CYCLES WITHIN CYCLES
The End had come.
The universe was dead.
No more galaxies shining in the darkness. No walls of stars or glowing nebulae.
The stars, long cold, had been swallowed and processed by the black holes.
The black holes, sated to quantum-endonic equilibrium in a universe with nothing left to consume, had self-collapsed, releasing the equalized, quantum probabilities they had been collecting and preparing for so long. In silent non-explosions, they had surrendered their final product and ceased to exist.
Matter and mass gone. “Dark matter” and the others… no more.
Weak and strong forces… no more.
Probability reduced to universal equality.
Time… no more.
Even weary Entropy, its work complete, had lain down and ceased to be.
Cosmos and Meta-cosmos… gone
The thriving, chaotic system of interplaying forces was now a constant, cold ‘fog’ without form or purpose.
Only essence remained.
Here, the trillion trillion essences waited, perceiving what was left of the universe that had sustained them through all their myriad existences. Essences… all that remained of all the sentients who had lived in all the galaxies through all the billions of years of this once-alive universe.
Thought and feeling. Experience, wisdom and understanding. All that mattered in the end. Still individual yet also merged in this final epoch: the essences.
The essences of organics and inorganics who had transcended their corporeal beginnings. Of energy-entities who had exceeded their matrices. Of cognitive-entities that had perceived more than their abstract. Reborn to a higher level as they developed: Potentials becoming the Risen.
Risen essences who had developed further to become planets and other biospherics as newly Realized.
Realized essences who had developed into the Enlightened and become stellar beings, now released at last from their vital roles.
Essences that had been universal Forces, now released from their purpose: the Entwined.
Essences that had been the Unseens, unperceivable except by another essence: the Pure.
Most had lived countless lives in this once-universe… learning, growing, developing and evolving. Some had developed enough to rise two or even three levels. Others had barely moved beyond corporeal.
They were the Reason for it all.
Now, they waited, perceiving the cold fog that was all that was left of everything.
They waited for the All to decide. To act.
The All was not omniscient. It did not know everything. It was omniscience. It was everything.
The Risen, Realized and Enlightened still pondered if the All was the only All. Although they could feel and touch the All, they were not yet developed enough, not yet entangled enough with it, to understand the All.
Was it the only All? Or merely the All for this universe? Were there other universes, each with their own All and trillion trillion? Or was this the only hope for sentience? For being?
If the Entwined knew those answers, they did not share them with the less-developed. And the Pure? The Pure rarely shared with the Entwined. Never with the rest.
Most likely, those answers were part of the Understandings that could be understood only when an essence was ready to understand. Which was as unsatisfying an answer as ignorance to the less-developed, even though they understood how understanding must come.
So, they waited… perceiving a universe that had once been unified in its purpose… now unified in its pointlessness.
And, they perceived the All perceiving that universe… and them.
The All looked upon the trillion trillion. Most had been in its care since before this Cycle of this universe. For many Cycles, in fact. Even if most of them did not remember.
They were not just essences; they were the essence of the universe. The Reason. The souls, the kina, the spirits, the eindosai of those who had lived in any form. So many names for the one thing—the only thing—that endured through all the Cycles… for the one thing capable of growing in a universe made to die.
The All found it interesting to watch the many ways Potentials tried to understand themselves while they still existed in corporeal, energetic or cognitive form and had forgotten their own Truth. Often, they misdirected or stunted their own efforts. Which was why the tiny cycles within each Cycle had been introduced; to give each essence the chance to escape stagnation and continue to develop.
That they try to understand themselves during those existences was imperative. Growth came during the struggle, not during the emergence.
But now, there could be no more growth. Not in this Cycle of this universe. It offered no more struggle.
The All felt the melancholy of the Entwined, the curiosity of the Enlightened, the anxiety of the Realized and the confusion and fear of the Risen. They were part of the All and it was entangled with them, more even than they realized… the sum of the All being the exponential of the rest.
The Pure and the Entwined merely waited. Completely or deeply entangled with the All, they were infinitely patient in their own Understanding.
They knew that soon the next Cycle would begin and the All would appoint them to roles as universal Forces, or as Time, Probability, Entropy or as the Unseens. With those in place, the All could shape the new Laws and Interplays for the new Cycle. The Pure and Entwined would use those qualities to nurture energies, matter and other essentials into existence while the Enlightened and Realized watched and learned.
