Dharma - Merit - Meditation - Nectar - Liberation - Emptiness - Process - Awakening

 
 

Studies
in Buddhadharma


Wayfaring : the Tao, Emptiness
& Process Theology


by Wim van den Dungen


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"The Way in its absolute reality has no 'name'. It is (comparable to) uncarved wood. (...) Only when it is cut out are there 'names'."
Lao-Tzŭ : Tao-te Ching, chapter 32.

"The Way gathers in emptiness alone.
Emptiness is the fasting of the mind.".
Chuang-Tzŭ : Chuang-Tzŭ, section 4.

"... all I do is put in motion the heavenly mechanism in me,
I'm not aware of how the thing works."
Chuang-Tzŭ : Chuang-Tzŭ, section 17.


"No man is an island ..."
Donne, J. : Meditation XVII.

"Thus the actuality of God must also be understood as a multiplicity of actual components in process of creation.
This is God in his function of the kingdom of heaven."
Whitehead, A. N. : Process and Reality (PR), § 531.


Taoism ("Tao-chia") or Wayfaring is part of the daily life of the Chinese people and a enigmatic, pervasive & ubiquitous aspect of their long culture. It nevertheless lacks a clear profile. To approach it, we need to study the techniques of Tending Life, the Way of the Immortals, but also Taoist liturgy, mythology, alchemy & mysticism. As an institution, Taoism never had a governing authority, canonical doctrines or dogmas.

In China, there was no formal separation between religion and social activity. The Taoist masters were integrated in lay society and enjoyed no special status. Ordinary people would never call themselves "Taoists", or "Wayfarers", for this implied initiation into the Mysteries, reserved for masters & local sages.

Broadly speaking, Taoism is a spiritual practice acting as the natural bond between all things, but one without doctrinal creed, profession of faith or dogma. This natural, spontaneous bond, based on nonresistance, is called -by lack of a better name- "Tao" (pronounced "dow"), the "Way". This concept is indefinable, at once transcendent & immanent, unnameable, ineffable and apprehended only in its multiple aspects, but present in all things ...

The "Tao", the most fundamental concept of Wayfaring, is indicative of something underlying the change characterizing all things, the natural, spontaneous process regulating the cycles of the universe.

Wayfaring is thus the pursuit of natural laws. Along this "way", in this process the universe finds its unity. The Tao makes whole, but is not itself the Whole.


 Table of Contents

Introduction

 
1
 Shamanism : the Substratum of Taoism.

 2  Very Short History of Taoism.

2.1 Classical Period.

(a) Period of Spring and Autumn.
(b) Period of the Warring States.

2.2 Taoist Religion.
2.3 Taoist Mysticism.
2.4 Taoist Alchemy.
2.5 Synthesis.

 3  Against Substantialism : Brother Buddhism & Sister Taoism.

3.1 Buddhism in China.

(a) Pure Land Buddhism.
(b) Marks-of-Existence Buddhism.
(c) Celestial Platform Buddhism.
(d) Flower Garland Buddhism.
(e) Ch'an Buddhism.

3.2 Emptiness and Dependent Arising.

(a) Simultaneity in Wisdom-mind according to Tsongkhapa.
(b) Six Instantiations explaining Emptiness.
(c) The Cognitive Activity of a Buddha.
(d) Dependent Arising.
(e) The View in the Heart-sûtra.
(f) The View in Hua-yen & T'ien-tai.

3.3 Absence of Essentialism in Classical Taoism.

(a) The Nameless for Lao-tzŭ.
(b) The Negation-of-Negation-of-Negation of Chuang-tzŭ.
(c) Classical Taoism and Śûnyatâ.
(d) The Non-Essentialist & Non-Conceptual Absolute Tao.

3.4 Brother Buddhism & Sister Taoism.

 4  The Tao : the Way in Absolute & Relative Terms.

(a) The Absolute Tao - Uncreated and Creating.
(b) WU : the One - Created Potential Non-Being.
(c) YU : The Two - Created Potential Being.

 5  Taoist Metaphysics : Objective & Subjective Considerations.

(a) The Cosmological Approach of Lao-tzŭ.
(b) The Epistemological Approach of Chuang-tzŭ.

 6  Ontological Tradition of the West.

(a) Ancient Egyptian Heliopolitanism.
(b) Hellenism.
(c) Abrahamic Tradition.
(d) The Renaissance and Modern Scientific Thought.

 7  A New Theology.

(a) Reasons to Resuscitate God ...
(b) Desubstantializing Western Theology.

 8  The God of Process Theology.

(a) The Fundamental Categories of Process Philosophy.
(b) The Primordial Nature of God.
(c) The Consequent Nature of God.

 9  Towards a Synthesis.

(a) Rationality & Experience of Emptiness.
(b) Dependent Arising.
(c) The One.
(d) Towards a Synthetic Ontological Scheme.

Epilogue

Bibliography


Introduction

"Humanity follows Earth, Earth follows Heaven, Heaven follows the Way, the Way follows Nature."
Taoist proverb.

What is Taoism ? Difficult to answer, this question points to a diverse variety. One common point can be isolated though : an emphasis on the natural cycle at work in all things ; the notion of a constant change having as background the nameless, undifferentiated and unifying primordial super force called "Tao", "the Way". And if we may believe Lao-tzŭ, the traditional & legendary fountainhead of Taoism, this super force is benevolent, tending towards the Greatest Possible Harmony.

Through Chinese history, Taoism manifested in a multitude of phenomena, touching nearly all facets of this grand civilization : science, politics, religion, medicine, psychology, art, music, literature, drama, dance, design and warfare. Taoists used numerous formats, such as cosmology, history, mythology, fiction, humor, alchemy, magic, etc. The methods employed were also diverse : physical, psychosomatic & mental, including meditation, modes of movement, breathing, sexual yoga, imagination, dreaming, gazing & visualization ...

The earliest known Taoist text is the I ching, composed in a time when divination was an integral part of government. The second most famous and popular text is the Tao-te ching, presented as advice to rulers, written in a time of the social and political decay of the ancient order. The third famous text is the Chuang-tzŭ, featuring an air of humorous abandon, anarchy, satire and foolish wisdom ... Around the same time, the Sun-tzŭ was compiled. While pacifist, it truly recognizes the realities of war and instead of articulating morals against it, it tries to induce preventive strategies to avoid conflict & warfare or palliative techniques, minimizing the trauma inflicted by actual war.

Until recently trapped by Confucian bias, Western Orientalism has been reluctant to attend to Taoism. Sinologists and comparative religionists did not take into consideration what Taoism precisely covers. Although rooted in prehistoric Shamanism, with its "classical" authors (Lao-tzŭ and Chuang-tzŭ) at work centuries before the common era, organized Taoist religion emerged roughly around the second century CE and continued to influence the Chinese mentality until the first part of the twentieth century. Its presence is often totally ignored.

Together with various forms of Buddhism & Confucianism, this Taoist religion fashioned the most important expressions of traditional Chinese scriptural truths, spiritual values and ritual practices. Eventually, these three were integrated in the Complete Reality School. Taoism may therefore be considered a very significant part of the native national religion of the vast majority of the Chinese people, and this at least for nearly two millennia. It is therefore strange to witness how, until the last few decades and this despite the rich abundance of textual and other materials, the study of Chinese civilization almost completely ignored or trivialized the historical, anthropological, sociological and religious complexities of the Taoist tradition.

Thanks to the tradition of French academic sinology, pioneered, in the first part of the previous century, by Henri Maspero's studies of the Tao-tsang or Taoist Canon (issued under the Ming in 1445 and containing more than a disparate thousand works), the past thirty-five years have witnessed a revolution in the scholarly understanding of Chinese civilization. Unfortunately, these studies have not yet filtered down to the general scholarly and lay public, still identifying Taoism exclusively with enigmatic sages like Lao-tzŭ and Chuang-tzŭ, and totally oblivious of Taoist religion, with its ceremonies, theologies, meditations & alchemy. Although it is true these two sages were the forerunners of the Taoist "tradition" as it self-consciously emerged toward the end of the Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 219 CE), many other sublime authors, sects & schools participated in the gradual formation of the distinctive Chinese micro and macrocosmic ecological worldview.

In the fashion of a massive accumulation of documents lacking any detailed inventory, the Taoist Canon, besides gathering together the "classical" works of Lao-tzŭ & Chuang-tzŭ, also contains pharmacological treatises, medical texts, hagiographies, ritual & magical texts, imaginary geographies, dietic & hygienic precepts, anthologies, hymns, speculations on the I ching, meditation techniques, alchemical texts, moral tracts, etc. Although the best and the worse can be found within this canon, this diversity constitutes its richness, showing the heterogeneous nature of Taoism often neglected or unknown in the West.

Given this vastness, the present paper will have to make a limiting choice. Given the Buddhist perspective fostered here, attention will be focused on the role of emptiness in Classical Taoism as found in the works of Lao-tzŭ and Chuang-tzŭ. When this has been established, I will try to understand the macrocosmic worldview implied, in particular the ontological role played by the absolute Tao & the One.

The microcosmic dimension of "preserving the One" (as found in the Su-ling ching) will not be addressed. This approach is the topic of a forthcoming comparative study on Taoist Meditation, Buddhist Meditation (Calm Abiding & Insight Meditation) & Buddhist Tantra.

Finally, I try to interrelate the Eastern & Western appreciation of the Divine. By establishing points of comparison between the Taoist worldview and Process Theology, both based on a nonsubstantial concept of the Divine rooted in emptiness, this integrated approach intents to bring about a universal view on the One.


 1  Shamanism : the Substratum of Taoism.

"When the spirit is not focused externally, that is called spirituality ; to keep the spirit intact is called integrity."
Wen-tzŭ, quoted in Clearly, Th. (transl), Practical Taoism, p. 24.

