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Introducing the Yellow Sub Studies Department

David Cowles

Jun 13, 2024

“Congratulations from Aletheia Today to all schools that are incorporating the Yellow Submarine into their curricula.”

Finally, and may I say, “50 years too late,” Yellow Sub (YS) Fever is breaking out on college campuses all over the UK and US. At some schools, it’s still just a single course. Others have designated YS as an acceptable multi-disciplinary major. 

Harvard University has teamed up with the University of Liverpool to offer a bi-coastal educational experience. These two institutions of higher learning have created an entirely new academic department (Yellow Sub Studies). Makes sense: After all, John Henry owns both the Boston Red Sox and the Liverpool Football Club; plus rumor has it that the new academic department received significant funding from Sir Paul himself. 

Harvard just released its Course Catalog for the coming academic year. It lists the courses being offered in the first year by the fledgling YS Studies Department:

Yellow Sub & Mythology: This course considers the nature of myth itself. How is mythology different from biography, history, and narrative generally? How does it reflect, and shape, its cultural milieu? 

Is mythology still necessary, or even possible, in the 20th/21st centuries? What is its role? Are there other modern myths and, if so, how do they compare with YS?

Yellow Sub & Dante: What are the parallels between the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine (YS) and Dante’s Divine Comedy (DC)? How does Liverpool in the 1960s compare with Florence in the 14th century? How are these cultural parallels – and differences – reflected in the two works?

‘Young Fred’, newly minted admiral of the Pepperland ‘fleet’, acts as guide for our musical crew. How does he reprise the roles of Virgil and Beatrice in the Divine Comedy? What is the role of the guide, more broadly, in the spiritual journey? (Joseph Campbell)

What role does ‘twisted topology’ (non-orientability) play in DC and YS? Do they share a common topology? How does it differ from our standard topological model? Why does it matter?

Yellow Sub & The Holy Grail: One of the most bizarre chapters in Western Intellectual History concerns the quest for the Holy Grail. When you set out to find something, it is generally a good Idea to know what you’re looking for. No so the Grail. It seems clear that the Grail has something to do with the Blood of Christ; but what?

Is it the blood itself, shed on the cross, and somehow preserved in vitro for more than 1,000 years? Or is it the ‘chalice’ used to collect that blood? Or is it the blood in vivo, i.e. a blood line somehow related to Jesus’ – the Merovingian kings of France, for example?

Throughout the Middle Ages, knights regularly set out on quests for the Grail. Arguably the greatest English language poet of the 20th century T.S. Eliot was still searching (The Wasteland). How do these quests compare with the Beatles’ in YS?

Finally, the Grail legend reprises Pagan fertility rites. Lacking the Grail, the King is enfeebled and the land laid waste. Does Pepperland incorporate this tradition?

Yellow Sub & Physics: The film Is a meditation on 20th century physics, including Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and Non-Locality. Liverpool and Pepperland are separated by a series of ‘branes’, each corresponding to a particular aspect of Cosmos (e.g. time, space, mind). These branes mediate the World in two distinct modalities: Liverpool & Pepperland.  

The penultimate brane is nothing! Nothingness, negation, antithesis, neant – the fundamental unrest at the heart of being, the change agent per se

The final brane, the Sea of Green, is dimensionless; it is the ‘twist’ that makes topology non-orientable, i.e., that allows Pepperland and Liverpool to exist on an ontological continuum. They are no longer opposite one another; they are continuations of each other.

And what of cosmic censorship? Initially, Pepperland is protected by an inverted fish bowl that prevents two versions of one phenomenon (Sergeant Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Beatles) from existing side-by-side. Ringo breaks the seal by applying ‘a hole in his pocket’ to the outside of the glass dome. What happens next?

Yellow Sub & Biology: At one time, primary school Biology was little more than Human Physiology. But gradually, we have absorbed the implications of the Darwinian revolution. For 150 years now, we have been breaking down pre-supposed biological barriers. 

We understand now (more or less) how complex organisms (like us) evolved from ‘simple’ unicellular animals (and bacteria before that). We understand that we share more than 50% of our DNA with all mammals, many animals, and some plants. 

Now we are actively exploring the brain/bot interface. Can AI, embedded in a human body, enhance our quality of life? Conversely, can integrating human tissue with a Bot improve AI’s performance? 

Finally, as we search for life beyond Earth, what sorts of formats might we expect to encounter? What limitations are there, if any? YS presents a number of possible models for synthetic organisms, not all of which are benign. 

Texts for this course will include Gould’s Wonderful Life and Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines

Yellow Sub & Philosophy

The Grandfather Paradox – Even if time travel were possible, you still could not go back to a time before your date of conception…so granddad is safe. (Sea of Time)

Time – Does time exist independently of the way we measure it? What is the relationship between the temporal and the eternal? Between past, future, and present? 

Gestalt – Are Something and Nothing reciprocal parts of a single Gestalt? Figure/Ground = Something/Nothing = Nothing/Something? Is a ‘hole’ something…or nothing? (Sea of Holes) Do they exist absolutely, or only relatively?

Ontology – How does the Beatles’ Liverpool/Pepperland dichotomy compare with Parmenides’ dichotomy: Doxa/Aletheia?

AI – What is the difference, if any, between organism and mechanism? (Sea of Monsters)

Congratulations from Aletheia Today to all schools that are incorporating the Yellow Submarine into their curricula. This is a great day for higher ed!


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