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We All Live in a Yellow Submarine

David Cowles

Mar 1, 2024

“The occasional dragon notwithstanding, we hardly ever see monsters in Liverpool anymore.”

We travel, but like Alice in Looking Glass World, we always seem to end up right back where we started. To go ‘some actual where’, you either need to hop the Hogwarts Express from Kings Cross Station, Platform 9¾, or book passage on a certain Yellow Submarine, embarking from Liverpool Pier. 

We’ll pass on Hogwarts this trip; we’ve chosen the Pier, a long corridor with a series of doors running along both sides like gates in a modern airport. Open a door, take a peek, catch a glimpse - you’re definitely not in Kansas…in fact, you can’t even get to Kansas from here.

Liverpool Pier Travel offers daily departures to exotic destinations around the globe – well not exactly around the globe, more off the globe. “Delve into the depths of your subconscious mind”…or “learn the secrets of the multiverse.". Compared to this, the Odyssey is like a 35mm slide show from the 1960s. 

Prodded by the pleas of a refugee, Young Fred, the Beatles book passage on a submarine heading to the mysterious Pepperland. But wait! Newly appointed, Admiral Fred (aka ‘Young Fred’), knows a short cut. As in the classic scene from Goodfellas, Fred takes ‘the boys’ backstage. They – now you – get to see how the sausage (aka the cosmos) is made. 

How would you build a Universe? Say you were offered the job of Director for a 21st century remake of the Truman Show; how would you build your set? Perhaps you’d start with Time:

“What time is it? …It’s time for Time! …Look, the hands are slowing down…Maybe time’s gone on strike.” You are looking at Time itself, pure temporality, before the adulteration of flow (rate and direction). In Liverpool, time flows in only one direction and at only one ‘rate of speed’, but in Pepperland… 

The Sea of Time is the ‘womb’ for all possible versions of time; it is ‘the mother of all Time,’ literally and figuratively. Einstein might have said it, “It’s time forTime!”

“I don’t want to alarm you, but the years are going backwards. If we slip back through time at this rate, we’ll all disappear up out of our own existence,” warns the Admiral. 

To ‘disappear up out of our own existence’ is not ‘just dying’. We think of death as a divorce, not an annulment. Yellow Submarine ’obluterates’ that comforting delusion. If time is reversible, even just theoretically, and it is, then existence can be erased… retroactively! You call it 'corn'; we call it ‘the Second Law of Thermodynamics’ (entropy).

In what sense, then, can I claim to be…or ever to have been? Apparently, everything is built solidly on a foundation of…nothing. Am I in a community theater production of The Tempest?

Whenever you’re out of your comfort zone, you need to entertain new options. What if time itself is nothing but the clocks we use to measure it? Our intrepid crew discovers it can, in fact, reverse the direction of time…just by manually adjusting the clock hands. 

Next Stop: The Sea of Science (Space + Tech)! This sea is characterized by its rectilinear grid and by the Platonic solids that populate it. It’s ‘Plato meets Descartes’ -  The Timaeus.  

Against this background, various waveforms undulate. Similar to black holes and holograms, this sea can’t seem to make up its mind whether it’s a two-dimensional surface or a three-dimensional space. Figures emerge out of a flat background to enclose a 3D volume, only to undergo further deformation back to 2D surfaces.

After Yellow Submarine, it was discovered during the study of black holes that 2-dimensional surfaces and 3-dimensional spaces encode exactly the same amount of ‘information’. Likewise, a hologram is a 3D ‘image’ generated from a 2D scrap of film. In these applications, at least, a third dimension is ‘optional’. 

Now the voyage to Pepperland moves from the objective realms of Time and Science (Space & Technology) to more the subjective. We are entering the Sea of Monsters (objective monsters) on our way to the Headlands (subjective monsters).