Five thousand years ago, tribes settled along the banks of the Yellow River in the North of China. They did not possess national identity and lived along the river. Their activities were Neolithic : fishing, herding and the cultivation of crops. These tribes had leaders who had fought with wild animals and who were deemed to possess extraordinary powers. One of them was the legendary Yü, who could shapeshift into the form of a bear and who had no mother, but who had directly sprung from the body of his father ! In later works, the features attributed to Yü are in accord with what Mircea Eliade found to be the universal characteristics of Shamanism : heavenly flight, subterranean journeys, ecstatic states revealing the secrets of life, power over the elements of nature, healing abilities and knowledge about plants and their use. The shaman is able to enter trance-states at will and communicate with the spirits. The latter do not possess him, but are controlled by him. His altered states of consciousness do not befall on him, but he enters and exits them as he pleases. As a phenomenon, Shamanism can be found in all Neolithic communities and is rooted in Upper Paleolithic cave-spirituality.

Yü was a "wu", a shaman. In his society, these shamans were very important members of the community. His father too had been a shaman possessing the power to shapeshift into the form of a bear. The tribal kings too were often shamans, able to ascend to heaven at will. In China, Shamanism entered a new stage when writing and reading emerged, i.e. with the advent of history. In the 12th century BCE, at the beginning of the Chou Dynasty (1122 - 225 BCE), kings and nobleman had shamans in their service as advisors, diviners and healers. Often, when the shaman was no longer able to serve his lord properly, he was put to death. It is during this period the tenets found in the I ching emerged. Hence historically, the fundamental intuitions of Wayfaring are over three millennia old, making it the oldest surviving spiritual practice on the planet.

The activities of these shamans can be summarized as follows :

summoning spirits : the shaman would cause the spirits to descend to the Earthly plane, offering his own body as temporary housing. Starting with a sacred dance, the spirit entered the body of the shaman who went into trance. The altered state of consciousness of the shaman was the precondition for the spirit to enter his body, making this trance-experience different from possession and the activity of magicians who's personal consciousness makes way for another state. In the case of the shaman, the spirits are subdued to his consciousness ;
reading the signs : by observing the changing conditions of the natural world, the shaman was able to predict coming events ;
interpreting dreams : by interpreting dreams, seen as vehicles for special signs, the shaman could understand the messages of the spirits. As "dream-masters" the shaman could be fully conscious (lucid) in his own dream states and visit the invisible worlds of the spirits and the deceased. He could enter the dreams of the living or influence these dreams ;
causing rain : by doing certain ritual action (ceremonies), the shaman was able to control the weather, essential in rural communities. Causing rain to fall became the icon of spiritual activity per se, as we can see in the following sign :

"Ling", translated as "rain-making" has three parts. The upper portion is "rain", the middle stands for three open mouths and the lower means "shaman" or "sorcerer". These are the three parts of his being : Heaven, Mind and Earth. In the classical texts, "ling" or "spiritual quality" points to a force moving & forming material structures in harmony with Heaven ;
healing : as disease was deemed caused by invading spirits, the shaman (often women) controlled these spirits by using herbs and exorcism ;
divining the future : by studying heaven, one could predict what would happen on Earth (cf. astrology).

During and at the end of the Chou Dynasty, Shamanism lost its influence and retired in isolated areas on both sides of the Yang-tze and on the South-East coast of China. In these three feudal kingdoms (Ch'u, Wu and Yüeh) Shamanism prevailed. In the history of China, long after these feudal kingdoms had disappeared, this regional culture continued to exercise its influence on the philosophy, religion and spirituality of Chinese culture at large.

 2  Very Short History of Taoism.

The history of Taoism can be divided in four distinct phases : Classical, Mystical, Alchemical & Synthetical.

2.1 The Classical Period (770 - 220 BCE).

In 770 BCE, the political unity of the Chou Dynasty collapsed. The next five hundred years were times of political chaos and civil war. This era is subdivided in the Period of Spring and Autumn (770 - 476 BCE), followed by the Period of the Warring States (475 - 221 BCE), during which seven feudal states constantly waged war. This chaos ended in 221 BCE,  when one of the seven, the Ch'in, subdued their rivals and reunited China.

During this strife and chaos, we find Confucius (551 - 479 BCE),  Lao-tzŭ (6th century BCE), Mo-tzŭ (ca. 470 - 391 BCE), Sun-tzŭ (ca. 400 - 320 BCE), Mencius (372 - 289 BCE), Chuang-tzŭ (4th century BCE), Lieh-tzŭ (ca. 400 BCE) and Han-fei-tzŭ (ca. 280 - 233 BCE). These sages articulated the fundamental tenets of Chinese civilization, and it is important to note Classical Taoism emerged in the darkest hour of Chinese history, when unity had been lost for nearly half a millennium !

Lao-tzŭ and "his" Tao-te ching was probably written during the Period of Spring and Autumn, while Chuang-tzŭ composed the inner chapters of his Chuang-tzŭ during the Period of the Warring States. Confucius and Mo-tzŭ were concerned with moral philosophy, not with individual freedom and destiny (transformation). The term "Taoism" did not yet exist in Chuang-tzŭ's time, and these Mysteries were known as "Huang-lao chih Tao" or the "Way of the Yellow Emperor and the Old Master", referring to Lao-tzŭ.

(a) the Period of Spring and Autumn :

Semi-autonomous states emerged as a result of the increasing power of the warlords who helped erect the Chou Dynasty. Not unlike the Pharaohs at the end of the Old Kingdoim, the Chou emperors had given these men too much power and this resulted in open conflict. Five great families emerged : the Ch'in, the Ch'in, the Sung, the Chin and the Ch'u. They increased their military powers and tried to subdue each other. At the beginning, ca. 140 feudal warlords were active. At the end, only 44 remained. Endless wars and civil unrest were the order of the day ...

These warlords realized a strong state was not only the outcome of military power. Diplomacy and statesmanship were needed too. This favored the rise of a new class of political and military advisors, emerging for the first time at the end of the Chou Dynasty (225 BCE). These men were itinerant and offered their services to various warlords.

Some of these advisors at work during the Period of Spring and Autumn truly wanted to erect a better society and incited the rulers to practice virtue and benevolence. To this class of men belonged Confucius and Lao-tzŭ. The latter probably lived in the sixth and fifth centuries BCE, but, according to some scholars, his book -the Tao-te ching- did not obtain its present form until the third century BCE, while others disagree, considering it a work composed by one individual. Whether literary criticism reliably identifies it as composed by more than one author (representing a tradition of successive Taoists) or not, remains an open question ...

"... the Tao-te ching as a whole is a unique piece of work distinctly colored by the personality of one unusual man, a shaman-philosopher."
Izutsu, T. : Op.cit., p.292.

Although Lao-tzŭ is considered as the father of Taoism, his historical reality indeed remains "in the clouds". Some scholars even claim the Old Master lived after Chuang-tzŭ ! His name was "Li Erh" and he came from the Southern feudal state of Ch'u. As a librarian working in the state archives, the Old Master belonged to the literate upper class. He resigned and vanished. Mythical tales have it he reached enlightenment, traveled to the Western border and disappeared as immortals do. But before doing so, he left a treatise of five thousand words to Wen-shih, the guard of the Western border and his first pupil. This text, the Tao-te ching, is probably the first Taoist text.

The text reveals an original stance towards the Tao. By living in accordance with the Tao, individuals change and because the latter do, society changes. For Confucius, the nature of things was not important. A harmonious society was the outcome of correct ritual and following the ethical code. For the Taoists, knowing the natural order of things was the precondition. For only if individuals change in accordance with the natural order can society change for the better. For Lao-tzŭ, "wu wei", or "not doing" was not a state of being unconcerned (as was the case in the Chuang-tzŭ). For the "Old Master", the Tao was benevolent.

Let me summarize the teachings of the Tao-te ching :

1. The Tao is the source of all things. It is nameless, invisible and not to be comprehended by conventional sources of knowledge (senses & reason). The Tao is limitless and inexhaustible. All things exist thanks to the Tao, for it is the background of all changes. The Tao, source of the "Ten Thousand Things", i.e. every actual thing, is not a Deity nor a spirit. Nor is it merely the whole (pantheism). It is present in all things (the whole), but is more than this totality (panentheism). On this cosmological point, Lao-tzŭ departs from Shamanism. The latter focused on a multitude of deities and spirits, while he intended unity by way of an impersonal "super force". Heaven and Earth are part of a unifying power, the Tao, at work behind all changes happening in the universe as an impersonal and nameless "way". But this super force is not neutral, for the heavenly way, following the way of the Tao, brings benefit to others and never causes harm. In the Tao-te ching, the Tao is an active, benevolent power. The sage, who embodies the Tao, is likewise engaged and participating. He is not withdrawn and uninterested in politics and the affairs of the world.

2. The Taoist sage is a member of society and concerned with its welfare. In the passages dealing with the Taoist sage, Shamanism returns. The wise has powers comparable to the legendary Yü, was immune to poison, talked to animals and had a body as soft as a baby. His sexual energy was very powerful and he practiced longevity. For Lao-tzŭ, "wu wei" is not inaction. This is very important to note. Indeed, for the Old Master, this crucial term had not yet degenerated to mere absence of activity. In the Tao-te ching, it points to not harming. The wise ruler is someone who is concerned with his people. He is active and so does not refrain from action, quite on the contrary. He practices benevolence ! This facet brings Lao-tzŭ close to Confucius.

3. To cultivate life is applying bodily techniques and acquiring the correct mental attitude. Regulating breath, applying postures and practicing methods to retain sexual energy aim to cultivate youth and restore vitality. In terms of life-style and mental attitude, the text teaches how cravings, passions, attachment to material things stimulate the senses & the mind, generate emotions, exhaust the body and are detrimental to one's health. The sage is concerned, offers help in a non-intrusive way, withdrawing as soon as the job is done.

