Schroedinger's Cat in the City of Angels
by Christian Y. Cardall
Los Angeles. The Angels. A brief visit gives the Spinozist a chance to reflect upon them.
Emerging from the elevator on the 18th floor of his Wilshire Boulevard hotel, the Spinozist is greeted with a spectacular view: the temple of Los Angeles, just blocks away, gloriously outshining the lesser city lights spread out in the distance like glittering diamonds scattered across a jewler's balck velvet display cloth. Atop the temple in brilliant gold stands the most remarkable angelic denizen of this City of Angels, standing defiantly with trumpet raised, high above the city streets, in the midst of heaven, so to speak,
having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,Musing on the singularity of the scene, and marveling greatly, the Spinozist notes that from this vantage point the herald angel's sound is somewhat muted; the heavenly ministrant faces a different direction, the sound of the trump is crowded out by the bustle of Babylon below.
Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.
The fleeting vision dissipates as the Spinozist turns away, when, in the midst of his meditation, the first vision is suddenly replaced by another. The Spinozist's assigned room is on the other side of the building; upon entry, the supplanting panorama greets him, an incarnation of a shopping list of iniquities detailed in the angelic minister's ancient record. Towering, luxurious apartment and office buildings on the other side of Wilshire reach towards heaven, latter-day ziggurats proclaiming man's wealth and power; behind them, a moat of costly Westwood residential real estate surrounds a fortress of humanity's creative and exploratory powers, where muddy bricks of Knowledge and Meaning are assembled into the spiritual Tower of Babel that animates the physical instantiations in the foreground.
This, spreading out in the shadows of the Everlasting Hills Hollywood and Beverly, is the Spinozist's destination: a modern university. On the morrow he will gather with its priestly inhabitants, famously "clothed in the black robes of a false priesthood," bustling about like diligent ants in their hive of learning. Briefly, he thinks also of the enclave's young supplicants, encountering the world of Charlotte Simmons. Tonight, like ancient Lamanite warriors imbibing their bounty before going to battle on the morrow, these apprentices check off their extracurricular shopping lists of iniquity in a bid for strength against the morning's engagement with the curricular requirement lists that will give them their permanent ticket to Babylon.
And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.Wanderlust of mind and spirit overcomes a tired body's aching for rest. By this time, so deep are the impressions made on the Spinozist's mind, that sleep has fled from his eyes, and he lays overwhelmed in astonishment at what he has both seen and heard; but what is his surprise when another vision presents itself to his mind, borrowed from another young man in another time, a commencement speaker named Alfred Kelley: a vision of another university, set in another valley, beneath another set of everlasting hills. Spreading from the then-bare Temple Hill presiding over a then-empty landscape, "temples of learning" fill the valley in the young man's mind.
It is a vision fulfilled in the Spinozist's day, complete with a temple proper crowned with another (actually, the same) golden messenger---a vision he once found sufficiently inspiring to feature in a commencement address of his own, but which now questions. The Spinozist wonders anew at the bold experiment, the philosophies of men mingled with scripture. He recalls its inhabitants, not ants clothed purely in black, but deseret in its beehive: busybodies with well-separated stripes of academic black and revelatory gold. He wonders at the mingling, and the separation, wondering what the final outcome will be. Engaging with the slow but persistent would-be revelatory solvent, will humanity's proud juggernaut of learning and wealthy competence be revealed as salt---not useless, but nevertheless ultimately to be dissolved and subsumed? Or is it oil, presently mixed in colloidal suspension by intentional shaking, only to rise inexorably to the top as the weight of empirical reality pulls the revelatory water to the bottom?
Seeking an instantaneous solution to this conundrum, and still having angels on his mind, the Spinozist recalls recently spoken words, and hopefully makes an instantaneous pilgirimage across cyberspace to consult the delphic sayings of the oracles. He ponders---weighs---the following:
The spiritual gifts described in the Book of Mormon are present in the Church today—promptings, impressions, revelations, dreams, visions, visitations, miracles. You can be sure that the Lord can, and at times does, manifest Himself with power and great glory. Miracles can occur.He remembers the words recently spoken by another seer, illustrating one of these "many ways"---remembering also his own reflections upon it, and wondering if it's the most that can presently be offered. He next remembers the words recently spoken by The Seer. In spite of Joseph's promise that Jesus would visit from time to time, and even manifest the Father (TPJS p. 150-151, D&C 107:18-19), the Seer reports that Joseph's experience is the latest and greatest---nothing like it since.
Mormon said: "Has the day of miracles ceased?
"Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?
"Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought" (Moroni 7:35–37).
Pray always—alone and with your family. Answers will come in many ways.
The Spinozist remembers Joseph's endorsement of tactile witness, spoken in the context of a sermon on the temple:
No one can truly say he knows God until he has handled something and this can only be in the holiest of holies. (HC 4:608)He marvels at the fact that we have no record of Joseph testifying of having such an experience. In making such statements, was Joseph looking forward with expectation to the future reception of this blessing in connection with the Fullness of the Priesthood, bestowed---along with the longevity and superhuman powers exhibited by antediluvian patriarchs---in a properly completed temple, which he did not live to see?
Returning full circle to the first seer quoted above, the Spinozist recognizes that promises about the Second Coming require an expansive definition of "this generation," one that effectively must encompass an entire dispensation---and that in spite of the inferences Church members commonly make based on testimony-by-dropped-hints, similar logic may apply to the cited promise of continued visitations: Perhaps the Brethren have an expansive definition of what occurs "today," or "at times"---expansive enough to include our founding generation---so that they may be satisfied with what they think they perceive through the Holy Ghost, and dreams.
The conundrum, therefore, remains unresolved. Even taking the Brethren to be sincere, the ambiguity and lack of detail of their statements preclude definitive, comprehensive evaluation of their intent and meaning.
Dueling cautions now enter the Spinozist's mind, telling him that Satan would try to tempt him to rationalize for the purpose of justifying sin, and that fear of annihilation would tempt him to cling to claims of immortality in a putative spiritual realm. He would fain forbid these motives, hoping he would have no other object in view in seeking truth but the benefit of humanity, and would not be influenced by any other motive than that of building better circumstances for himself and his fellows; otherwise he might not obtain it.
The Spinozist is left to ponder on the strangeness of what he has just experienced; when almost immediately following these concluding thoughts, the cock crows, and he finds that day is approaching, so that his musings must have occupied the whole of the night. Shortly he will arise from his bed, and, as usual, go to the necessary labors of the day.
Doubletree, reads the sign on the Spinozist's place of lodging, along with an image of two interlocked trees. On an upper floor high above the ground below, he feels unnaturally lifted up, precariously suspended between the holy temple on the one hand and secular temples of learning on the other, like an aerial tram terrifyingly stuck midway through its journey across a deep chasm. He imagines these two competing temples as referents of the two interlocked trees, the Tree of Life and and The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Caught between them in a baffling entanglement, he is Schroedinger's Cat, existing in a state of macroscopic quantum superposition, simultaneously and seemingly inconsistently heir to both eternal life and eternal death.
Given the limits of secular knowledge, and the limited nature of revealed testimony, he wonders if the measurement that will collapse this wavefunction will not come until his departure from this world. In one outcome of this definitive measurement, his immortal soul will survive the ordeal of death, and he will know the answer for himself. In the other, his brain and all its synaptic connections will crumble to the dust, never knowing it will wake no more---and never remembering it once thought to wonder.