Identity and Interaction

by Raghavan Iyer @ Theosophy Trust


IDENTITY AND INTERACTION


Space is the real world, while our world is an artificial one. It is the One Unity throughout its infinitude: in its bottomless depths as on its illusive surface; a surface studded with countless phenomenal Universes, systems and mirage-like worlds. Nevertheless, to the Eastern Occultist, who is an objective Idealist at the bottom, in the real world, which is a Unity of Forces, there is "a connection of all matter in the plenum", as Leibnitz would say.

The Secret Doctrine, i 615

  Most people think of space as a barren void, occupied at various points by diverse living and non-living entities. The vibrant life and dynamic interactions of these entities are usually seen as a complex web of causation wherein previous conditions bring about, through intermediate modes of transmission of energy, the present and future states of things. The persistence of discrete entities through time and their capacity for intense interaction with each other are both attributed to the more or less abstract material of which they are composed and the varying forces with which they are endowed. In such a conception, space itself is a purely neutral venue, capable, according to Locke, of neither resistance nor motion. The passive proscenium of Nature plays no part in the drama that unfolds among the entities making up the universe. From this perspective, the geometrical division of space into points is understood as a conceptual convenience that permits a description of the careers of entities in terms of spatial coordinates, but has no bearing upon the origin of those entities or the significance of their interactions.

  Nothing could be farther from the truth. The points comprising space are the real entities, the noumena of all things, and the origin of their epiphenomenal embodiment and material interaction. Beginning with the abstract Primordial Point, the successive orders of concretion within the geometric manifold of Space are identical with the series of states of existence sometimes spoken of as planes of consciousness and substance. The totality of these states constitutes the cosmos. The manifold points in each of these derivative and differentiated spaces are equivalent to a host of beings, and the limits and possibilities of their interactions are a function of the geometric characteristics of the space in which they exist as points.

  Space includes myriads upon myriads of entities, invisible beings far beyond man's ability to comprehend, classify or even conceive. What is ordinarily called the world of manifestation is only an appearance, a skin that conceals the real activity of hosts of invisible beings in invisible space. Every point of every class is connected with every other point, and all points are essentially identical with the First Point. Known variously as the Divine Unmanifest Logos, the Pythagorean Monas and as Anu, the Primordial Atom, that Point is a nucleolus of Spirit-Matter. In the most fundamental sense, it is the metaphysical cosmos, and within the evolving elaboration of its intricate geometry all beings live, move and have their being. Within this cosmos all distinctions of subject and object, form and function, entity and environment, identity and interaction, have only a relative validity, legitimated by the degree of differentiation of the particular plane of existence and limited by the ultimate identity of all points with the One Point. Thus, each point-being is a distinct perspective in consciousness, with a definite horizon of potential action and interaction.

Esoteric philosophy, teaching an objective Idealism – though it regards the objective Universe and all in it as Maya, temporary illusion – draws a practical distinction between collective illusion, Mahamaya, from the purely metaphysical stand-point, and the objective relations in it between various conscious Egos so long as this illusion lasts.

Ibid., 631

  This arcane conception of Space as the real world and a unity of forces finds its partial expression in the philosophies of Leibniz and Spinoza. During the nineteenth century, elements of this perspective began to enter into the speculations of modern science, particularly in the work of Sir William Crookes. While giving generous praise to Crookes for his tremendous intellectual daring, H. P. Blavatsky deliberately inserted an idea from the ancient world which was far ahead even of the most daring notions of the nineteenth century. Going to the core of the question of the nature of the organization of matter into form, she quoted Plutarch as saying, "An idea is a being incorporeal, which has no subsistence by itself, but gives figure and form unto shapeless matter, and becomes the cause of the manifestation." As Plutarch, like Plato, was an Initiate, the idea to which he refers was, in effect, a noumenal world of archetypal forms, which serve as the prototypes upon which the entire phenomenal world is modelled. Understood in this way, an idea is a much more dynamic notion than can usually be brought to that word since Locke. In contrast to the lack-lustre conceptions of modern thought, ideas in ancient philosophy were held to involve an activity that affects, moulds and directs material particles or atoms.

  Ideas have the potency of ideation belonging to the Divine Mind subsisting on the substratum of Akasha, the infinite negative field of all form, all possible ideation and all thoughts that may arise throughout a manvantara in any sphere of manifestation. In this profound and creative view of thought and ideation, it is not possible to separate ideas from elementals. An idea, when pondered upon, gives form to matter, attracting to itself – according to its nature – different classes of elementals. When this process occurs with sufficiently intense emotion, energy or will, the resulting aggregate of elementals assumes a definite shape. Then the idea becomes not just an incorporeal formless being in abstract space, but an incorporeal being that is enclosed corporeally in a more concrete space. Such forms, though invisible to the physical senses, are discrete entities on the astral plane. Through a similar process these may then give way, through the power of thought, to visible, dynamic forms in physical space. Thus, the potency of thought and the reality of ideas is the starting point of the Platonic conception of the universe as a living geometry in repose.