The teachings of the Tao-te ching represent the transition from a purely Shamanistic worldview, establishing a variety of spirits, towards a philosophical worldview uniting all elements of reality by the Tao, the sage and the cultivation of life. In the figure of the sage, it maintained some elements of Shamanism. This Taoism is optimistic, thinking it possible to change society for the better. It is engaged, not escapist. It intends to end strife and harmonize the world. But as the Period of Spring and Autumn ended in more violence, conflict, war & trauma, Wayfarers lost this optimism ! The historical context made them become escapist, pessimist and disillusioned in politics and the affairs of the world ... In this context the "crazy wisdom" of Chuang-tzŭ emerged ...

(b) the Period of the Warring States :

Around 390 BCE, the 44 feudal states had been reduced to seven large ones and three smaller ones. Because the latter served as buffer-states between the former, territorial expansion automatically meant military superpowers would confront each other.

Because the conflicts had been ongoing for over three centuries, Taoists like Chuang-tzŭ considered it impossible to form stable ruling systems. Crooked noblemen and unscrupulous ministers were seen everywhere. Hence, the pursuit of power and wealth was deemed fundamentally in conflict with health and longevity. Those who adhered to the administration were openly criticized. "Wu-wei" was no longer benevolence, but identified with "non-action" and withdrawal from public life ... Conventions and society were deemed the greatest enemies of personal freedom and integrity ! This form of Taoism lost the appetite to reform society by way of the individual. It remained only interested in the latter, advised to turn his or her back to worldly affairs.

In this period, Taoism entered a new stage. Politics was deemed mean, dangerous, while fame and wealth sacrificed liberty and longevity. Confucianism, and benevolent rulers like Yao and Sun became objects of scorn. Offering advise to rulers no longer interested Taoists. Political interest and longevity could not be reconciled. Hence, "wu wei" no longer implied non-harming, but non-involvement, letting things go as they go, radical nonresistance. The sage had no worldly preoccupation. Clearly this reduced the scope of Taoist practice, placing Taoists outside society ...

As a result, their ideas about the Tao also changed. The Tao was seen as a neutral power, still the impersonal, nameless, implicate reality behind all things, but in no way benevolent. It had no influence on events, for what happened occurred and nothing could prevent or temper events (predestination). The Tao however remained nameless, invisible and impossible to grasp with thought. He who intuited its way, was an enlightened sage. The Tao was the origin of all things (as it had been in the Tao-te ching), but the notion all things in the universe were of equal value was added. Nothing was more important than something else and there were no "higher" or "lower" species, humankind included. Good and evil were equaled. Proper and bad politics evened. A kind of a-morality became fashionable, and this to the point of absurdity.

Just as in the previous period, these Taoists considered too much craving and excitement as nefast for body, mind & spirit. Moral and societal values were also condemned. Rules and regulations were obstacles to the freedom of thought, the freedom of speech and a life in harmony with the Tao, the natural way. Wayfaring became a voice speaking out against hypocrisy. The hermit & recluse were models. All ideals to reform society for the better were left behind, and a throughout negative view on politics, culture & society became virulent (especially at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty, ca. 219). This disillusioned, escapist pessimism stands in stark contrast to the optimism, idealism and engaged Taoism of the previous period.

In the Chuang-tzŭ, the influence of the prevailing political chaos on the appreciation of the Tao must be noted. This negative stance towards society is absent in the teachings of Lao-tzŭ. The latter transforms the individual to change society for the better. The Tao is benevolent. This difference is more contextual than ideological. The fact Taoist religion returned to Lao-tzŭ proves the political dimensions of Taoism run deeper than the escapist & individualizing episode initiated by Chuang-tzŭ and his "neutral" interpretation of the Tao. His view is most probably a radical exception born out of traumatizing historical circumstances.

In both periods, Taoism proclaimed the necessity to follow the natural way of the Tao. Only then can the individual change and achieve the ultimate state of enlightenment attained by the wise immortals.

2.2 The Emergence of Taoist Religion (220 BCE - 600 CE).

"The first Taoist movement thus combined in its foundation the ancient worldview of the Taoist philosophers, the practices of the magico-technicians of the Former Han, and the messianic millenaristic dimensions of the popular cults of the Later Han."
Kohn, L. : Op.cit., p.5.

During the Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 219 CE), the practices of Shamanism were integrated in the religious and magical aspects of Taoism. Under the first rulers, the "Way of the Yellow Emperor and Lao-tzŭ" was introduced to the court. But the fundamental gulf between Confucianism and Taoism, between, on the one hand, the moral doctrine of imperial absolutism and central administration and, on the other hand, the real country with its local structures expressing a regional and unofficial form of religion, Taoism, was formed under Han Emperor Wu (140 - 86 BCE), who excluded all systems except Confucianism.

The period between the beginning of the Eastern Han (25) and the end of the Six Dynasties (589), may be called the "Golden Age of Taoist Religion". Its emergence was stimulated by three factors :

1. The unification of China under the Ch'in Dynasty (221 - 207 BCE) made an end to the need for military and political advisors. The first Han emperors made sure the nobility could not became too powerful anymore and bring the renewed unity into danger. The formerly itinerant advisors recycled and focused on longevity, healing, divination, etc. A new class emerged, the "fang-shih" or "Masters of Formulae". During the early Han, the top layers of society were foremost interested in longevity and immortality, whereas the peasant population wanted their crops to be safeguarded from flooding and other natural disasters, and their families to be healthy to work the land. This prompted the advance of the use of magical talismans to protect and heal.

2. Another element was the emergence, at the end of the Period of the Warring States, of the Mohists, who developed the faith in a hierarchy of spirits and in the practice of honoring them through offerings. As a result, temples and local shrines were erected and people were trained to care for these sanctuaries.

3. Finally, state ceremonies performed by shamans were outlawed by the Han emperors. The shaman disappeared from the official scene and their role at court was taken over by the "fang-shih".

In 150 CE, the Han emperor erected an altar for Lao-tzŭ and installed official ceremonies to honor him. He was transformed from a historical figure to a divinity or sacred power. To offer to these powers was a way to honor them and to thank them for their protection and assistance. After some time, Lao-tzŭ became the most important divinity of Taoism. The fact he is presented as "come again" ("hsin-ch'u") implied a continuity with the Classical Period and this popular organization of what would become the lineage of the "Heavenly Teachers" marked a turning point in the social history of China.

These developments led, under the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 220 CE), to the revelation of Lao-tzŭ to Chang Tao-ling (ca. 34 - ca. 156 CE), who came from Southern China, an area renowned for its Shamanism and faith in magic. He was trained in Confucianism and got interested in Taoism in midlife. He lived in Shu, the Western part of China (present day Szechuan). The tribes living there had maintained their connection with shamanist practices.

In ca. 142 CE, Chang Tao-ling claimed Lao-tzŭ had appeared to him to reveal the tenets of Taoism in terms of a religious practice, and to impart the ability of heal and repel evil spirits. He called Lao-tzŭ "T'ai-shang Lao-chün" or "the Great Lord up High". In his hands, Taoism truly became a religion, with a founder (Lao-tzŭ), a hierarchy of priests (the so-called "Heavenly Teachers"), acting as intermediaries between the believers and the divinities, and well-defined ceremonies. This new movement was called the "Way of Five Bushels of Rice".

The descendants of Chang Tao-ling put in place a completely organised system, with a "papal" leader, a clergy, holy scriptures, liturgies, rituals, ceremonies and magical acts. Their central text, the T'ai-p'ing ching ("Book of Peace and Balance") was deemed to be written by divinities, the "keepers of the Tao". The book contained a theory on the creation of the universe, emphasized discipline & ceremony, had rewards and punishments and made an explicit connection between, on the one hand, adhering to religious ceremonies and, on the other hand, health & longevity.

When the Han Dynasty ended, China was split in three warring kingdoms (220 - 280), the Wei (220 - 280), Shu (221 - 263) and Wu (222 - 280). When the Shu were defeated by the Wei, power resided between 220 and 265 in the hands of the Wei. During this time, the grandchild of Chang Tao-ling, Chang Lu, expanded the influence of the movement of the Heavenly Teachers, and it became the official, orthodox school of Taoism. The T'ai-shang ling-pao wu-fu ching (Book of the Highest Revelation of the Five Talismans of the Holy Spirit) emerged. It contained protective talismans, incantations, addresses to the divinities, a description of the heavenly hierarchy, meditation techniques, visualizations of the divinities and descriptions of herbs & minerals deemed to give immortality and the way to use them.

Taoist religion became known as "t'ien-shih tao", or "Way of the Heavenly Teachers". It developed a Southern (Lu Hsiu-ching) and a Northern (K'ou Ch'ien-chih) branch. The latter emphasized ceremonies and liturgies instead of the traditional magic of talismans. The former, inspired by Buddhist scripture, began to collect and organize all available Taoist texts. In 417, the first Taoist Canon appeared, divided in seven parts.

2.3 The Emergence of Taoist Mysticism (300 - 600 CE).

"... make your corporeal soul and your spiritual soul embrace the One and not be separated ..."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, chapter 10.

"... Heaven obtained the One and is clear ; Earth obtained the One and is tranquil ... The Ten Thousand Things obtained the One and they have life."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, chapter 39.

Mystical Taoism, "Shang-ch'ing" or "Mao-shan" Taoism was founded by Lady Wei Hua-ts'un, the daughter of a high ranking priest in the lineage of the Heavenly Teachers, who, herself a priestess, received revelations from the keepers of the Tao in the first period of the Chin Dynasty (265 - 420). In 228, she wrote these down in the Shang-ch'ing huang-t'ing nei-ching yü-ching (Book of the Yellow Court about Inner Images and the High Pure Realm). The founders of this mystical branch were members of the aristocracy. Two central concepts, already known during the Han Dynasty, were emphasized here : the importance of maintaining a direct relationship with "the One" (the so-called "preserving the One", "shou-I") and the notion five divine guardians resided in the body.

