Mysteries, Part 2

Ginny’s eyes drifted open. She stretched out on the small bed she had beenlaid on, and looked around. The room suddenly got quieter than it had been –upon seeing her waking, Professor Lockhart had stopped talking, in case shewanted to go back to sleep. But she did not.

“It didn’t work?” said Ginny.

“I’m afraid not, Miss Weasley,” said Professor Lockhart. Ginny could onlysigh. She had been trying something inordinately more difficult than everyoneelse had. If she’d merely tried to cast an animal Patronus, she thought,surely she would have been able.

“Can I try again?” said Ginny, although she was already being torn apart bydoubts. There was no point in trying again if she didn’t even know what shehad done wrong.

“Yes,” said Professor Lockhart. “In fact, I booked the group for severalhours, specifically so that students could try on multiple occasions. You canprobably even try a third time, although I don’t recommend it.”

“Alright,” said Ginny. “Can I take some time to think, before-”

“Yes,” said Professor Lockhart. “In fact, you should. I’ve taken the libertyof Obliviating you of the nastier effects of critical Dementor exposure.They’re known to impede Patronus formation at times on second encounters, asthey continue to weigh your emotional state down. Personally, I thinkObliviation should be applied more often as a Dementor cure…”

“Okay,” said Ginny. “Just let me think…” She certainly felt awful, althoughshe could only remember part of the reason why. Why hadn’t her Patronusworked? Had she had the wrong thought? Or had she not truly believed it? Orcould it have been both?

“Tell me whenever you want to go back and face it again,” said ProfessorLockhart. “And for your information, Harry Potter didn’t cast his Patronus onhis first attempt, either. Eat this.” He handed Ginny some chocolate, whichshe slowly began to eat, and he went to sit elsewhere.

Harry Potter… that was just the problem. Ginny had been so focused on the factthat you couldn’t cast a Patronus by putting yourself into someone else’sshoes that it hadn’t occurred to her that her own beliefs might simply bewrong, or at least unfit for casting Harry’s advanced Patronus. There wereonly two people who could cast it, and both of them had theological viewsparticularly distant from Ginny’s own. Perhaps it was just coincidence – orperhaps it was evidence that Ginny was simply being particularly stubbornabout something that, deep down, she knew was wrong.

But Ginny looked deep within herself, and could not find any component of herbrain that would admit to wrongdoing. Even as her Internal Harry told her thatshe was only believed in her belief and she was killing valuable brain cellswith every second she kept up the charade, she didn’t come to any sort ofepiphany that she had been acting all along, and hadn’t really believed it.

What she could come up with were good counterarguments against what shebelieved; counterarguments that she had always brushed off, often withcircular logic, come to think of it. Perhaps her knowledge of thosecounterarguments undermined her faith, making her beliefs weaker andpreventing them from being legitimate for purposes of the Patronus. Shebriefly considered asking the Defense Professor to Obliviate her of thearguments, before realizing what an idiotic premise that was. Literally theopposite of rationality. That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.

Even if Ginny’s beliefs were true, she had been drawing off of her belief inher belief, not the root belief. So what if all of this indicated that Ginny’sworldview was wrong and she would need a new one to cast a real Patronus? Thatsimply wouldn’t do. You can’t build a strong worldview for yourself in amatter of hours. Still, if Ginny’s old worldview was wrong, it wouldn’t workfor Patronus purposes, particularly if she knew it. She was just about readyto curl up into a ball and die, but she didn’t want to. She wanted to cast aPatronus and be done with it. How do you rebuild all of philosophy fromnothing; how do you build your worldview out of basic principles that aren’tin dispute? Once again, Ginny was concerned that it might take more than a fewhours.

Ginny ran through the counterarguments in her head. Why her sect over allothers? The obvious answers all relied on circular reasoning. Why believe inan afterlife, when all magical evidence for one was so questionable? The ideathat her relevant beliefs were founded by a need for comfort in the face ofinevitable, real death gnawed at Ginny. A closely related idea thatmomentarily comforted Ginny was that an afterlife must exist, owing to theomnibenevolence of God, but then Ginny finally asked herself: why believe inGod? She’d never really thought about it. She’d never really doubted it, true,but she’d never really thought about it, either. Pascal’s Wager only “proved”the existence of a class of non-omnibenevolent “god” that Ginny didn’t believein, and its status as blackmail sent it to the rejection heap of her brain;Pascal’s Wager hadn’t been a convincing argument for her since she was veryyoung. As long as she could remember, Ginny had simply felt the existence ofGod like the existence of gravity or the existence of magic, and so it hadnever occurred to her to question it, even as some people around her didn’tseem to feel the same thing. But gravity and magic were objectively provablethrough scientific analysis; God was not, and all of the first arguments Ginnycould think of for His existence were circular. Ginny was in a new circle of aHell she did not believe in, the Circle of Reasoning, where everything wasconfirmed by everything else but there was no base truth confirming anything.

