The Bootstrap Paradox; Time Travelers Caught in Infinity Loops

Abstract fractal futuristic alien landscape or intergalactic highway

If you committed to going back in time to kill Hitler, there are questions to consider: what would you be unwinding and what could truly be undone? Once on the other end of the journey, who would you know yourself to have been, and who would you become?

By reversing spacetime, you could lose the knowledge and desire to do the killing, and you could lose the reason for your desire. As you unwind your self-identity, do you lose connectivity to the originating point as well as the destination? These questions point to the conundrum known as The Bootstrap Paradox, otherwise known as the Ontological Paradox.

When caught within cause-effect loops that include traversing the space-time continuum, our purpose and identity can be dissolved, with or without a reboot. Our originating self-identity can become self-created and temporary or self-created with new, unlimited potential.

In essence, being caught within a recurring time arc is similar to the moment of birth within a woman’s womb. A living being and new realities are born, and trajectories for three-dimensional potentialities emerge. 

These ideas invite others. If our souls collect specific information during time-travel, it means that consciousness includes all spacetime possibilities and every potential realm. If our spirits can recall our original, intellectual fodder throughout these types of journeys, it means that self-identities remain intact when traversing spacetime, and therefore evolve as if the experience of spacetime were linear.

I wonder when moving deeper into time spirals, would we begin to collect clear visions and experiences or would we be thrust into undeterminable clouds of impressions?

While the term metaphysics translates literally to “about physics,” its meaning has evolved into something more spiritual. It might be said that metaphysics is better defined as, “the nature of being, existence, connectivity, and consciousness, throughout all physical and non-physical realms, and in every dimension and direction.”

“By denying scientific principles, one may maintain any paradox.”

— Galileo Galilei

Time Travel

Boostrap Paradox Examples

Our best teachers of how paradoxes might unfold could be some of the writers and producers in Hollywood. Here some of their narratives involving the Bootstrap Paradox:

— When Star Trek’s Scotty described how to make transparent aluminum in Star Trek IV, he was referring to how matter might un-form while also remaining in a relatable structure, thus alluding to a cause-effect loop. 

— When Marty McFly played “Johnny B. Goode” and Marty’s bandmate called Chuck Berry so he could hear it, it could be said that Marty and Chuck Berry became born-again with new trajectories, as if never having had the potential to exist prior, except in this unique moment of creation.

— During The Time Travelers Wife, the time-traveler memorizes a list of dates from a written note. He then ventures back in time and dictates the list, thereby becoming a co-participant in a never-ending loop that is without a discernible point of origin. In this case, the time-traveler is pulling himself upward “by his bootstraps” as if he is simultaneously both the puppet and puppeteer.

— Now let’s get to the juiciest example of the Bootstrap Paradox. Doctor Who proposed a riddle. A Beethoven-Loving time traveler departs his current reality to traverse spacetime to meet his musical God. When he lands in Beethoven’s living room, he finds that Beethoven is without inspiration or any chance of producing his famous music. Because of his devotion and love for Ludwig, the time traveler commits to copying every one of the master’s creations. On subsequent visits, the time traveler gives them to Beethoven, who in turn, absorbs these gifts and delivers them to the world. Fast-forward to an unknowing time traveler listening to his favorite Beethoven symphony. In an instant, he decides to travel back in time to meet this profound and wonderful composer. The challenge here is to determine who actually wrote the 5th, 6th and 9th Symphonies? Who is Beethoven in this story? Is Beethoven the person who is birthed the moment he receives the copied music? Is the genuine composer, formerly known as Beethoven, now erased from reality? We’ll never know!

If I went back in time to the moment I was assigned this article and handed myself the required research prior to a word being written, I would be creating a bootstrap paradox involving two versions of myself, each of whom would have non-predetermined, potential trajectories, while also being forever tied to each other and the production of this article. 

“How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.”

— Niels Bohr

Could Bootstrap Paradoxes Lead to the Hemorrhaging of Spacetime? 

Whenever we imagine something, it can have an impact on our realities. One simple intention or desire can cement unknown and untested trajectories. If our thoughts can impact our lives, it would be easy to imagine that the mechanisms and laws behind spacetime could be tricked, trapped, and trampled. Connecting strands of trajectories and potentialities, whether in this moment or in prior ones, could reshape reality as we know it.

Events like these wouldn’t only affect our physical realities; they could give birth to pathways and algorithms that are entirely foreign to our bodies, minds, and souls. If one soul was inventive enough to trick her relative spacetime construct, a collection of tinkering souls could have the potential to give birth to new realities, reform consciousness as we know it, and reconstruct the building blocks of creation in all directions and realms. In other words, yes, we can cause the eternal nature of all realities to have simultaneous strokes, which in turn could extinguish all realities or birth unlimited ones.  

Bootstrap Paradox Movies and TV Series

Hollywood has done an excellent job at creating believable narratives and characters that bring to life these types of paradoxes. Even though these are not all perfect examples of bootstraps, this list will answer most of your questions and freak you out (in a good way):

  • Interstellar
  • Looper
  • Timecrimes
  • Arrival
  • Primer
  • Time Lapse
  • The Final Countdown
  • 12 Monkeys
  • Terminator 
  • Terminator 2
  • Somewhere in Time
  • Split Infinity
  • Planet of the Apes
  • Escape from the Planet of the Apes
  • Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife
  • Doctor Who: Space & Time
  • Doctor Who: Time Crash
  • Back to the Future: All of them!
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

You might recall moments where you felt as though you were within a loop. It may have felt like déjà vu, or it may have felt more palpable and tangible. It’s entirely possible that every life is a bootstrapped loop. When we’re feeling bad about ourselves, what picks us up? When we’re missing important pieces of information, what mechanisms or influences cause them to appear? Before a flower is born, does life-itself reach backward to pull it into existence and give birth to a new here-and-now? It’s fun to ponder!

