be actual.

But further than that, experience also includes all the things that might have been experienced. Not only the meeting that we are here together at this moment, but the meeting that might have occurred if different people had come and if the topic chosen had been different. Although this is not actually being experienced and though it will not be, never has been, and never will be experienced, it’s still the same stuff. I’m telling you all this so you’ll see that when I speak about the world as the realm of all possible experience, I’m throwing the net as wide as I possibly can. Later, I can show you that even when we’ve said that, this is not all, because there are certain modes that don’t belong to experience.”


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