Why believe in souls? It was intuitively obvious to Ginny, cogito ergo sum,that she existed, and furthermore, it was obvious to her that her ownexistence was evidence that the universe existed. It was also obvious toGinny, conversely, that in physical reality, there was a spectrum ofintelligence dictated by cognition structure; the mere differences in behaviorbetween lower animals and humans suggested this, and the existence of braindamage confirmed it. Ginny had had personal experience with this, when sherealized that by expanding her Parseltongue computer’s complexitysufficiently, she could build a device with no intelligence, or she couldbuild a device more intelligent than she was – or anything in-between. Thebrain is just a particularly efficient electrochemical computer, after all.And yet, despite the spectrum of intelligence dictated by physical reality,there could be no spectrum of cogito ergo sum. A mind was either a proof ofthe universe’s existence or it wasn’t; it was either a real viewpoint withagency or it wasn’t. And so there had to be some invisible, intangible marker,a soul, distinguishing real beings, just as there had to be aether to clarifythe true position of space itself. Rationalism could take many things awayfrom Ginny, but her logical proof of souls had been formed so long ago, and sosolidly, that it was not going anywhere.

The existence of souls certainly suggested the existence of God: who, exactly,decides what gets a soul and what doesn’t? There had to be some intelligentforce behind it. Or maybe there didn’t. Perhaps Ginny was the only being inthe world with a soul – she couldn’t confirm the existence of anyone else’s,only her own. Or perhaps souls were everywhere, just floating around, and someattached themselves to rocks and plants and stars. No, the existence of soulsdid not truly imply the existence of God as far as Ginny could tell. She wassimply trying desperately to reassemble a shattered vase before her motherfound her.

Some time after Ginny had stopped shaking and sweating, she let her mindwander, in the hope that the dreaming part of her mind would come up withsomething more useful than the waking part. Her mind went first to Harry, andthen to Hermione, and then back to Harry, and then to Voldemort, and then backto Harry, and then to Draco, and then to Tim, and then to vague suspicion, andthen back to Draco again, and then to Luna, and then to Nargles, and then totime, and then to the Well of Time, and then to church and then back to Luna,and then to Luna’s father, and then to Luna’s house, and then to Luna asleep,and then to Luna at the train station, and then-

“Professor Lockhart?” said Ginny. “I’d like to see the Dementor again soon.”

“Alright,” said the Professor. “Get your wand and follow me back to the DeathRoom at your own pace.” Wait, Death Room? Had Dementors been Death instead ofEvil this entire time? The Veil nearby should have made it very obvious, andGinny now felt rather stupid, but no, the train of thought had to keep going.

Luna had once told Ginny of a magical mirror capable of creating universes.Whether or not the mirror existed as she described it was immaterial. It wasclear that such a device was within the capabilities of wizards – in fact, itwas within the capabilities of Muggles; a sufficiently powerful computershould be capable of simulating a universe, as universes, in Ginny’sexperience, operated on mathematically precise laws. And a simulation was thesame as the real thing, from the perspective of the mind living in it.

“By the power of Bayes,” whispered Ginny, and she grasped her wand off of thebedside cabinet, and held it in her hand. Given an infinite number ofuniverses anything like Ginny’s own – that is, containing intelligencescapable of constructing computers – the infinity of universes that came fromnowhere was infinitely smaller than the infinity of universes that had beencreated by a different, similar universe. So there was at least rationalistevidence to reject the null hypothesis of atheism, in favor of at least deism.That was certainly a breakthrough.

There was absolutely no reason for a universe-creator not to grant themselvesomnipotence and omniscience; to prove omnibenevolence, though, she would needto psychoanalyze the creator of the universe, a task that proved daunting.Psychoanalyzing the creator of the universe would also help to reject the nullhypothesis of deism. Was he a non-interventionist sort of God, or was He aninterventionist sort of God? Well… yes and no. Interventions, miracles, didnot happen often; the universe had existed for billions of years, and theuniverse didn’t look like one that had been covered in miracles for billionsof years. Many of the major points of life that were explainable once asmiracles were now explainable by other means – life occurred on Earth throughnatural processes and chance; this also explained the eventual evolution ofintelligence. Religions could and often did arise from memetic processes, andthe miracles used to found them could be forged, particularly with magic (butwhere did magic come from, if not from God?), and one would therefore expectto see religions even in a world where all of them were false.