The texts of mystical Taoism explain how Yang Hsi received a vision of Lady Wei Hua-ts'un, who had become an immortal, and wrote, under influence of Cannabis, the "shang-ch'ing" texts developing the mystical view on the Tao.  In its early form, mystical Taoism had many practice in common with the Heavenly Teachers. During the Eastern Chin, nearly fifty texts are clearly part of this tradition.

Summarizing the tenets :

1. in the inner universe, "the One" or the Tao-in-us, needs to be maintained. This primordial vapor, or secret embryo, keeps us alive. To embrace "the One" is to feed the secret embryo as a mother feeds its child.
2. the "san-yüan" or "Three-Ones" are emanations of the undifferentiated Tao, and called the "generative energy" (Realm of Water), the "vital energy or energy of life" (Earthly Realm) and the "spiritual energy" (Heavenly Realm). They also need to be preserved.
3. the Five : the heart (Fire), spleen (Earth), lungs (Metal), kidneys (Water) & liver (Wood) systems, associated with the five divine guardians of the body are also to be purified and filled with the primordial vapor.
4. in the outer universe, all things are manifestations of the Tao and its primordial vapor, in particular, Sun, Moon & stars.
5. unity with the Tao is realized by uniting the outer and inner universes, by uniting Heaven and Earth. This is done by "preserving the One", in particular by the "Three-Ones" and the deities dwelling in the cavities of the brain (the so-called "nine palaces").

2.4 Taoist Alchemy (200 - 1200)

"As the immortal Sang-feng put it, going along with the usual course of conditioning makes on an ordinary person, and going against it makes one an immortal ; it is all a matter of reversing the process."
Chang Po-tuang : The Inner Teachings of Taoism (Cleary, T. : Op.cit., p.32).

Taoist alchemy, often running parallel with Western examples, shows considerable similarity with Indian beliefs, for example the notion of a medicine able to prolong life, the so-called "Elixir of Immortality", appearing in India a millennium BCE. There is no proof of a common origin, although an exchange of thought is very likely. Ideas and symbols "migrate" from one country to another via trading and cultural contacts, and some rise spontaneously in different civilizations. However, in the West, the notion of an "Elixir of Life" did not appear as such until the twelfth century CE, introduced from China by the Arabs. But indeed similar ideas can be found in the Christian Eucharist (the Holy Host as "panacea" - cf. the Petition Before Receiving Communion - Matthew 8:8), as well as in Ancient Egyptian medicine & magic (giving water healing potency by pouring it over hieroglyphic spells).

Chinese alchemy made a crucial distinction between external (inorganic, laboratory) alchemy and inner, philosophical alchemy. The former was concerned with making the Elixir or Pill of Immortality using plants & minerals, whereas the latter operated the own body of the alchemist, concerned with spiritual transformation and immortality (becoming a "hsien", an Immortal). The exoteric "outer elixir" ("wei tan") and the "inner elixir" ("nei tan") pointed to two radically different approaches. The aim of Taoist alchemy was to became a "True Man" ("chen jen"), in the sense of "purified" from all elements hindering the constant communication between Heaven (yang) and Earth (yin), the natural way of the Tao. This distinction also appears in Hermetism, namely in terms of the difference between "philosophical Hermetism" and its "technical" pole.

Although outer & inner alchemy differ, they were not at first considered to be contradictory. The notion of an "inner pill" ("nei tan") only emerged in the T'ang Dynasty (618 - 906). Before that, Taoists were also always occupied with meditations, postures and sexual yoga. In fact, the first Taoist alchemists saw no need to make the distinction between outer & inner alchemy. The distinction rose when the goal of outer alchemy (finding the Elixir of Life) was deemed unattainable (namely at the end of the T'ang Dynasty).

Alchemy is rooted in the quest for health & longevity found in the Classical Period of Taoism. Some "fang-shih" specialized in this effort and so pioneered Taoist alchemy. Some lived the life of a recluse, like Wei Po-yang at work during the Eastern Han (25 - 220). He tried to find the Pill of Immortality. When he found it, he gave it to his dogs and took it himself. They all collapsed and seemed to have died. Afterwards they regained life, and flew off as immortals ... He also composed the first Taoist text on alchemy, the Tsan-tung-chi ("The Triplex Unity").

In this book, in accordance with the tenets of Classical Taoism, the Tao is the origin of all things and the primordial energy of the Tao is the source of all life. As nature replenishes, so mortal beings can also renew and achieve immortality by living in accordance with the natural way of the Tao. The crucial concept advanced is the coupling of Heaven (yang) and Earth (yin). Alchemy then is the art and science to use these in such a way as to restore the original harmony. This happens when the impurities are driven out of the body.

The alchemist Ko Hung, at work in the last period of the Chin Dynasty (265 - 420), composed an encyclopedic work (the P'ao-p'u-tzŭ), containing formulae, lists of ingredients, ways to prepare the Pill, methods to silence the mind, minimize craving, train the body, breathing techniques and ideas about "preserving the One". He combined outer and inner alchemy.

But at the end of the Six Dynasties (ca. 589), Taoists began to doubt the methods of outer alchemy. Combinations of lead, mercury, cinnabar and sulphur were often lethal. The theoretical foundations of outer alchemy were reviewed. The effort itself was not yet abolished, but the use of dangerous substances was criticized.

Nevertheless, with the rise of the T'ang Dynasty (618 - 906), outer alchemy received imperial backing. These alchemists thought there were two kinds of elixirs. The first has its origin in nature, and is composed of minerals & stones absorbing the primordial vapors of "yin" and "yang" over very long periods of time. The second is one produced in the laboratory, swiftly imitating the natural process. But after three hundred years of failed experiments, outer alchemy was discredited. Finding the Elixir of Immortality was deemed impossible.

Under the influence of Ch'an Buddhism, the notion of "immortality" was equated with liberation from "samsâra" or identified with health & longevity. At the end of the T'ang Dynasty, outer alchemy was finally abandoned.

"The science of spiritual alchemy is simply a matter of taking flexibility within strength and strength within flexibility, which are the two great medicines of true yin and true yang, and fusing them into one energy, thus forming the elixir."
Liu I-Ming : The Inner Teachings of Taoism, in : Cleary, Th. : Op.cit., p.84.

During the Sung Dynasty (960 - 1279), inner alchemy flourished. The patriarch of this approach was Lü Tung-pin, born at the end of the T'ang Dynasty. His pupil, Wang Ch'ung-yang (ca. 1113 - 1171), became the founder of the Northern School of Complete Reality, combining Taoism, Buddhism & Confucianism. But the most outstanding alchemist and founder of the Southern Complete Reality School was Chang Po-tuang (ca. 983 - 1082). His major work, Wu-jen p'ien (Understanding Reality), advances the thesis all ingredients & instruments of the alchemical process are to be found in the body, and the "outer" processes described in previous texts are deemed metaphors. This revolutionized alchemy.

2.5 The Great Synthesis : Complete Reality (1000 - today)

"If You do not seek the Great Way to leave the path of delusion, even if You are intelligent and talented You are not great. A hundred years is like a spark. A lifetime is like a bubble. If You only crave material gain and prominence, without considering the deterioration of your body, I ask You, even if You accumulate a mountain of gold, can You buy off impermanence ?"
Chang Po-tuang : Understanding Reality (Cleary, T. : Op.cit., p.27).

Wang Ch'ung-yang (Wang Che, ca. 1113 - 1171) had a Confucian education, studied Buddhism, but at forty became a Taoist and pupil of Lü Tung-pin and Chung-li Ch'uan. For him, the integration of the experience of tranquility & emptiness (cf. Zen Buddhism), Confucian ethics and Taoists health and longevity techniques leads to a complete insight in the ultimate reality. His version of Taoism is therefore called the School of Complete Reality.

From Confucianism he took the K'ao-ching (the Book of Child Duty), from Buddhism the Heart Sûtra and from Taoism the Tao-te ching and the Ch'ing-ching ching (Cultivating Silence). This is not an eclectical system, for Taoism is the foundation of the synthesis. The Tao is the formless & undifferentiated energy forming the background of reality. To unite with the Tao is to receive energy from this source, leading to longevity. As the highest reality, the Tao can only be experienced by the original spirit, free from thoughts, attachments and cravings. This original spirit is the immortal embryo ("yüan-shen"). All sentient beings have a seed of the Tao in them, but this can only develop if cravings and uncontrolled thoughts are eliminated. Eliminating these brings us back to the original spirit. Cultivating Tao begins by the experience of tranquility & emptiness as fostered in Ch'an Buddhism. The practice of virtue, benevolence and honor are deemed essential, for the original nature of goodness is equated with the original spirit. The latter is not only free from cravings, but also inclined towards goodness. Spiritual training leads to the transformation of body and spirit and this change is alchemical.

This school had two branches. In the Southern school of Chang Po-tuang, who was not a pupil of Wang Che but of Liu Ts'ao (who in turn was a pupil of Chung-li Ch'uan & Lü Tung-pin and so a fellow student of Wang Che), one concentrated on the collecting of inner energy, purifying it to realize good health & longevity. Physical techniques were the condition for meditative work, and sexual yoga was part of the technology. In the Northern school of Chiu Ch'ang-ch'un (the most precious pupil of Wang che), meditative work came first and there was no room for sexual yoga.

During the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) a multitude of sects emerged. Differences in theory & practice and a profound interest in magic spurred the rise of various schools and subschools. In the Ch'ing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), a period of criticism followed. The preferences of the Ming were questioned, and the magical practices of Taoism were condemned, as well as all things deemed "irrational" (faith in spirits, divinities, magic and inner alchemy). A new synthesis of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism slowly emerged.