The occasional dragon notwithstanding, we hardly ever see monsters in Liverpool anymore, or if we do, we don’t recognize them properly. We Liverpudlians have done a pretty good job of purging ‘monsters’ from our immediate vicinity…but only from the immediate vicinity. Believe me, monstrosity is alive and well, as John himself would tragically soon experience! 

The Sea of Monsters is populated by a variety of creatures that exhibit some physical traits that are similar to ours, but others that are very, very different. Most striking is the way that Beatle Biology allows for unusual combinations and configurations of organs. 

In Liverpool, we are still just experimenting with Bionics. In the Sea of Monsters, most creatures combine organic and mechanical structures. In On Growth and Form, D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson (d. 1948) outlined the many functional and structural similarities linking biological and non-biological mechanisms. R. Buckminster Fuller (d. 1983) did something similar in his two-volume work, Synergistics

Ultimately, technology and biology are not incompatible: if a certain form works well in one particular medium, it might very well work in the other. Isn’t that the fundamental assumption behind AI and all Computer Science? 

One of the creatures in this Monstrous Sea is the ‘dreaded vacuum.’ Like a black hole, this creature sucks into itself everything in its environment. “We’ll be sucked into oblivion…or even further,” says Young Fred, and sure enough, they are! 

The vacuum cleaner monster not only sucks up all objects in its path, including our sub and its crew; it also sucks up the fabric of spacetime itself. Ultimately, it even sucks itself, tail first, into oblivion: The Beatles’ universe is a vanishing ouroboros

The vacuum leaves us with precisely nothing, nothing that is, except Jeremy Hillary Boob, PhD (JHB). But that’s ok because the Boob is ‘nothing,’ quite literally: 

1 + (~1) = Boob

If Universe is a black hole, the Boob is Hawking radiation! JHB is pure information. In fact, Jeremy consists of all the information that existed in the universe prior to its implosion. 

Hawking codified what Ringo had demonstrated earlier: Information is conserved but confused in the Boob. Take this snippet of dialog, for example:

“Do you speak English?” -

“Old English, Middle English, a dialect pure.”

“But do you speak English?” -

“You know I’m not sure.”

What else remains? The submarine itself. Even though the sub was sucked up by the vacuum monster, it avoids ‘oblivion’ because, as it turns out, the sub is the Eternal Present. It cannot be destroyed; it instantly regenerates itself. (We’ve been looking for this at least since the days of Ponce de Leon and the Fountain of Youth.) Presence is sui generis.

Next stop: the Foothills of the Headlands. Headlands is the domain of pure thought, taking the form of transparent heads, unencumbered by useless bodies. In the Headlands, thoughts lack orientation, consistency, coherence, purpose, and effect. (Hmm, sounds like we’re ‘inside the Beltway’!) 

In the Headlands, we see the consequences of an ‘all-in-the-mind’ ontology (e.g., Philosophical Idealism) and believe me, it’s not pretty. Bottom line: “mind matters but mind matter” - a bumper sticker? A souvenir from our trip?

After the Headlands…the Sea of Holes! We’ve passed through brains and bodies, forms and ideas; what’s left? Nothing? Exactly, nothing, but that’s a good thing!

Now we are passing into the realm of ‘negative space’. The usual relation of figure and ground is reversed. The sea itself is the ground, and the holes in that sea now constitute the figure. Nothing exists; something doesn’t! Nothingness (Le Neant) is what’s concrete…so concrete that Ringo is able to put a ‘hole’ in his pocket, literally.

The Sea of Holes is the inflection point in our journey. The ‘figure-ground’ relationship has reversed; for the rest of the voyage, it’s ‘ground-figure.’ The topology of the Sea of Holes is radically non-orientable. There is no consistent directionality, no spatial ordering. It’s ‘Escher’ on steroids. 

In fact, the Sea of Holes is a paradigmatic example of non-orientability. Any system (Pepperland) that contains a ‘locally non-orientable’ component (like the Sea of Holes) must be ‘globally non-orientable’ as well. It turns out that our orientable universe is just a unique configuration in the infinite sea of non-orientability. 