But that didn’t imply that any given religion was necessarily false, either –between the extreme cases of “non-interventionist God who leaves no deliberatesign of his existence in his creation” and “interventionist God whoseexistence is made explicitly clear to every being within His creation” was anintermediate case, like the liquid phase between solids and gases – a semi-interventionist God, who left only debatable signs at critical developmentalpoints, to produce a diversity of beings with different pictures of their rootcause, varying in accuracy. If Ginny entertained the notion of this semi-interventionist God, then it was reasonably likely that He had a hand inChristianity – the incomplete version of it, after all, was the dominantreligion amongst the dominant Muggles, and for a long time the true versionwas dominant amongst wizards. It was far from a certainty, though – and Ginnyhadn’t actually found any reason to reject the null hypothesis of deism – or,more importantly, to believe in omnibenevolence, which was the foundation ofso many other beliefs, most notably the belief in an afterlife.

“You’re very brave to try again,” said Professor Lockhart. “A lot like yourmother; she’s a very brave woman.” The Defense Professor smiled, and Ginnytried to reciprocate, but it was more of a gulp. They were walking through thestone hall back to the room in which Dementors were fought, and now Ginny knewthat she was facing Death. She briefly thought that she should have put theconfrontation off more, but she brushed that thought off; it was time.

Hello, Death, thought Ginny. I’m Ginny Weasley. I exist, and you don’t.The Dementor wasn’t actually there, yet, but she might as well begin to formher Patronus thought now. Cogito ergo sum. Why doesn’t death exist, you mightask, indignantly pointing at yourself. People die all the time; surely thatproves that I, Death, am real? But for Death to be a true horror, it must bethe end of the self. Is it? We don’t know! That’s why you’re in the Departmentof Mysteries, because we don’t actually collectively know what you are! It’sbeyond ordinary study! For all of history, you’ve been a land that everyoneenters into, and from which none return. But does that mean that you’re empty?Age, too, fits your description. But we can contact the aged…

_ Who or what created our world is also a mystery, thought Ginny. _If theydon’t study that here, they should. I believe I have a pretty good idea of Whocreated our world, but that doesn’t even matter, here. Because by the sameproof that we were probably created – the probability approaches one, that is– our creator was probably created. And His creator, and His, and so on. Weare living in some indefinite layer of recursion. If an omnibenevolent entityexists anywhere in a tree of universes – and surely there does exist such anentity, because there is rightness in reality, and omnibenevolence is _right– then surely it’s Their responsibility to end true death everywhere on thattree of universes. To back up beings’ mind-states, with something that couldbe called a soul, and keep them running in perpetuity past what the cold, non-altruistic mathematically precise universes would do._

_ A set of additional physical laws for the universe on top of the regularlyactivated ones? thought Ginny. _Hmm, doesn’t that sound like… magic? Itappears that we’ve already been touched by omnibenevolence. But in the strangeevent that we haven’t, that we are the first omnibenevolence to form on ourtree of universes, it’s our responsibility to make it ourselves, and seeing asyou, Death, are a mystery, I’d say that we should do our best not to takechances. Add another layer of security.

“Ginevra Weasley, are you ready?” asked an Unspeakable. Ginny nodded withconfidence, and finished her thought:

_If there is the slightest reasonable chance that death is the true end of thesoul, it’s our responsibility to prevent and even end death. Pascal’s WagerMaxima. _The Dementor finally arrived, and someone muttered “about time”.

I am Ginny Weasley, daughter of Arthur. I am the third seventh son. I am thechild of God and man, of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, of a soul and abrain, of evolution and creation, of science and religion, of Muggletechniques and magical ones, of faith and reason, of knowledge and mystery. Iam the one who I know thinks, and therefore I am the one who I know exists. Iam destined for great things, but first, you must be resolved. I believeyou’ve already been defeated, but… if not…

Expecto Patronum!” shouted Ginny, with all of the conviction of the peopleshe had occasionally seen getting overly excited in church.

Then you’re about to be, thought Ginny, as the silver-white mist began toform at the tip of her wand. A burst of brilliant light, and countless formsbegan to appear in the mist, all animals, each blinking by too fast to clearlysee, gradually increasing in average size. The Dementor was confused, andGinny didn’t quite know what was going on either, but she liked it. Finally, asingle form settled in, a tall biped, and the others disappeared. Ginny lookedat it closely, and was immediately disappointed, despite the brilliance of thelight.

Aw, it’s an ape? _thought Ginny. _So close and yet so far. …or is it? Itdidn’t look very much like a human; it was far too hairy and the face was allwrong. But it looked too much like a human to comfortably call it an animal,and soon… it picked up a rock, which shone nearly as brightly as it did, andthrew it.

The Dementor fainted, and had to be revived later by the Unspeakables usingblack licorice.

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