Marco Mocchi Interview to Rudy Rucker for IntercoM. Novara, Italy, 03/17/1999.Q: You often speak about infinity, paradoxes, higher dimensions, and the existence of alternative worlds. Were you influenced by M.C. Escher? A: I loved Escher as soon as I first saw his work, which was perhaps in a “Mathematical Games” column by Martin Gardner. Before there were any English editions of his prints, I had a Dutch edition of Escher prints that I looked at a lot. I use a lot of Escher-like constructions in White Light. For instance I describe a patio restaurant whose center is infinitely far away because everyone gets smaller as they approach the center; this is similar to Escher’s Smaller and Smaller I. His Other World was an inspiration for a scene in my Master of Space and Time where there’s a room in which the walls, floor and ceiling are all magic doors to other worlds. Escher liked getting suggestions from mathematicians, he corresponded, for instance, with the higher-dimensional geometer H. S. M. Coxeter. Escher was science-fictional in that he illustrates startling mathematical effects by cleverly arranging familiar things. Q: If you take Escher seriously, he seems to suggest that our perceptions are limited, and that our view of reality is partial and incomplete. This notion is also found in the novels of Philip. K. Dick. Do you agree with it? A: It seems very likely that there is some other order to reality than what we ordinarily perceive. We are, after all, very specific kinds of biological beings, evolved to live in a specific kind of environment. A deep-sea tube-worm has no inkling of the sky, nor of the birds in the sky, nor of the stars. A creature of the desert knows nothing about rain. It would be preposterously self-centered to believe that humans are in a position to understand everything about the Cosmos. Certainly there are regions of the universe in which space, time, and matter behave differently, and it’s reasonable to suppose that these regions are inhabited by various kinds of intelligent minds. What’s more intriguing to think about is that there may be different levels of reality right here around us. Perhaps there really are higher dimensions of space. Time of course is a higher dimension, but I’m thinking of a spatial higher dimension here. The physicists who talk about string theory have some crappy little rolledup higher dimensions they use, but these are curved around to be only the size of an electron. I’d like to see a real, extended higher space dimension distinct from time and from the shrunken “vermin dimensions” of string theory. Or maybe there’s some kind of shrinking transformation you could do so as to get inside the vermin dimensions after all. Or maybe the whole notion of space should go out the window and we should be thinking of thoughts that live in a mindscape like fish in the sea. Maybe what I think is “me” is simply a particular “school of fish.” Q: Do you view our inability to see the higher reality as a problem related only to human perceptions or does it involve our spiritual aspect? A: If you pray or meditate, you can sometimes have an experience of being in touch with a higher order of being, whom we might as well call God. Sometimes I have a sensation, for instance, that individual humans are part of a single great spacetime body, that each of us is a kind of “eye” that God uses to look at things with, and that people are like eyestalks on the Mystical Body of Humanity, if you will. Once in a while I have a feeling of timelessness, a sense of looking at the world from outside of spacetime. These sensations are fleeting, and it’s hard to force them to come. One might think psychedelic drugs would help, but they seem to help only the first couple of times you use them, and after that they hold you back, ensnaring you in selfishness, paranoia and addiction. Boring as it seems, prayer and meditation are the only longterm methods of enlightenment that I know of. Well, actually, talking and writing about this stuff is a path as well. That’s one reason I find it fun to write science-fiction. Q: Are the cognitive limitations of present-day man technological, philosophical or epistemological? A: It’s hard to be sure. I have a physicist friend who dreams of creating some kind of force-field that would in effect put you into a quantum resonance with the objects around you, so that everything would seem alive. But I think he’d end up with more than he bargained for. My sense of the nature of higher reality is that it’s closely associated with the concept of a loving, all-powerful God. I think goodness and compassion are part and parcel of higher reality; they live there. You’re not likely to get through the temple door if you’re carrying a rifle. The various paths that humans take to try and achieve transcendence are perhaps all leading up different faces of the same pyramid — which I imagine as having the great White Light on the top, similar to the traditional image of a blazing eye on top of a pyramid. Science fiction is one possible tool for trying to explore the greater reality. It’s a good tool because it tries to start from fresh, bringing in all sorts of new scientific concepts. And it has a irreverent open quality to it. We can forget, at least temporarily, about being serious and religious, we can just play, and ask questions like whether there might be many Gods, what it would be like in their homeland, how many dimensions of space and time they have, and so on. It’s a relief sometimes not to strive for spiritual growth and simply to speculate. In the end, as the speculations become part of your worldview, they will have a spiritual meaning anyway.