As the book is subtitled, this is “an odyssey reconciling science to God”. That is Rees’s ambitious aim at least.
I’m not so sure that she succeeds unless we, physical living mankind, are understood to be part of a flow of consciousness that is actually God. That is a difficult place for me to go. I need the division of the soul of man from the divine. However, to the main theme, that on a spiritual level we may already know all that science is steadily revealing to us, that we are all at core a part of a consciousness that is this Universe; I fully concur.
I am not a person that finds it easy to connect with poetry, so was never going to find inspiration in the epic poetic story telling that amounts to our total history. I get the concept, and applaud it, but I’ve such a chaotic, dyslexic and ambidextrously muddled mind that I need the directness of prose. The splitting of the book into separate themes, half to connect with the artistic right hemisphere and half with the linguistic and mathematical left, wasn’t helpful. My “scientific” thought already contains plenty of mystical spaghetti. I am certain that Rees’s own flexible intellect is not just a few fathoms deeper than mine, but that most readers will have less of a problem with her holistic approach. I would far rather have had a straight prose history of thought with the wonderful endnotes she provides. Some will live in the poetry and forsake the naked theory and most others will engulf both spheres. Such diversity gives sound reason to Rees’s duality, for really this work has serious things to say to everyone.
The key to my admiration for this work is the inspired belief that consciousness creates structure; creates the physical Universe we inhabit. Rees believes that if we look hard enough for the “facts” logic currently needs we will find them. The necessary solution, the quarks, will come into conscious existence because man needs to find them. Whether there was a quark before the conscious thoughts of man, already designed by the Highest Conscious, God, is a mute consideration. If Rees satisfactorily answered this question, then I missed it.
Following Involutionary Theory, Einstein was only tapping in to what the unconscious mind already “knows”. Our, so called, trash DNA already contains all there is to understand about the Universe, as it has already lived the course of history. All we have to do is read our evolution back, involute knowledge already experienced. In this theory, the original language of conscious thought is none other than the chemical language of our own DNA. We need to follow the entanglement of knowledge back to creation, which just happens to be, as far as Rees is concerned, exactly where science is leading us anyway.
In a non-intellectually vigorous way I have long dabbled in Rees’s school of thought. This line is after all a very good way of making sense of life without losing either all the dogma of “Church” or embracing all the spiritual void of science. To look in my own backyard, speculative fictions of many sorts cover parts of the same ground, without actually getting anywhere near even the foothills of Rees’s integrated theory of everything. Those with other careers, specialities, and private convictions will equally find plenty that rings bells.
The poetry enabled the skimming of the history of knowledge, and so avoiding risking being submerged in detail. This form also gave the freedom to seamlessly bob about on the timeline of history, without having to justify, or even make sense of, every leap. I admire the use of the epic poem as a way of trying to cover the history of everything, which it really almost does. But however much I admire, I would be lying if I claimed it suited my train of thought. Despite that, I got so much from this book. I have no hesitation in recommending it to any thoughtful reader of any area of interest; from the most open spiritually to the most narrowly religious, from the mathematically autistic to lovers of scientific fantasy. Rees’s thoughtful and though provoking journey is well worth taking.
This is a very personal view of a very big philosophy. Please read a range of other’s reviews, which this one merely augments.