Or perhaps there would be an entirely different set of parameters this time.
The Entwined would then guide the Enlightened as they formed the nucleus of the new universe and the Realized watched and learned. Then the Enlightened, as stellars, would guide the Realized as they formed biospherics, or whatever the equivalent of stellars and biospherics would be in the next universe.
Through it all, the Risen would watch and some would learn, those closest to self-realization. At least the process would be imprinted on some fundamental part of them even if they did not remember it.
Eventually, the new universe would be capable of supporting life in all its forms.
Then, with the environments established, the Risen would be thrust back into a myriad of corporeal, energetic or cognitive forms, depending upon their development, putting the final component of the new universe into place. They would become the souls of the fledgling races in a fledgling universe… collective, singular and intertwined beings spread across the structure, struggling to survive, to learn, to find meaning.
With the new Cycle, there would be purpose again.
But first, there must come the Cleansing; the purification to remove the final traces of the old universe.
The All acted.
The trillion trillion essences perceived the act as a single “thought.”
The Calm became The Storm.
The cold “fog” erupted into arcane, bizarre madness. In a universe without forces, it roiled like turbulent gases, boiled like heated liquid, blazed like unstable plasma and exploded like supernovae.
It sliced and bled like flesh and shattered and screamed like crystal.
It solidified into chunks the size of galaxies that tore at themselves and savaged their neighbours.
It shredded and reformed, engulfed and vomited.
It collapsed upon itself and thrust against itself.
Like a thing alive, the Storm clawed at the Weave that surrounded and bounded the universe, raging to free itself to ravage and devour beyond. Unable to break through and escape the walls of the universe, it raged the length and breadth of its prison—no pattern, no reason, no restraint—destroying and ending the universe with the fury of absolute Finality. The ultimate Violence. Chaos that a universe would… could see only once in all its existence.
Around them, The Storm raged clawing at the trillion trillion, seeking to shred their essences as well, to pull them into itself. To devour them.
Having spent endless lifetimes working toward harmony and oneness, the Realized and Enlightened justifiably felt fear. The Risen, completely unprepared, were terrified.
But the Entwined and the Pure, having passed beyond the need for harmony and earned the Understanding of Chaos, protected the rest.
The Storm that threatened to tear through the boundaries of the universe was unable to penetrate that protection. It howled its frustration and raged all the harder.
The All watched, unaffected by the Chaos Storm or the terror it caused.
It was good that the Risen would not remember this at a conscious level when they returned to existence as Potentials, only at an instinctual level. In those forms, the conscious memory of such fear would drive them insane.
But the instinctive fear of universal oblivion would remain, driving them to learn, pushing them towards Understanding for the sake of survival, even though they would not yet be able to envision the threat.
So, the All did nothing to calm them, letting the fear be imprinted.
The Storm raged against them but was unable to consume them. It clawed at the walls of the universe but the walls held. It raged at itself, destroying the last traces and emanations of the universe that had been.
The All waited, perceiving. It perceived each fragment of violence, each churning, rending, searing, shredding, tearing, boiling… perceived until it could perceive not a single emanation from the previous Cycle remained.
The All issued another thought. “Condense.”
Like a living thing, the Storm that had destroyed a universe screamed and railed against the Primal Force that pushed it inward, compressing it smaller and smaller into an infinitesimal point of cosmic fury. The power of unleashed Chaos raged to escape the one force that was its superior.
While the Pure and Entwined guided the rest into calmness again, the All prepared.
Next came the difficult part.
The Pure prepared themselves… all except one who stood apart from the rest. As he had stood apart this entire Cycle.
The Other. The finest of their echelon… and none of the Pure desired the Other’s place of honour.
First among the Unseens. The Force who would direct the other Unseens and the universal Forces. Who would touch the existences of every being in every life.
The Other… the One who Opposed.
For there to be growth, there must be challenge. Resistance. Opposition.
That was the Other.
Only among the Pure were those strong enough and wise enough to drive the less-developed to develop themselves.
Fear, temptation, and sorrow were only some of the forces that the Other commanded. At his command, Probability would alter to create the setbacks and the sufferings required to test and drive each essence upwards. At his order, biospherics would turn their powers against their own charges creating catastrophe among those they nurtured.