Two outstanding figures are worth mentioning :

• Liu I-ming (1734 - 1821), a Confucian who in midlife turned Taoist, considered inner alchemy as a psychological process, and so the whole transformation has the mind as object. Realizing the Tao is to rediscover the original nature of the mind goes hand in hand with developing true knowledge. "Yang" represents the innate goodness of the empty mind and "yin" the clear consciousness of the empty mind. The alchemical process refers to stabilizing firmness and flexibility, and not to the purification of the inner energies. Health & longevity are epiphenomena of a calm mind. The physical serves the mental.

• For Liu Hua-yang (1736 - 1846 ?), a Buddhist who in midlife turned Taoist, the best of inner alchemy and Buddhism complement each other. Immortality and "Buddha-nature" refer to the same thing. Taoism is able to cultivate life, but not the original spirit. Buddhism is able to cultivate the original spirit, but cannot lead to health or longevity. Everybody has the essence of life, the energy of the Tao in his or her body. Craving, a negative mentality & emotional attachments cause this life-force to leave the body, leading to sickness and loss of immortality. When thoughts are silenced and cravings bridled, the life-force is able to circulate through the body, leading to the development of the spiritual embryo or the original spirit (Buddha-nature). This embryo is the consciousness of the original spirit and the energy feeding the body. When it grows, it forms a spiritual body travelling to other dimensions. When the body dies, it can become one with the energy of the universe.

 3  Against Substantialism : Brother Buddhism & Sister Taoism.

"But emptiness requires that emptiness reach the point when there is nothing to be emptied, only then is it called the ultimate of emptiness."
Chang Po-tuang : The Inner Teachings of Taoism (Cleary, T. : Op.cit., p.6).

3.1 Buddhism in China :

According to traditional Chinese sources, Buddhism was imported to China during the Eastern Han Dynasty (ca. 58 CE). They stressed still meditation
("śamatha") and ignored physical exercise. Western scholarship claims Buddhism penetrated China in the second century CE from Central Asia. In the centuries following the dissolution of the Han Dynasty, Buddhist texts were translated into Chinese and Buddhist monastic orders were established. Simultaneously, Taoist texts resembling Buddhist texts were composed and Taoist cloisters were set up on the Buddhist model. At first, Buddhism was deemed a "barbaric" form of Taoism.

The oldest Chinese book on Buddhism was the Mou-tzŭ, an apologetic work dating from the second century. In this early period, Buddhism as divided in Hînayâna "Dhyâna" school, preoccupied with meditation, and the "Prajña" school, based on the Mahâyâna Prajñapâramitâ-Sûtras, promoted by Tao-an (312 - 385), who composed the first catalogue of Buddhist works translated into Chinese. Buddhist practice was identified with
Calm Abiding ("śamatha").

It is interesting the note how Taoist scriptures contain elements only found in Tantric Buddhism. In contrast to what happened in Japan and Tibet, where the Vajrayâna took root and became predominant (in Tibet, Sutric training leads to Tantric practices), the latter never became popular in China.

During the Sui and T'ang Dynasties (end of the 6th to beginning of the 10th century) Buddhism in China reached its high point. It was promoted by a series of emperors. During the T'ang Dynasty (618 - 907), Indian Buddhism had already started to decline, making China the world center of the Buddhadharma, from where it reached Japan and Tibet. In 845, emperor Wu-tsung, to acquire their wealth, closed thousands of monasteries. Although his successor tried to make amends, Buddhism never completely recovered. Except for Ch'an, the period of intellectual flourishing of Buddhism in China was over.

Besides a few smaller schools (like the Mâdhyamaka San-lun & the Abhidharma Kośa), five great Chinese schools made their appearance : Ching-t'u, Fa-hsiang, T'ien-t'ai, Hua-yen and Ch'an.

(a) "Ching-t'u" or Pure Land Buddhism :

In Mahâyâna, Pure Lands are Buddha-realms presided over by a Buddha. There are as many Pure Lands as there are Buddhas, but the most important Pure Land is "Sukhâvatî", the Pure Land of Buddha Amitâbha, the Buddha of Infinite Light. These Lands are transcendent and the hope of believers who wish to be reborn in them. The decisive factor not being good "karma", but the aid of a given Buddha who took the vow to help all those who turn to him or her in loving faith. In popular belief, these paradises are places of bliss, while in fact they represent aspects of the awakened state of mind of a Buddha. These Pure Lands are not the final stage, but a stage before "nirvâna", realized in the ensuing rebirth. In a Pure Land, retrogression is no longer possible !

The Pure Land School ("Ching-t'u-tsung") was founded in 402 by the Chinese monk Hui-yuan. The goal was to be reborn in a Pure Land of Buddha Amitâbha. Faith in the power and active compassion of Buddha Amitâbha is all what counts, and the practice consists of the recitation of his name and the visualization of his paradise. These recitations give a vision of Amitâbha and foreknowledge of the time of one's death. These guarantee rebirth in "Sukhâvatî".

(b) Fa-hsiang :

The "Marks-of-Existence School", founded by Hsûan-tsang (600 - 664) and his pupil K'uei-chi (638 - 682), continues the teachings of the Yogâchâra (Mind Only), based on Vasubandhu and Asanga.

Everything is only ideation. The "external world" is the product of consciousness and devoid of reality. Things exist insofar as they are contents of consciousness. These teachings have been discussed elsewhere when considering the Mahâyana Schools and emptiness. The consciousness or mind devoid of apprehended object and apprehending subject is a thoroughly established (perfect) nature, and thus truly established. This is also the definition of emptiness. Enlightenment is therefore identified with absence of duality.

The Fa-hsiang denies all sentient beings possess Buddha-nature and can attain Buddhahood. Unbelievers cannot become Buddhas.

(c) T'ien-tai Buddhism :

T'ien-t'ai, or "School of the Celestial Platform", received its final form from Chih-i (538 - 597 CE). It is based on the Lotus Sûtra. All phenomena are an expression of the absolute or "suchness" ("tathatâ"). This idea gave rise to three truths : the truth of emptiness, the truth of temporal limitation and the truth of the middle.

1. the truth of emptiness : all "dharmas" lack independent reality ;
2. the truth of temporal limitation : a "dharma" has a functional, apparent existence perceived by the senses & grasped by the mind, i.e. they are not completely illusional or non-existent ;
3. the truth of the middle : includes both former truths and is equated with "suchness" ; the true state is not to be found elsewhere than in phenomena and so the absolute and phenomena are one.

Emptiness (ultimate truth), phenomenality (conventional truth) and the middle (suchness) are aspects of a single existence. The practice of this school consists of meditations based on "chih-kuan". The first element ("chih" or collectedness) concentrates on the emptiness of all "dharmas". This prevents the arising of illusions. The second element ("kuan" or insight), causes us to recognize the apparent, functional, spatiotemporal existence of all "dharmas" despite their emptiness.

(d) "Hua-yen" or "Flower Garland School":

The "Flower Garland School" was founded by Fa-tsang (643 - 712), but began with the monks Tu-shun (557 - 640) and Chih-yen (602 - 668). Also called "Âvatamsaka School", it derives its name from the Chinese translation of the Buddhâvatamsaka-Sûtra, the largest text in the Buddhist Canon. Due to the refinement of its view, integrating Fa-hsiang and T'ien-t'ain, it is considered the intellectual culminating point of Chinese Buddhism, but due to the persecutions it rapidly declined.

The school teaches the equality of all things and the interdependence of all things on one another. All things partake in a unity divided into many, allowing the manifold to be unified in this one (the teaching of totality). Everything in the universe arises simultaneously (the universal causality of the "dharmadhâtu", the uncaused, immutable totality in which all phenomena rise). Each "dharma" is either in a state of "suchness", the static aspect of which is emptiness, i.e. the realm of "principle" ("li") or the dynamic aspect of the realm of phenomena ("shih"). Interwoven, these two realms (principle & phenomena) are dependent on each other, and so the whole universe arises by interdependent conditioning. Nothing can subsist on its own (is essential, or possessing "svabhâva", "own-nature"). The teachings concentrate on the relationships between phenomena and not on that between the latter and the absolute.

Fa-tsang explains the fundamental tenets of this school with the famous simile of the Golden Lion. The lion represents the phenomenal world and the gold the principle. The latter has no form of its own, but rather takes on any form according to conditions & circumstances (is empty). Every organ of the lion participates in the whole result, the lion made of gold. All phenomena (the organs & the lion) manifest one principle (emptiness) and each phenomenon encompasses all others. Gold and lion exist simultaneously and include each other mutually. Hence, each phenomenon (lion) represents the principle, emptiness or "li" (gold).

These ideas bring about a division of the universe in four realms :

1. the realm of phenomena : the dynamic aspect of the "dharmas" ;
2. the realm of the absolute : the principle or static emptiness ;
3. the realm in which both mutually interpenetrate : the functional world of things ;
4. the realm in which every phenomenon exists in perfect harmony without obstructing each other : the ideal world.

All "dharmas" possess six characteristics :

1. universality : the lion as a whole ;
2. specificity : the functional organs of the lion distinct from the lion as a whole ;
3. similarity : all functional organs are parts of the lion ;
4. distinctness : each organ has a distinct function ;
5. integration : all organs together make up the lion ;
6. differentiation : every organ takes its own particular place.

All things are in complete harmony with one another, for manifestations of the same, one principle : emptiness. They are like individual waves of the same sea. Hence all phenomena are one with Buddha-mind, the "Dharmakâya".

(e) Ch'an Buddhism :

In the traditional account, Dhyâna Buddhism was introduced by Bodhidharma (ca. 470 - 543 CE) or Da Mo, the first patriarch of Ch'an Buddhism in China ("ch'an is an abbreviation of "ch'an-na", from the Sanskrit "dhyâna") and the twenty-eight patriarch of Dhyâni Buddhism in India. He is believed to be the second Indian priest to be invited to China (by Emperor Liang in 527 CE), Ba Tuo being the first Buddhist monk come to China to preach (called "Happy Buddha" or Mi Le Fo, ca. 495 CE). He placed particular emphasis on the harmony between the practice of meditation ("dhyâna") as a way to enlightenment ("bodhi") and physical exercises. He did not develop a philosophical view. Indeed, Da Mo is the author of the two classical texts on Ch'i Kung, namely the Yi Jin Jing (Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic) and the Xi Sui Jing (Marrow/Brain Washing Classic). He wrote these because he found the monks of the Shaolin Temple (on Shao Shi Mountain, Henan province) to be weak & sickly (for only practicing Nei Dan or "internal elixir"). These texts were fundamental in the further development of Ch'i Kung.