  Crookes's great strength was in his courageous challenging of the prevailing notion of an element. More than simply questioning a particular physical interpretation of the concept of atoms as units of chemical combination, he challenged the hitherto unquestioned assumption that chemical atoms are themselves incapable of further subdivision. He refused to admit that the periodic table of elements, which successfully accounted for many of the chemical properties of physical compounds, included the ultimate elements of chemistry. Thus, Crookes anticipated much of what came to be discovered early in the twentieth century concerning the atomic constitution of physical matter. Now, of course, there are many subdivisions in the realm of subatomic physics, all of which were completely unknown in the nineteenth century, and virtually inconceivable in terms of nineteenth-century conceptions of atoms. Despite this radical reformulation of the science of chemistry and despite the tremendous advances that have been made in confirmation of what Crookes pointed out, the essential challenge implicit in his thought goes far beyond anything that has already happened. That challenge was made not merely in relation to the finality of any particular scheme of classification of constituents of matter, but also to the absolute conviction that there is ultimately a fundamental element or Protyle. Though still unknown to science, this must eventually be discovered.

  In her analysis, H.P. Blavatsky complimented Crookes on having set out two postulates. The first of these, the possible existence of a Protyle, was argued for extensively by Crookes and was held by him to be connected with the nineteenth-century conception of "radiant matter". The second recognizes that if there is such a Protyle, then there must be an "internal action akin to cooling, operating slowly in the protyle". Consider, for example, the behaviour of crystals, which require heating and cooling for their dissolution. But quite apart from crystals, which are, after all, only particular visible geometrical forms, Crookes's postulate regarding internal action echoes the doctrines of the ancient Gupta Vidya. If one goes behind all that is regarded as possible phenomena on the material plane, penetrating to the notion of a root matter or primordial Protyle, it must be possible to relate this Protyle to all manifestation. There must be some process of development within the pregenetic stage of manifestation that corresponds to internal activity in the Protyle and can be represented as a kind of cooling. Gupta Vidya designates this substance-principle as the Father-Mother, and speaks of the hot and cold breaths within this principle as governing the processes of creation and dissolution through expansion and contraction. This is only an analogical account, but it does presuppose the existence of antecedent forms of energy having periodic cycles of ebb and swell, rest and activity. Once one grants such a possibility even in relation to the primordial Protyle, one grants the possibility of a potential release, through cooling, of that which is latent.

  Important as these two postulates of Crookes are, they must be supplemented by a third postulate, which is essential as a point of departure of esoteric science. This third postulate is that there is no such thing in Nature as an inorganic substance, or that whatever is seemingly inorganic is merely in a state of profound lethargy. If awakened, even the atoms within a stone become dynamic. In the course of Nature, this awakening takes place in cycles through Fohatic impulses. On a very wide scale, this progressive activation of points of life has to do with the differences between various Rounds and Races. But this awakening can also take place through the self-conscious intervention of an Adept. With sufficient knowledge, in theory and practice, of the inner nature of things, an Adept can, through concentrated ideation, quicken the sleeping atoms in any body.

  Given this potential, it is necessary to rethink altogether our customary distinctions between organic and inorganic. Like Leibniz, one must come to see the ubiquity and inexorable nature of the principle of continuity throughout all manifestation. Like Leibniz, one must acknowledge the continuity between mind and matter that is either obscured or missing in Cartesian thought. For Descartes, matter is characterized by extension in space, while mind is characterized by the power of thought. Whereas matter is held to be capable of interacting with matter, and mind can interact with mind, the radical difference between thought and extension, between mind and matter, creates a fundamentally dualistic system with a "mind-body problem". In such a system, "force" is merely that which acts upon bodies from outside; all motion is understood as imparted motion, according to a Newtonian scheme.

  Both Leibniz and Spinoza were in sharp disagreement with the Cartesian system. Spinoza argued that everything that exists ultimately derives from one homogeneous substance. By its essential nature, that substance has two necessary attributes, which may be put in terms of mind and matter, thought and extension. The one substance in the system of Spinoza corresponds to spirit-matter, the one substance-principle of Gupta Vidya. That substance-principle is able to manifest and maintain a myriad of modes of existence. Each of these modes has latent the power of preserving its own being; every mode of the one substance can maintain itself by its own inherent power of self-maintenance. Man, however, is that distinctive mode of substance which is capable of developing the power of reason. Therefore, man, as a mode of the one substance, is a rational being capable of preserving himself and seeing the world as it is through understanding what are the logically necessary preconditions and relations for all these modes of the one substance to exist. Through this capacity to comprehend the world and its laws of necessity, man can come closer to God. For Spinoza, God equals that one substance. Thus, through participating in the power of ideation, man is able to recognize, adore and apprehend the nature of the one divine substance.

