Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Playing with Modern Dualities

A modern version of Aristotle’s elegant concept (that substance is a duality of matter and of form) is David Bohm’s suggestion of two orders in reality. One he calls the conditioned, the other the unconditioned order. They suggest something analogous. The conditioned order for Bohm is matter, in that it follows laws. He proposed the unconditioned kind in order to explain intelligence; he found it impossible to derive it from the material, the conditioned order. Intelligence, as I conceive of it at least, is not something self-existent. It is the characteristic of an agent. Therefore his two orders might be named Matter and Mind.

In Aristotle (as best as I can gather), what we call real is substantial. Therefore neither matter nor form can exist alone. It is their fusion that makes reality. Hence unformed matter and immaterial form both produce categories the ontological status of which is rather fuzzy. It is potential—which gives time itself a strange sort of role. In Bohm, at least conceptually, a hierarchy is suggested. The Conditioned Order, just viewed linguistically, demands a conditioner—whereas the Unconditioned Order can be imagined standing alone.

The mere existence of two orders, one hierarchically beneath the next, suggests that the lower of the two has some meaningful purpose. What is that purpose? Is it the medium in which the mind can give itself expression?

Now to flesh this out a little. The Ultimate Mind can condition all matter. But we know that other levels of mind exist as well—minimally like ours. And if minds like ours exist, they imply an Ultimate mind. And we also know that lesser minds are capable of arranging matter but unable to alter its ultimate “conditioning.” We also know that matter itself manifests in a continuum—from invisible electromagnetic waves on up to planets and such. And gross, dense matter can and does block the flow of the electromagnetic. We know that. If the power of lesser minds is insufficient to even to “arrange” electromagnetic waves—and here I mean directly, by simply willing—and those minds found themselves (voluntarily or otherwise) in a region where dense matter predominates, wouldn’t those minds have suddenly felt a sudden drastic loss of functionality? They would have found it difficult to give themselves expression using subtle matter (not enough of it around) or to see each other (blocked by coarse energy everywhere). And what if self-expression and relationship, thus interacting with their like—were the sources of their creativity and their exercise of love? Would they have felt lost in space and time—and blind?

Such is the grounding for my concept of chemical civilization. The presumption is that long ago we found ourselves genuinely lost—thus in an environment of coarse material density. Next we discovered that our only power to influence matter in this region was at the subatomic level—but sufficient to begin using local matter to build tiny and then ever greater machines—until we could finally, by means of those machines, see ourselves and begin to arrange the matter of this region of reality.

It’s just a suggestion, of course. But such a line of thought, it seems to me, has explanatory powers much greater than many of our other myths. It suggests that the two, the conditioned and the unconditioned, may very well be everywhere—but happiness demands that the agents at every level must be matched to their environment so that they can create and relate. And when they’re not, “going home” becomes Job One.

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