From the smallest, daily annoyance… to the termination of an essence’s current state of existence… to the destruction of an entire civilization, these were all the responsibility of the Other. A universal symphony of discord, each harsh note precisely played to achieve the sweetest purpose of all.
Yet, among the essences struggling in corporeal, energetic or cognitive form, none would understand. From them, the only reward for the Other would be revilement and blame for all things. Hatred.
From some of the Realized, in their biospheric forms, the Other would receive the same, for they were still too new and too eager to nurture the frail life in their care.
From the rest, the Other received a combination of pity and respect, for they Understood.
For an entire Cycle, the Other stood alone, carrying the burden that none but the All understood.
But now, the old Cycle was done and a new about to begin.
The Pure stood ready. None coveted this most essential of duties, but they would serve.
From among the Pure, the All selected one.
The new Other acknowledged and accepted the burden from the Other of the last Cycle.
The All cast gladness and appreciation upon the Pure who had been the Other in the last Cycle.
Then, for the first time in a Cycle, the All felt sadness.
The Pure one who had been the Other, who had been closest to the All for the life of a universe, simply faded out of existence.
To the Risen, the Realized and the Enlightened, that essence simply ceased to exist. And they did not understand. Was it punishment? Did the task consume so much of even a Pure that it could not remain cohesive when the task was completed?
The Entwined however, perceived the transition… perceived the former Other exceeding this universe… and they suspected the truth.
The other Pure understood. Their own sadness mixed with happiness for the former Other.
Somewhere, a new universe was being brought into existence and a new All was beginning a first cycle.
And the Pure wondered at the purpose that must exist beyond the purpose in this universe.
The All did not explain it to them. Understanding would come when they carried the burden of the Other themselves. For this All, it was enough that it still felt a thread of a touch from the Other who had been its closest companion… as it felt the threads from the many Alls. And those higher.
Those touches eased its own burden as it began yet another, new Cycle here.
The All issued the thought, “Grow. Let there be insight.”
The new universe exploded into existence.
Food for thought
Among the many spiritual concepts, I find those involving cycles to be the most interesting, logical and consistent with the many indications of the cyclic nature of our universe. But, the universe appears to be non-cyclic in the extreme long-term (i.e. entropy). Also, there is the universal concept of evolution (biospheres, stars and galaxies all evolve, not just organic beings). These ideas sparked questions:
What if there were only one “energy” in the universe that was not subject to entropy? An “essence” that was truly cyclic… being reborn again and again? This would fit well with certain spiritual beliefs. Could it be that these beliefs are our unconscious perception of these eternal “essences?”
What would it be like to be those essences when the universe finally ran down?
Or is the universe truly cyclic? Are we just in one cycle that is so long we can only guess with our limited knowledge at its true nature? Entropy argues against that idea… but what if entropy itself is part of the cycle?
What then would be the purpose of a universe of limited duration if it contains any “force/energy” that persists beyond it?
I played with some ideas but the “development/growth” idea kept pushing its way to the forefront of my mind… perhaps because of the evolutionary nature of the universe. New stars, planets, etc are all still being formed. What if these are the “bodies” of essences that have reached higher levels of “enlightenment,” ascending beyond their original forms as some spiritual paths suggest? Perhaps the term “Mother Earth” isn’t so far off.
And if there is an “evolution of essences” to become the celestial bodies and universal forces as they continue their growth and aid in ours… doesn’t this suggest that there must be a highest-level in this universe… which might account for the monotheism interpretation of spirituality?
At that point, I realized that the “Devil” of some religions would have to be among the wisest and most-developed of the essences in order to fulfill the essential but infinitely-painful role of the universal antagonist that pushes us to grow.
Finally, what would be the point of such universe-level development… if there were nowhere to evolve higher than this universe? What if the cycles of a universe itself were just part of a larger cycle… which, like each level up the “chain” could only be perceived when an essence had developed enough to perceive?
Cycles within cycles within cycles.
For what purpose? What waits beyond?
About the Author
After a career in high tech Darrel Duckworth returned to his first love, writing. He now spends more time on other worlds, occasionally returning to Earth to refill his coffee mug. His stories can be found in magazines such as LORE, Bards and Sages, and Plasma Frequency and in anthologies such as “Coven.”
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