  Like Spinoza, Leibniz refused to absolutize the concept of Cartesian extension, but unlike Spinoza, who emphasized the principle of a single substance, Leibniz elaborated the proposition that everything that exists must be seen in terms of monads that are like mathematical points. Leibniz was influenced by the Pythagorean conception of the Monas, by Giordano Bruno's conception of monads and by the thought of Jan van Helmont. Each of Leibniz's monads is without extension, each has within itself a vital energy or entelechy, capable of moving it towards a full realization of what is potential within it. The whole of existence may be seen in terms of millions upon millions of monads, each a simple, incorporeal and indestructible spiritual unit or substance. These monads are inaccessible to all changes from without, but through the internal activity of the entelechy, capable of active expression of the essential nature of substance. Every monad, at any given time, contains within itself the sum total of all its possible states, past, present and future. All of these are implicit in the present condition of the monad. The extent to which a monad will be able to realize its potential is determined by the clarity or obscuration of its intelligence. Every monad is a mirror of the totality of monads, and yet each monad is self-contained. Monads differ from each other not in relation to their essential capacity but in regard to their greater or lesser clarity in mirroring the whole.

  A number of analogies link Leibniz's conception of the monads and the contemporary conception of the atom. In sharp contrast to contemporary ideas, Leibniz saw no gap between mind and matter. He began with the conception of a force which is implicit in the formal position or nature of the monad. It is in this sense that he compared the monad to a mathematical point. This itself is a crucial conception, rich in implications concerning the hierarchies of structure in the universe. Leibniz, who, together with Newton, invented the differential calculus, was well aware of the potential power of the proliferation of points in infinite series and sets. Leibniz wished to point out that there is no way by which one can ever put an arbitrary limit to that which is regarded as irreducible because any mathematical extension can, in fact, be further subdivided. This, however, does not preclude the recognition of mathematical points which cannot be subdivided. Leibniz conceived the actual existence of such points in metaphysical space as monads. Monads are not entirely like mathematical points, except that they lack all extension. One may think of them, for the convenience of understanding, as logical constructions. For Leibniz, however, they were much more than that. Being a metaphysician, he acknowledged that there are metaphysical dimensions to space which define the essential realms, interior to the monad, within which it is capable of development without reference to anything external. As a commentator on Leibniz remarked:

Leibniz endowed them with an infinite extension in the direction of their metaphysical dimension. After having lost sight of them in the world of space, the mind has, as it were, to dive into a metaphysical world to find and grasp the real essence of what appears in space merely as a mathematical point. . . . As a cone stands on its point, or a perpendicular straight line cuts a horizontal plane only in one mathematical point, but may extend infinitely in height and depth, so the essences of things real have only a punctual existence in this physical world of space; but have an infinite depth of inner life in the metaphysical world of thought.

Ibid., 628

  Though well aware of the limits of Leibniz's conceptual vocabulary and of his constricted religious teleology, H. P. Blavatsky nonetheless praised Leibniz for providing a major alternative to the Cartesian system. His monadology not only connected mind and matter, but also offered a fundamentally different conception of force and motion in relation to matter from that accessible through a crude Newtonian scheme. Force becomes an active principle that inhabits mind and moves matter, and it may be seen as mediating between the two. In the Leibnizian system the entelechy is locked within each monad, but in Gupta Vidya the ray of Divine Thought in each Atma-Buddhic monad is, in its ultimate metaphysical nature, absolutely universal and uncircumscribed. Nevertheless, there is in Leibniz a very profound system which certainly could serve to change one's view of motion and inertia.

  In the Newtonian system, the physical world is seen entirely in terms of relations between particles which impart motion to each other from without. Inertia is the tendency of an object to resist changes in its state of motion, whether by speeding up, slowing down or changing direction. Motion is simply change of position in space. All interaction is understood in terms of the collision of objects with various velocities and inertias, resulting in various reactions evident in their changes of states of motion. The capacity of one body to alter the state of motion of another is referred to as a force. It is essential to this view that all action and interaction is accomplished through external contact of bodies. There is no "action at a distance" in the Newtonian scheme. In Leibniz, however, the interior activity of the monad involves a quite different notion of the actualization of potential. Thus Leibniz, unlike Newton, did not analyse force and motion purely in terms of categories of physical geometry. Nor was he committed, like Newton, to a conception of physical space as purely neutral in relation to motion. Leibniz's conception of the abstract internal relations of monads is consistent with a conception of a series of progressively more abstract spaces, tending towards the conception of metaphysical Space.

