Potentialism’s Universal Dynamic: from Macro to Micro levels  

However, let us focus more specifically on the Q4P part of the Potentialism equation. According to Potentialism, everything in the universe strives towards greater Complexification.

In 1988, metaphysicist David Birnbaum released the ground-breaking cosmological work Summa Metaphysica (see www.philosophy1000.com). In it, Birnbaum would scientifically lay out the cosmological theory of Potentialism.

Potentialism’s core principle revolves around the infinite Quest for infinite Potential (often called Q4P). Q4P describes a universal mechanism in which the universe naturally strives towards higher and higher levels of potential; this process is, in turn, labeled Complexification (complexity/sophistication/variety/wondrousness). This drive towards Complexification (often called C+) strives infinitely forward to a state Birnbaum describes as Extraordinariation (or E+). E+, by definition is hard to define, because it is an idealized state/goal/horizon of hyper-Complexity not yet realized in the physical universe; however Extraordinariation would sort-of be an idealized state of complexification, reality, beauty, morality, intellectuality and consciousness.

It may seem odd to describe a mechanism with an end goal that is not truly expressible. Think of it in these terms. Say you were alive, somehow, in the very early ages of the universe – where the most complex structure in the universe was the atom. You might articulate a coming era of Complexity, but it would hardly be within your power to predict the molecule….or multi-cellular life. Such is the issue when trying to describe Extraordinariation – Until you’re there, it is very hard to predict what it will be.

However, let us focus more specifically on the Q4P part of the Potentialism equation. According to Potentialism, everything in the universe strives towards greater Complexification. It is an overarching, pervasive mechanism that should be found in all parts-of and on all scales-of the natural and metaphysical world. So, let us analyze the universe on drastically different scales and see if Q4P is indeed uniformly omnipresent (see Sequence1000.com).

The Macro-level

On a macro-level, one can readily see the hand of Potentialism at work. To understand the growing Complexification on a macro-scale, it helps to look back through the eons to the birth of the universe. The epochs themselves are heralds of the effect of Potential and Complexifcation. At one time the universe was nothing but an impossibly hot, plasma mass. As it cooled, it gave rise to the atom – a clear increase in Complexification over what existed before. Moreover though, these are the more dramatic displays of macro-scale Complexification. Solar fusion is a good example, as the most basic of elements, hydrogen, is fused into the more dense helium. Likewise, the age of the molecule swept away the seemingly insurmountable Complexification of the atom.

A short recap of macro Complexification: 13.7 billion years-ago, the Big Bang; 13.2 billion years-ago gravity exerts its pull; 12.95 billion years-ago supernovas; 12.7 billion years-ago, galaxies; 4.6 billion years-ago, the sun; 4.5 billion years-ago, our solar system; <does the paragraph end like this with semi-colon?>

In due course, life, love, consciousness, the emotional gamut, art, music and poetry will make-an-appearance….

4 billion years-ago, life; 3.9 billion years-ago, photosynthesis; 3.5 billion years-ago, DNA; 2 billion years-ago, ‘snowball theory’ ice age; 1.5 billion years-ago, organisms; 1.2 billion years-ago, sexual reproduction; 1 billion years-ago, multi-cellular life appears; 540 million years-ago,  Cambrian explosion; 460 million years-ago, life moves ashore; 390 million years-ago, amphibians; 335 million years-ago, the first forests; 300 million years-ago, reptiles; 275 million years-ago, the Permian Extinction; 200 million years-ago, dinosaurs; 150 million years-ago, birds; 14 million years-ago, flowers; 65 million years-ago, dinosaur extinction; <same here, does the paragraph end like this with semi-colon?>

The Human-level

1.8 million years-ago, Homo Erectus emerges; 780,000-400,000 years-ago Peking Man; 130,000  years-ago, Neanderthal Man; 120,000 years-ago, Homo Sapiens; 15,000 years-ago, agriculture;  11,500 years-ago, granaries employed in the Jordan Valley; 10,700 years-ago, metallurgy carried out  in Mesopotamia; 9,600 years-ago, domestication of animals in Zhenpiyan, China; 9500 years-ago, domestication of rice; 7500 years-ago, fabric woven in Egypt; 6,000 years-ago, irrigation canals in Mesopotamia; 4200 years-ago, water clocks in China, 5,630 years-ago, silk production in Henan Province, China.

On the “mid-level”, the best example of Potentialism is humanity itself. Certainly, one can point to terrestrial life in general. The mechanics of Evolution naturally give rise to ever more specialized and Complexified organisms.

But of course, the crowning achievement for this planet to-date is humankind. In humanity, Potentialism took a more dramatic turn – no claws, wings, strong jaws for this creature. Via Complexification-driven evolution, Potentialism gave this unique creature advanced ‘reason’. At once apex predator and highest life form, humanity represents a new order of magnitude of Complexification. The first creature to be able to shape and redefine its environment, humanity represents what Potentialism calls a Quantum Jump in Complexity. Much as atoms could only grow so diverse and complex before it was necessary for the molecule, humanity represents the next order of Complexification which rises above the level of animals (see ParadigmChallenge.com).

The Micro-level

On a micro level, Potentialism shines perhaps most clearly. Travel down far enough in the microscopic world and you enter the world of quantum physics – the clearest example of Potentialism. Unlike the analog day to day business of the larger universe, on the quantum scale Potential is the clear, undisputed ruler of reality. A quantum, at its most fundamental is an expression of a given amount of energy. There is no halfway in quantum reality. Something is or it isn’t. Like the orbit of a valence electron around an atom – you add energy (potential) and will see no results until there is a fundamental change – it is binary, all or nothing. Pour in energy and an electron sits, building its Potential, until it reaches critical mass; then, all at once, it redefines its orbit. Such is the state of Potential at its most basic. The electron will strive for a higher order of energy until it is finally realized.

Likewise, quantum physics is a showcase for another concept of Potentialism. To a Potentialist, everything contains not only the energy of what it is, but what it can be. While this might sound outlandish, quantum physics proves this as a physical fact of the universe – in the form of superposition. Superposition holds that a particle exists in all its possible places in a quantum physical position at the same time. Think of that valence electron again. It could be to the left or right of a nucleus at any given time. According to superposition, it is in both places. Sounds like science fiction? It’s not. It’s provable. However, the act of observing the electron will force it to decide where it is at any given time? Observation is a key factor in determining its location. During this act, the electron trades its Potential for Complexity, going from potentially anywhere to a more complex object by weight of its specificity.


The Summa series was released as-follows: Summa Metaphysica I: Religious Man (Ktav, 1988); Summa Metaphysica II: Spiritual Man (New Paradigm Matrix, 2005) and Summa Metaphysica III: Secular Man (New Paradigm Matrix, 2014). The series has been the subject of a major international academic conference as well as quite significant media coverage (see www.SummaCoverage.com).