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Babbage, Charles - The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise



Type of spiritual experience


Another area that Babbage considered was the nature of prophecy.  Firstly he imagined that an atom was not as we believe it to be today, a proton core with electrons whizzing round it, but as those in computer circles today might view it , as an 'object', a software object which could be 'hit' by an event , execute a process according to its state and then in its turn produce an event which impinged its neighbour in a truly vast cause and effect dependency chain spilling out from the original event.

The nature of the process executed was entirely dependent on its state at the time, thus at any given 'moment' [and here he made the connection between cause effect and time], an event might have one effect, whereas  once the state had changed the same type of event may have a different effect.

By knowing all of this we could indeed prophecy and prophecy accurately.  But we had to know the systems, the functions, their effects given any type of event and their current state.

A description of the experience

from The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise: A fragment - Charles Babbage

supposing the original condition of each atom as well as all the extraneous causes acting on it to be given, and supposing also the interference of no new causes, such a being [the prophet] would be able clearly to trace its future but inevitable path, and he would distinctly foresee and might absolutely predict for any, even the remotest period of time, the circumstances and future history of every atom of that 'atmosphere'.

Let us imagine a being, invested with such knowledge, to examine at a distant epoch the coincidence of the facts with those which his profound analysis had enabled him to predict.  If any [sic]  the slightest deviation existed, he would immediately read in its existence the action of a new cause; and through the aid of the same analysis, tracing this discordance back to its source, he would be aware of the time of its commencement and the point ... at which it originated

The source of the experience

Babbage, Charles

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