  Whilst all monads possess the same essential internal capacity for action, they are not all equally conscious or all equally capable of acting. To account for this variety among monads, it is necessary to join certain elements of Spinoza's philosophy to Leibniz's monadology. Leibniz sought to encompass the entire range of mentality – including unconsciousness, partial unconsciousness and semi-consciousness, all the way to full consciousness – through the conception of apperception. Apperception is consciousness of perception. Therefore, apperception involves going beyond the mere capacity to experience sensation or even an awareness of one's capacity to know what one is doing. This awareness that one is, in fact, perceiving becomes in itself a crucial element in perception.

  H. P. Blavatsky preferred to use the word "apperception" more in the sense of "semi-consciousness". This she attributed to the entire field of monads and atoms, it being the one thing in common between them all. She tended to reserve the term "perception" for those ranges of monadic activity which encompass self-consciousness. The vast hosts of merely apperceptive monads constitute the semi-conscious vestures of other monads which are partially or fully self-conscious. In this series of ordered hierarchies, the less-developed monads constitute a kind of clothing for the gods. In Gupta Vidya the gods are not personal beings or vast elemental congeries of devas, but are rather arupa and rupa Dhyanis. The highest among these are fully perfected self-conscious beings, who stand at the head of the various cosmic hierarchies and can therefore clothe themselves in monads and atoms. In Spinoza's terms, these are beings who have realized the full wisdom of necessity and thereby have plumbed to the depths the mysteries of the one universal substance. Through this critical modification in Leibniz's system, one may avoid settling for the conversion of the Pythagorean supreme Monas into a personal God. It is questionable how much Leibniz really wanted to support the conception of a personal God, and how much of his accommodation in this area was due to a sense of prudence in relation to the church. Nevertheless, by joining the two systems, one can preserve all the advantages of Spinoza's form of subjective pantheism – with its acceptance of the multiplicity of modes of substance – and the advantages of Leibniz's objective pantheism, with its metaphysical scheme of abstract monadic individuation. By seeing these as two aspects of a single universal substance, one will come to recognize that there corresponds to monads and atoms hosts of Dhyanis or gods in the sense of universal self-conscious beings.

  Clearly, such conceptions go far beyond any merely rational conceptions of prototypes in Nature. At the same time, they demand a fundamental concept of continuity that accommodates all possible forms of matter and degrees of mentality. Such a conception must span not only the manifest realms of existence but also the unmanifest. It must accommodate the essence of matter which is pure Spirit. Seen from the standpoint of metaphysical continuity, all differentiations within metaphysical space are movements from lower to higher subdivisions of Spirit-Matter. In Gupta Vidya, what is demanded of the principle of continuity is that it must encompass everything that is potential in the unmanifest. It must, therefore, be much more systematic and thorough-going than anything that could be generated through a rationalist metaphysical system. Further, within the framework of such a principle it would be necessary to generate a totally different notion of motion, one which transcends the dichotomy between manifest activity and apparent rest that is derived from the movement of objects and material particles in what is thought to be blank or empty space. For the occultist and the theurgist, there is tremendous activity going on in the interstellar and interplanetary spaces. In these seeming voids, shoals upon shoals of scintillas, atomic or monadic souls, wheel and whirl in endless spirals. That activity takes place on so vast and fundamental a cosmic scale that it is constantly affecting the manifested world in ways that cannot be explained in terms of the conventional categories of mind, matter or motion.

  All of this is, therefore, terra incognita to modern science. If it is true, then the individual would be well advised to see how much wisdom there is in the metaphysical notion so well summed up by Philo Judaeus: The air is at all times full of invisible souls. Human beings are constantly in touch with vast congeries of invisible lives, elementals and also gods. Every point in any space is the focus of energies that ultimately are commanded by Dhyanis or perfected beings. While this entire way of looking at the world is far beyond the frontiers of existing knowledge, it is, at the same time, hospitable to the earnest enquirer and honestly capable of doing full justice to the wisdom of the ancients. All the ancient cosmogonies, which are now often misconstrued as atheistic systems, assigned a central and active place to the notion of gods. These cosmogonies were only atheistic in that they dispensed altogether with the notion of some whimsical creator or single maker of the whole. The entire spectrum of ancient thought was a celebration of the possibilities of human perfectibility in a cosmos governed by Dhyanis. Furthermore, all the great hymns and mantrams of the ancient Aryans embody an exact knowledge of the basis of the conscious command by the perfected human being of gods, monads and atoms. It lies within the potentiality of man to attain an unlimited perspective at the very apex of the cosmos. There is no conception of perfectibility or sovereignty that is higher than that which is open to the perfected human being.

Hermes, September 1986
by Raghavan Iyer