The main teachings developed in the 6th & 7th centuries were a fruitful encounter of Dhyâna Buddhism with Taoism. Because it did not had large monasteries, it survived the persecutions at the end of the T'ang Dynasty, and so became, together with Pure Land Buddhism, the only form of Buddhism in China under the Sung, Yüan and Ming Dynasties. In the seventh century, Ch'an split in a Northern School (Shen-hsiu, 600 - 706), teaching (Indian) gradualism, and a Southern School (Hui-neng, 638 - 713), proposing (Chinese) suddenism.

Ch'an stresses self-realization leading to complete enlightenment by way of intensive meditative self-discipline. Ritual practices and intellectual analysis of doctrine (analytical meditation) are deemed useless for the attainment of awakening. Ch'an Buddhism reached Japan in the 12th and at the beginning of the 13th century, were it was called "Zen". Sitting in meditative absorption ("zazen") is seen as the shortest & steepest way to complete enlightenment. It declined in China under the Sung and mixed with the Pure Land School of Buddhism during the Ming.
It continued to exist until today.

Ch'an can be summarized by these four statements :

1. special transmission : at Vulture Peak Mountain, Buddha is said to have held up a flower without speaking - his student Kâśyapa smiled and understood instantly on the spot what the Buddha meant. This was the first heart-mind to heart-mind transmission. Ch'an is therefore also called the "School of Buddha-Mind" or sudden enlightenment (suddenism is also found in Dzogchen) ;
2. nondependence on sacred writings : the experience of enlightenment is of primary concern, not the dry, thinglike reality of documents & dates ;
3. directly pointing to the heart : the pointing-out instruction is given by an enlightened master.
The master identifies the nature of mind of the student and points it out to the student ;
4. realizing one's own nature : the essence of the whole discipline is the realization of Buddha-nature, the clear tranquil core of the mind.

Although there are clearly parallels between, on the one hand, Tantric Buddhism and, on the other hand, Taoist methods of meditation and inner alchemy, Mantrayâna never took root in China. As a school, the Vajrayâna flourished briefly in the 8th century, but during the moralist Sung Dynasty (960 - 1278) most tantric texts disappeared.

3.2
Emptiness and Dependent Arising.

"All of these practices were taught
By the Mighty One for the sake of wisdom.
Therefore those who wish to pacify suffering
Should generate this wisdom."

Śântideva : A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, IX:1.


(a) Simultaneity in Wisdom-mind according to Tsongkhapa :

"In order to be sure that a certain person is not present, you must know the absent person. Likewise, in order to be certain of the meaning of 'selflessness', or 'the lack of intrinsic existence', you must carefully identify the self, or intrinsic nature, that does not exist. For, if you do not have a clear concept of the object to be negated, you will also not have accurate knowledge of its negation."
Tsongkhapa : Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path, vol.3, 2.10.

Wisdom-mind is Buddha-mind, the enlightened body, speech, mind & activity of a Buddha, a former sentient being who entered Buddhahood. A Buddha experiences the Two Truths, conventional & ultimate truth, simultaneously, i.e. in the same cognitive act. To such an exalted & enlightened wisdom, every object is conventional and ultimate at the same time, in the same instance ; conventional insofar as it appears to sentient beings as interdependent (and so dependent on conditions & circumstances outside itself) and ultimate insofar as it lacks any kind of selfsubsistence (substance, essence, own-form or "svabhâva").

This great insight of Je Tsongkhapa (1357 - 1419) or the "Man from the Onion Valley" ended over thousand years of speculative investigations into the fundamental tenet of Buddhism : Selflessness of Persons ("anâtman" - Hînayâna) and Selflessness of Phenomena (Mahâyâna). Two extreme positions were thus avoided : eternalism & nihilism. In the former wrong view, substances (objects existing from their own side, self-powered) exist, whereas in the latter view, nothing truly exists (and so nothing really performs any function). For the Middle Way of Tsongkhapa, all objects (Buddhas included) are (a) ultimately empty of self-power (lack substance), but (b) conventionally exist logically & functionally, i.e. are valid names or labels and are operational, albeit appearing different as they truly are (i.e. presenting themselves as substances while they are not). Ultimate truth is valid and unmistaken, while conventional truth is valid but mistaken. 

"After I pass away,
And my pure doctrine is absent,
You will appear as an ordinary being,
Performing the deeds of a Buddha,
And establishing the Joyful Land, the Great Protector,
In the Land of the Snows."

Śâkyamuni's prediction of the coming of Tsongkhapa in the Root Tantra of Mañjuśrî.


Tsongkhapa was a renowned Tibetan Buddhist spiritual reformer, yogi and scholar. Taking layman's vows at the age of three, he was ordained as "Lobsang Drakpa" ("Sumati Kirti" or "Perceptive Mind"), but simply called "Je Rinpoche". Founder of the doctrinal & influential Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, his direct inspiration came from the Kadam school, initiated by Atiśa (985 - 1054), as well as from the Sakya school.

The results of his important systematic & complete organization of Buddhadharma (comparable to the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas) were presented in the Lamrim Chenmo (Great Discourse on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment) and the Ngagrim Chenmo (Great Discourse on Secret Mantra).

As a Buddhist philosopher, Tsongkhapa attributed the proper logic to the system of the Middle Way founded by Nâgârjuna (ca. 2d/3d century), in particular the Prâsangika-Mâdhyamaka school, and was therefore a skillful teacher of "śûnyatâ", emptiness. His interpretation may be called "Critical Mâdhyamaka", for its central preoccupation is drawing the line between proper and improper objects of negation.

Once we know what to negate when dealing with emptiness, namely self-powered, inherent existence, we can establish a valid foundation for Tantric practice. Negating too much (as in nihilism) results in eliminating conventional reality, bringing morality & compassion in jeopardy. Negating not enough (as in eternalism) creates permanent objects without good reason, substantializing or reifying what must be thought as lacking existence from its own side.

The central  texts of  Mâdhyamaka are :

  • Nâgârjuna (2th CE) in Mûlamadhyamakakârikâ (A Fundamental Treatise on the Middle Way) & Shûnyatâsaptatikârikânâma (The Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness) ;

  • Chandrakîrti (ca. 600 – 650) in Mâdhyamakâvatâra (Entering the Middle Way) ;

  • Śântideva (8th CE) in his Bodhicharyâvatâra (A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life) &

  • Tsongkhapa (1357 - 1419) in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, The Ocean of Reasoning and The Essence of Eloquence.

For Tsongkhapa, who refutes the definition of emptiness proposed by the Mind Only School (absence of duality between apprehended object and apprehending subject), duality itself is not a problem, only its reification is. The interaction between cognition and the cognitive field cannot be avoided, not even in the most evolved wisdom of Ârya Buddhas (cf. fully enlightened wisdom-minds directly apprehending, cognizing or perceiving emptiness). In his view, Buddhahood involves the simultaneous apprehension of the ultimate & the conventional of every phenomena in every cognitive act.

For Tsongkhapa, Hearers, Solitary Buddhas & Superior Bodhisattvas of the Eighth to the Tenth Bhûmis are indeed totally free from even the subtlest latent (innate) reifying tendencies, but are nevertheless subject to nondeluded ignorance, the conditioned state of mind predisposed by the previously existent innate conception of inherent existence or essence. So they are not yet fully enlightened. They are predisposed to the assumption of dualities rather than their reification. Misconceptions of dualistic appearances remain. A Buddha no longer assumes duality, while the distinction between the cognitive act and its field is not gone. There is "merely" a witnessing, a sheer existential instantiation (cf. infra).

The above Âryas are not yet enlightened because for them ultimate & conventional knowledge still come about sequentially, and so they have only alternating knowledge of the Two Truths. During meditation they known the ultimate. In postmeditation, they apprehend the conventional. But once they are capable of having direct knowledge of both truths simultaneously, able to cognize empty & dependently arisen phenomena concurrently, establishing the non-conceptual dual-union of the Two Truth (which is nondual but not a-dual), they become Buddhas, and the difference between meditation and post-meditation vanishes. Then, from their own perspective, only emptiness is apprehended, while all conventionality is explicitly known as it appears to sentient beings, i.e. as dependent arisings.

(b) Six Instantiations explaining Emptiness :

"Contemplating emptiness, it is also empty ; there is nothing for emptiness to empty."
Wen-tzŭ, quoted in Clearly, Th. (transl), Practical Taoism, p. 18.

In a general sense, "instantiation" means representing an idea in the form of an instance of it, i.e. as an item of information representative of the idea, clarifying it by giving an example of it. For Kant, a concept has "sense and meaning" ("Sinn und Bedeutung") when it is possible to experience an instantiation of this concept. For him, saying something "exists" merely points to its categorial instantiation, the fact it is an example or "instance" of a category of thought, and does not add anything substantial to the object (the fact it is deemed to exist as a "Ding an Sich" outside the subject of knowledge). For Kant, such substantial instantiation lies outside the possibilities of rational knowledge, bound to the categorial processing of appearances.

"Existent" is not a determining predicate belonging to the set of predicates defining a concept. "Being" cannot be added to the concept of a thing, for it is not a property, nor a quality of anything. Neither does it report any details about it. At times, this verb and its variants behave as predicates, like in : "Unicorns don't exist.", and then seem to report something not done by unicorns, namely "existing". In fact, each time, the verb is only qualified as a grammatical or "logical" copula. In a logical sense, "Unicorns don't exist." is a short way to say : "Unicorn are never an instance of categorial processing." or "Unicorn cannot be posited."