In a non-orientable universe, there are no privileged vantage points or directions. In fact, there are no beginnings, middles or ends at all. However, every ‘point’ has two distinct and opposite orientations (like ‘up and down arrows’ on a Möbius strip). In other words, every point has two potential states or values. The entire Universe may function as a Quantum Computer. The Netflix series, Stanger Things, refers to the ‘Upside-Down World.’

Now, we're ready to cross into Pepperland at last…if only we could find it. But first, we must pass through one more sea, the Sea of Green. There’s a catch: out of a seemingly infinite array of holes, only one hole connects the Sea of Holes to the Sea of Green and Pepperland.

This is a problem for our Argonauts! As we know from the study of Black Holes, all holes look the same; they have ‘no hair'. So we can’t examine the holes for clues. There is only one possible way out: stochastic trial and error…which has an infinitesimal likelihood of success. But in this system the infinitesimal is not equal to zero.

Fortunately, our Argonauts do find the one and only hole that functions as a passageway to the Sea of Green, an almost featureless, ultra-thin membrane separating the other branes from Pepperland. Welcome to the Scandal of Particularity. So full speed ahead! 

Once the Beatles arrive in Pepperland, they discover that they bear an “uncanny” resemblance to four of its permanent residents, “the originals," Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Of course, we later learn that the Beatles are the Sergeant Pepper band!

Initially, “the originals” are separated from the rest of Pepperland by a big glass dome. It is as if the cosmos were censoring itself. If the Beatles are Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, then both ‘copies’ cannot coexist in one universe; one copy must be confined to a separate mini-brane. The ‘big glass bowl’ maintains the ‘cosmic order.’ But that order is about to be shattered! 

Remember, Ringo has a ‘hole’ in his pocket (from the Sea of Holes). Ringo applies the hole to the side of the “big glass bowl,” and through the agency of what-is-not, the ontological barrier dissolves and the two realities meet on the same extensive plane. Ringo’s hole (nothing) connects the temporal Beatles with their eternal alter-egos.

Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the Beatles under the aspect of eternity, while the Beatles are Sergeant Pepper’s Band under the aspect of history. When Ringo’s hole connects the two realms, we learn that the division of the Universe into ‘temporal’ and ‘eternal’ rests on a false distinction. Temporality and eternity are complementary aspects of a single phenomenon. Think waves and particles.

So, it turns out that Liverpool and Pepperland are really the same place! We never left the Pier after all. I’ll expect a refund from Liverpool Pier Travel. Liverpool is the spatiotemporal aspect of Pepperland as Pepperland is the eternal aspect of Liverpool. 

Nothing that happens in Liverpool stays in Liverpool. Whatever happens in Liverpool happens in Pepperland…and vice-versa. In the language of the Gospels, “On earth as it is in heaven." In the language of Quantum Mechanics (Bell’s theorem, 1964), Liverpool and Pepperland are ‘entangled.’

And what about the sub itself? That’s also Pepperland. It’s Presence. In the language of Christian eschatology, Pepperland is ‘the kingdom not yet’ while the Sub is ‘the kingdom already’. In the language of Christian ecclesiology, the Sub is the Church. 

Finally, in the language of Christian theology, Yellow Submarine is solidly ‘Trinitarian’: Temporality (Liverpool), Eternity (Pepperland), and Presence (the Sub) are the three facets (personae) of Being. In the end…it’s all Pepperland!

At Aletheia Today, it is our conviction that Science, Philosophy and Theology, long mutually estranged, are starting to re-converge. If so, Yellow Submarine might be seen as a shot across Enlightenment’s bow, finally celebrating the official end of the real Dark Ages (1500 – 1900 CE).


David Cowles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Aletheia Today Magazine. He lives with his family in Massachusetts where he studies and writes about philosophy, science, theology, and scripture. He can be reached at


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