If we were so inclined, closed-loop time travel, causal loop paradoxes, and controlled repetition of cause-effect loops might also produce trajectories that result in the absolute liberation of consciousness, for all beings, across all realities, throughout all the realms, and for all time. This gives greater meaning to the Sanskrit mantra often shared by Amma, The Hugging Saint: “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu,” which translates to, “May all the Beings in all the Worlds Be Happy.”

Structure of Time


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Consciousness Is A Big Problem For Science

Can Science Explain Consciousness?

Science has provided humanity with an incredible understanding of our physical world. But when it comes to the issue of the human mind, progress has been slow and littered with issues. Materialist science is attempting to prove that consciousness is merely a byproduct of the complex processes in the brain, and inseparable from the physical body. In simpler terms, your “mind” is the resulting process of neurons firing in your brain, nothing more and nothing less. Unfortunately, there is no actual neurological proof to support this idea, and for many who are deeply studying the question of the mind, these scientists are not looking in the right place, or using the right methods.

Alternative theories propose non-local consciousness: the idea that our brains are merely the physical conduit for the mind, not the source of its origin. These theories often explore fringe cases, such as near-death experiences, precognition, and psychic phenomena, in hopes that they can provide a more complete picture of the human mind. Of course, the majority of this evidence is not measurable to the extent that most mainstream, materialist scientists would accept. Responding to eye-witness accounts describing near-death experience, Neil DeGrasse Tyson said:

“Give me something that does not have to flow through your senses, because your senses are some of the worst data taking devices that exist, and modern science did not achieve maturity until we had instruments that either extended our senses or replaced them.”

Indeed, from the simplest microscope to the large hadron collider, it is impossible to imagine scientific progress without such instruments. But, if our senses are considered fallible as scientific instruments, what should we make of the mind we use to process and interpret this collected data? Human consciousness must be considered as unreliable as our senses, perhaps even more unreliable, as we know far less about the mind than we do about our sense organs.

This paradoxical reality is a serious issue for science: how can we study the human mind if the only tool we have at our disposal is the human mind itself?

In his book, Why Science Is Wrong, science podcaster Alex Tsakiris sums up the problem: “If my consciousness is more than my physical brain, then consciousness is the X-factor in every science experiment. It’s the asterisk in the footnotes that says, ‘We came as close as we could, but we had to leave out consciousness in order to make our numbers work.’”

Does Consciousness Exist Outside the Brain?

Part of this “consciousness problem” in scientific study is the “observer effect”: the theory that simply observing a situation or phenomenon necessarily changes that phenomenon. On a quantum level, physicists found that even passive observation of quantum phenomena can change the measured result, leading to the popular belief that a conscious mind can directly affect reality.

According to physicist John Wheeler, quantum mechanics implies that our observations of reality influence its unfolding. We live in a “participatory universe,” in which mind is as important as matter. Our belief in what is possible might actually create those possibilities, and it might reinforce the physical nature of our entire universe. If we do, in fact, co-create a shared consciousness, then our beliefs would necessarily influence our science.

Dan Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine, has argued for decades that we can not simply look inside the brain when trying to understand the mind“I realized if someone asked me to define the coastline but insisted, is it the water or the sand, I would have to say the coast is both sand and sea,” says Siegel. “I started thinking, maybe the mind is like the coastline. Your thoughts, feelings, memories, attention, what you experience in this subjective world is part of mind.”

Those exploring the outer frontiers of consciousness study are willing to take this idea much, much further. Ervin Laszlo, PhD is one of many thinkers who proposes the idea of a cosmic consciousness, describing it as a web that connects the entire universe. This field manifests locally in the human brain, theoretically meaning that the brain is able to connect to the consciousness of the entire universe. He calls this deep dimension of consciousness the Akashic Field, borrowing the term from ancient Hindu philosophy. In support of this theory, he presents numerous case-studies of near-death experiences, after-death communication, and recollections of past lives.

Laszlo writes:

We are beginning to see the entire universe as a holographically interlinked network of energy and information. We, and all things in the universe, are non-locally connected with each other and with all other things in ways that are unfettered by the hitherto known limitations of space and time.”

Those “known limitations of space and time” are the border walls of materialist science, and in the last century, quantum mechanics has begun to tear that wall down, one brick at a time. Quantum entanglement proves that tiny particles can communicate instantaneously in defiance of our known rules governing space and time. Many have hypothesized that if these tiny particles can remain connected outside of standard physical means, than the entire universe is inherently connected, as Laszlo and others have suggested.  And while that may someday be proven true, we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the quantum implications of the mind.

Although there is extensive evidence for non-local consciousness, it is rarely embraced by mainstream scientists because it can’t be measured using currently available technology, and that makes significant progress challenging. Accepting non-locality forces the rejection of a purely materialist worldview, and that is a huge disruption for our current scientific paradigm, which dominates consensus thinking on how we understand the world. Yet, the study of consciousness is slowly forcing materialistic science to admit it may not be able to explain everything.

As Nikola Tesla famously said, “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.” The study of human consciousness could be the motivating factor pushing us towards that new frontier.

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