Masks of the Universe

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The readers of this fascinating volume will be taken by University of Massachusetts cosmologist Edward Harrison on a delightful voyage of the mind through the history of human thought on a most awe-inspiring subject--the universe, or everything that exists. Although the existence of man on this planet goes back in time only a minute fraction of the total age of the universe, his fertile imagination has brought forth a veritable host of world models or cosmologies through which he has mediated his relationship with his surroundings and himself. This idea of the universe contemplating itself through the senses and mind of a part of itself--namely, humankind--is not a new one. In the hands of Harrison, however, it has taken on an interesting but haunting aspect that will not be pleasing to those optimistic individuals who still cling to the belief that the study of the universe is a process of successive refinements that will ultimately lead to the unveiling of all the so-called secrets of the universe and an ultimate perfect understanding of all aspects of it.

This is not to say that Harrison’s thesis is a hopeless or nihilistic one; far from it. He does not doubt that our modern physical model of the universe succeeds far better than any other model ever proposed in that it describes and explains more of its workings. It remains nevertheless a construct of the human mind, a mask, as it were, of the actual unknown universe. Harrison has no doubt that...

(The entire section is 443 words.)