For Kant, "existence" only instantiates, designates, posits or imputes the concept.

instantiates : the concept is an example of a category ;
designates : the concept is assigned to a category ;
posits : the concept is assumed to belong to a category ;
imputes : the concept is attributed to a category.

So when the "existence" of something or someone is posited, the totality of known predicates of a thing or an individual is indeed affirmed, adding nothing to it. When this existence is denied, the whole set of predicates vanishes and the referent with it. An object is what can be ascribed to it, nothing more. There is no "stable" core (or referent) as it were carrying the predicates or attributes without them. There is no fixed, substantail support or an Archimedean point providing something to hold on to. Ousiology (thinking "ousia" or "essence") is rejected.

To affirm the set A "exists" is to instantiate (posit) its concept, but does not instantiate the richer concept "existing A". Every statement of existence  ("there is", or "there are"), merely says about a concept it is instantiated, rather than it exists. Any legitimate statement of existence must be built out of propositions of the form : "There is an A.", where "A" stands for a determining predicate. This is strict nominalism ; the meaning of a concept is nothing but its name (or the category of which it is an example, an instantiation).

The word "existence" can be grasped in terms of various instances, namely as specific sensate & mental objects said to "exist". The latter are identified as logical entities, functions, conventional empirico-formal propositions of science, substances, ultimate objects or mere existentials. Kant's criticism, as well as Tsongkhapa's analysis, shows how substantial instantiations are erroneous.

•  ЭLA logical instantiation : the existence of object A or Эx (x = A) is an instance of it being identifiable in classical logical terms LA according to the principles of identity (A = A) & non-contradiction (A ≠ ¬ A), and, classically, excluded third (A v ¬ A) or ЭLA ;

(a) 0 = 0 ^ 1 = 1
(b) 0 ≠ 1 ^ 1 ≠ 0
(c) 0 v 1 ^ 1 v 0

This instantiation is not yet an empirico-formal object with synthetical content, but a mere formal or analytical object (as in logic & mathematics, attaching predicates to subjects by way of tautology).

• ЭFA functional instantiation : the existence of object A is logically (LA) instantiated and identifiable in functional terms FA according to A = f(B) or B = f(A) or ЭFA ;

This instantiation involves recognizing empirical functions and has all the properties of a direct empirico-formal object, i.e. one ostensively ascertained hic et nunc. This comes very close to mere existential instantiations, except for the fact the latter have purified all substantial connotations whatsoever, while logical & functional instantiations lead to or are suggestive of conventional instantiation.

conventional instantiation  : if the existence of object A is logically (LA) and functionally (FA) instantiated, then it is also substantially instantiated, or (ЭLA ^ ЭFA) »* (As = E!A) ;
(*) the implication or "if A then B"

This conventional instantiation is the way of conventional truth, valid to distinguish between conventionalities. It is a deceptive truth, for objects appear not as they truly are. Just as the Sun seems to rise & set, these objects seem to exist independently from the apprehending subject. In both cases this is a mere appearance, for cosmology teaches us the Earth rotates around its axis, and physics, neurology & observational psychology makes clear all observations depend on the observational frame adopted by the observer. This deception can however not be grasped & eliminated as long as one does not try to find, by way of ultimate analysis, this supposed "eidos" or enduring "essence", not realizing it cannot be found. Conventional instantiation is commonsense knowledge and insofar as it has been tested & discussed, triggering "correspondence" and "consensus", it is moreover scientific.

As scientific knowledge does not probe into the deep to find whether there indeed is a substantial core, it is superficial and provisional, although logical, functional and synthetical (attaching predicates to subjects by way of sense objects). It presupposes analytic terms, always involves direct synthetic statements (statements of fact based on immediate sensing & thinking) and claims to articulate indirect synthetic propositions (holding a truth claim about the state of affair of the world no longer involving immediacy).

• E!A substantial instantiation ("esse", being, true existence or inherent existence) : if object A has properties Z (or A(z)), then -by way of false ideation Cf- the essence of A, or As "having" these properties, necessarily inherently exist, or ЭA(z) ^ Cf » E! Эy (y = A) = As = E!A ;

The substantial instantiation or false ideation Cf positing these attributes or accidents as inherent in the "real sense objects" is automatic. This automatism of grasping at an enduring "self" or self-grasping is innate & acquired. Infants, like animals, manifest it and in the course of our education humans are confirmed in attributing independent, self-powered reality to attended sense objects.

To refute this instantiation is the job of ultimate analysis, probing into the object at hand, trying analytically to isolate the substantial, self-identical core. If, after exhausting all logical possibilities, no core can be found, then no rational ground is given to accept substance. This method leads to strict nominalism, always prompting its opponents to posit an enduring object !

ultimate instantiation : the existence of object A is logically LA and functionally FA instantiated without being -by way of true ideation Ct- substantially instantiated as inherently existing or (ЭLA ^ ЭFA) ^ Ct » {¬ (As = E!A)} ;

¬ (As = E!A) is a non-affirming negation, i.e. it negates substantial instantiation without positing anything else. So it is not empty of itself, for ЭLA ^ ЭFA conventionally endures. It only negates As by way of true ideation Ct, i.e. eliminates E!A.

As under ultimate analysis no enduring "self" can be found or ¬ (As = E!A), the substantial instantiator E!A can be eliminated. When this is done, conventional objects appear together with their lack of inherent existence. This implies they appear as mere existential instantiations or dependent-arisings simultaneously with their lack of inherent existence. Whatever is a dependent arising does not inherently exist because inherent or independent existence is the opposite of dependent arising or E!A = ¬ {ЭLA ^ ЭFA}.

mere existential instantiation ("existit" or mere existence) : the existence of object A is logically (LA) and functionally (FA) instantiated and absolutely nothing more : ЭA = ЭLA ^ ЭFA.

Sentient, aware beings always conceive their objects as logical, functional and, by force of Cf, substantial. Because of their ignorant sentience, they, unlike computers, attribute selfhood to the objects they attend to. Because of this false attribution Cf, they possess the potential to consciously eliminate this and enter wisdom ! This potential to realize wisdom is what is meant by their Buddha-nature. Without the latter, beings, although merely existing, do so devoid of the possibility of enlightenment. Sentience preconditions Buddhahood.

Buddhas perceive the absence of inherent existence, or ultimate instantiation, hand in hand with mere existential instantiation, seeing dependent arisings free of inherent existence. They know ultimate truth as ultimate, or space-like emptiness (without any obstruction), and simultaneously as merely existential, or illusion-like dependent arising. The former is ineffable, the latter a dependent-arising concealing its ultimate nature. Buddhas perceive all phenomena simultaneously as empty and as merely existing hic et nunc. This is merely seeing, merely hearing, merely touching, merely smelling, merely tasting sensate objects and merely consciously apprehending mental objects (of thought, affect & volition).

(c) The Cognitive Activity of a Buddha :

Technically, the ultimate nature of phenomena can be conceptualized as the absence of substantial instantiation, ending attributing own-form or existence to objects from their own side, or ¬ E!A. The mere apprehension of objects, exclusively instantiating their logical (name) & functional (operation) properties, i.e. the mere existential instantiation hic et nunc is all the enlightened wisdom-mind of a Buddha perceives.

Wisdom-mind knows every phenomenon as one entity with two isolates, cognizing ultimate truth in two ways :

1. as space-like emptiness :

This is the sphere where perception and sensation of objects fades. Where phenomena are no longer occupy the foreground. This is the non-differentiated experience, to be directly and personally experienced by the enlightened mind. It cannot however be conceptually known or linguistically described from the outside. Even a Buddha cannot offer any criterion to describe it. In this sphere, suffering, with its coming, going, stasis, passing away, arising, stance, foundations, support, etc. end. Consistent with the universals & the summit of the Via Negativa of mystical experience, nothing can be conceptualized or said about this "apex" or capstone of nondual cognition. While clearly cognitive, for the object of wisdom-mind is emptiness, it is ineffable. If something is actually uttered concerning this, science nor metaphysics are at hand, only sheer sublime poetry.

2. as illusion-like emptiness :

In this mode of knowing ultimate truth, phenomena are apprehended as relational, interdependent and illusory. Relational because, as substantial instantiation has ceased, there are no independent objects and so all things are related. Interdependent because all objects are other-powered. Illusionary because they only appear as independent to conventional reason, while they are not. Although there is duality, this does not constitute a misconceived duality. When, with right discernment, one sees all phenomena as dependent co-arisings as they are actually present in this moment, one does not run after the past nor the future. The mere presence of duality, as mere existential instantiation is not problematic. Duality by itself causes no delusions, but the reification of its terms always does. Take this away, and the panacea against all suffering has been found !

(d) Dependent Arising :

Functional co-relativity, correlational interdependence, universal interrelationality, conditioned co-production, interdependent co-arising, dependent origination, dependent arising ("pratîtya-samutpâda") are synonymous.

A nuance can be observed. By saying objects are "dependent" we focus on the fact determining factors, conditions & circumstances outside them influence them. By saying objects are "interdependent", we affirm they are "dependent", but also add they all depend on one another. This is organicism, the idea the universe is a connected whole without "disjecta membra" or thoroughly isolated phenomena.

All phenomena, "nirvâna" as well as Buddhahood, are dependent arisings, i.e. process-like instead of substance-like, interdependent instead of independent, without own-form instead of self-powered. When emptiness, the absence of inherent, substantial existence is realized, only dependent arisings remain. This is ¬ E!A, the negation of inherent existence ("svabhâva").

Emptiness makes process apparent ; process makes emptiness evident. Wisdom perfects method and method manifests wisdom. Compassion generates form, and wisdom truth. Form & truth are the bodies of a Buddha.

