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Babbage, Charles - The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise



Type of spiritual experience


Babbage assumes the existence of a system of the universe [spirit] with functions like programs and inter dependent functions.

His fascination was whether this system was, as it were created once, and thus 'programmed' only once, [where evolution then followed a form based change using the same set of functions], or whether there was evolution of the software as well.  He makes no assumptions, but merely points out that to program everything in advance really would require an inordinately powerful and wise set of programmers!

A little later [not quoted] he also recognises that there can be a plan, thus a sequence of incremental developments - or if you prefer configurations of the software - all mapped out, but that the development and implementation is then ongoing, in effect proposing that the creation of both form and function - hardware and software- are ongoing all the time, that creation is a continuous process.

He is also totally dismissive of any literal interpretation of the Biblical stories in Genesis taking the view - as all mystics and geniuses tend to - that the story is allegorical

A description of the experience

 from The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise: A fragment - Charles Babbage

But, to have foreseen, at the creation of matter and of mind, that a period would arrive when matter, assuming its prearranged combinations would become susceptible of the support of vegetable forms; that these should in due time themselves supply the pabulum of animal existence; that successive races of giant forms or of microscopic beings should at appointed periods necessarily rise into existence, and as inevitaby yield to decay; and that decay and death - the lot of each individual existence - should also act with equal power on the races they constitute; that the extinction of every race should be as certain as the death of each individual, and the advent of new genera be as inevitable as the destruction of their predecessors; - to have foreseen all these changes, and to have provided by one comprehensive 'law', for all that should ever occur, either to the races themselves, to the individuals of which they are composed, or to the globe which they inhabit, manifests a degree of power and knowledge of a far higher order................

.... the changes of our planet, since it has been the abode of man, is but a page in the massive volumes of its history, every leaf of which, written in the same character, conveys to the decypherer, the idea of a succession of the same causes acting with varying intensity, through unequal but enormous periods, each period apparently distinguished by the coming in or going out of new subsidiary laws, yet all submitted to some higher condition, which has stamped the mark of unity on the series, and points to the conclusion that the minutest changes, as well as those transitions apparently the most abrupt, have been throughout all time, the necessary, the inevitable consequences of some more comprehensive law impressed on  matter since the dawn of its existence


The source of the experience

Babbage, Charles

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image