Although on an absolute (deep, implicate, esoteric) level phenomena are devoid of substance (or empty), on a conventional (superficial, explicate, exoteric) level, functional, working & efficient interdependent relationships prevail. These conventional objects always appear cut-off as self-powered, independent mental or sensate objects. This aspect of their appearance is however false, for objects cannot be substantially initiated without absurdity. Although the notion of two "levels" or "Two Truth" is suggestive of a difference, this should not be viewed ontologically (as two levels of reality), but rather as two epistemic isolates of the same phenomena. A Platonic schism ("chorismos") is not implied, rather two perspectives on a single event. The event-continuum is all there is, for emptiness is not a subtle stratum of reality but a mere absence of inherent existence (cf. emptiness of emptiness). Ultimate reality exists conventionally !

Conventional reality is a process. This means change and impermanence are given to it. The Dharma refers to this cosmic law, ruled by the "king of logic" (Tsongkhapa), namely dependent arising ("pratîtya-samutpâda"). Phenomena arise as the result of determining conditions, abide for a certain time under influence of conditions and cease when the sustaining conditions vanish. This movement is universal and unchanging. While Buddhahood and "nirvâna" are often described as permanent, this only refers to their continuous dynamism, and the fact this dynamism has certain continuous features, like being totally emptied of any sense of substance or stasis. Compare this with a swimming style, simultaneous with the swimmer's movement and meaningless as a static notion.

A swimming style is a dependent arising, for all phenomena are. Nevertheless, the conditions pertaining to Awakening are radically different from those ruling conventional reality or "samsâra". Awakened Ones are no longer under the spell of ignorance, but under the sway of wisdom. They acknowledge & apprehend the style of the movements while they are moving. Like a boat makes sense when it moves to cross the river, the characteristics of the dynamism are valid insofar as there is movement. A boat in a dock or wharf has lost its functionality and is only potentially useful. A swimmer outside the water no longer swims.

The question at hand is whether a universal logic of dependent arising is possible ? The Buddha discussed this logic in terms of the twelve "nidânas" or Twelve Links of the causal chain ("nexus"). While all phenomena exist non-substantially (but not from their own side), they function in dependence on conditions & determination (like efficient causes). Because the Buddha was focused on awakening his disciples, this analysis is carried through from the side of the subject of experience and differs from a study of the conditions pertaining to the world (as in physics, cosmology, chemistry etc.). The latter comes into focus in Taoism (cf. the role of Chi-circulation in inner alchemy).

The Twelve Links are :

  1. ignorance ("avidyâ") : an old and sightless person with a stick : as the origin of the cycle, ignorance is the root-cause of all suffering, both mental & emotional. Innate ignorance is a state of distraction & confusion caused by being unaware of the true nature of phenomena. As a result of this ignorance, one "imputes", "imagines" or "hallucinates" a dual world (divided in a substantial subject & a substantial object), causing imaginary ignorance. The man is unable to see, yet believes he can use his stick. The small area covered by the stick is what the blind actually know, which is very limited. Likewise, the ignorant invent a dual world, locking themselves up within its narrow confines ;

  2. volitional (karmic) formations ("samskârâ") : a potter : throwing all kinds of pots on his wheel, the potter represents the accumulation of conditioned, karma-bearing actions or impulses, manifesting in body, speech & mind as a result of ignorance. These can be virtuous (good karma), neutral or negative (bad karma). The form of the pot is the result of the activities of the potter. Too much or too little pressure makes an ugly pot. Likewise, because the ignorant exist in their make-up reality, the form of their experiences are co-relative with their own activities, whether physical, verbal (energetic) or mental ;

  3. consciousness ("vijñâna") : a tree and a monkey jumping from branch to branch : the monkey seizes a fruit, plucks it and takes a bite while another fruit catches its eyes. It dashes off towards it, disregarding the fruit just plucked, swallowing it down in a hurry or dropping it. At the end of the day, there is a heap of half-chewed fruit left. Rebirthing consciousness is the result of past karma, arranging a new personality around this kernel. The jumping monkey represents the versatile, fluctuating, restless nature of deluded, karma-striken consciousness ;

  4. name & form ("nâma-rûpa") : a boat with two people : as consciousness expands, it labels things. This name-giving is a form attributed to what appears, crystallizing phenomena into designated sensate & mental objects. The gross elements and the physical body are the result of this imputing activities of rebirth consciousness. So the two persons represent mind & body, the two major constituents of the individual ;

  5. six sense bases ("śadâyatana") : a house with five windows & a door : the five senses (windows) and the door (mental sense) are the portals enabling consciousness to project outwards, allowing it to communicate with others, stepping outside itself to interact with the environment. The windows access the "lower" (visible) worlds, whereas the door of the mind offers an entry into the "higher" (invisible) worlds ;

  6. contact ("sparśa") : a man & a woman embracing : the meeting of the senses with their object is made possible by the six sense bases, allowing physical interaction between beings ;

  7. feeling/sensation ("vedanâ") : a man with an arrow in his right eye : because there is contact between beings, there are pleasant, neutral & painful sensations. The image conveys the strong vividness evoked by the sense organs ;

    The following two links tell us how we continue to create karma conditioning the future :
     

  8. thirst/craving ("trisna") : a woman offering drink to a man slaking his thirst : the repetition of strong, afflictive emotions works addictive, and so conditioned by the experience of contact with an object, craving can be for (a) pleasure, (b) eternity, (c) existence & (d) annihilation (non-existence). These continue to produce negative effects ;

  9. attachment/grasping/clinging ("upâdâna") : a woman grasping a fruit : craving itself begs for satisfaction and this leads to grasping or an exaggerated way to satisfy thirst. Once grasping is firmly established, we do anything to have our desires satisfied. Four kinds of clinging occur : (a) to sense pleasure, (b) to wrong views, (c) to rules & rituals & (d) to the notion of a soul or a self. These attachments cause an "automatic" form of rebirth, as by reflex ;

    The last three links point to issues related to this next life. They underline the notion of rebirth (in other words, the continuity of the continuum of consciousness), making it an integral part of Buddhist philosophy :
     

  10. becoming/existence ("bhava") : a couple making love : conception occurs because during our previous life we constantly fed our karmic tendencies, which have now ripened. The conditions of our rebirth are thus determined by our karma, but conception (the actual, gross materialization of our rebirth consciousness) is determined by a couple making love ;

  11. birth/rebirth ("jâti") : a woman in labour : the "newborn" is an "old born", carrying the karma of a previous existence. One is born in one of the six realms as a result of this old karma, and of all rebirths in "samsâra", being born as a human being with free choice offers the most opportunities for spiritual growth ;

  12. old age & death ("jarâmarana") : a man carrying a corpse : it is in the nature of all transient things to end. Even gods die. When life-karma is exhausted, our gross body dies and the subtle elements are peeled away until the naked, empty & luminous nature of mind (the Clear Light of death) remains.

(e) The View in the Heart-sûtra :

The Four Profundities belong to the Heart Sûtra (Mahâprajñâpâramita-hridaya-sûtra), or "heartpiece of the perfection of wisdom sûtra", one of the shortest & most important sûtras of the Mahâyâna, belonging to the collection of forty sûtras constituting the Prajñâpâramitâ-sûtra. It formulates, in a very clear and concise way, the teachings on emptiness and was written in the first century CE. It is of major importance in Ch'an Buddhism, but is also widely discussed in the Vajrayâna.

• The Profundity of the Ultimate : "Form is Empty."

"Form" implies the five sense consciousnesses :

Perception Sensation
smell
chemicals
nose-consciousness of odors
taste
chemicals
tongue-consciousness of tastes
touch
ions channels (?)
body-consciousness of feels
hear
mechanical energy
ear-consciousness of sounds
see
electromagnetism
eye-consciousness of lights

All gross physical objects and a person's body are included. The aggregate of form is taken as the first basis for establishing emptiness. If form would be inherently existing or truly existing, i.e. substance-like, it would exist as it appears and be found from the side of the object itself without depending upon the apprehending consciousness. The body and its parts merely exist because they have a suitable basis to impute them, i.e. identify them and their dynamic functions. This is a merely nominalist designation, in no way establishing a static substance. Although a generic image of such a substance exists, it cannot be validated under ultimate analysis. While form appears to be static, it cannot be found to be so. The use of this false generic image is the false ideation to be removed.

• The Profundity of the Conventional : "Emptiness is Form."

Phenomena are seen as manifestations of emptiness. Ultimate truth and emptiness of inherent existence are synonyms. Emptiness is called a "sacred object truth" because its appearance to a non-conceptual direct perceiver is in accordance with its mode of existence. Unlike conventional truths, which do not appear as they ultimately are (they appear static but are in fact dynamic), emptiness does not conceal its true nature. To a wisdom-mind realizing emptiness directly, only emptiness appears and inherent existence does not appear (although conventional objects are known as they appear to deluded sentient beings, i.e. as inherently existing). Conventional truths are true with respect to the conventions of ordinary minds. Although they are deceptive regarding their mode of existence, they are not deceptive insofar as their logical identity & function go. If an object does not function as it appears, then a conventional falsehood is at hand (for example : a hallucination, a fata morgana, etc.). Such objects are "non-existent". Conventional objects are "truths for an obscurer" because self-grasping ignorantly conceives the apparent inherent existence, the substantial instantiation, to be true, which it is not.

The profundity of the conventional aims to make clear the subtle nature of conventional objects. All conventional objects share the same fundamental, ultimate nature, emptiness. Each and every object is therefore not separate from its emptiness, but is an appearance arising out of its emptiness (cf. supra, the analysis of the Golden Lion). While objects do not inherently exist (First Profundity), we can establish the mere existence of form by pointing to its base of designation. This is a conventional appearance arising out of the ultimate nature of form, its subtle conventional nature (Second Profundity), just like the lion arises out of the gold ...

• The Profundity of the Two Truths being the Same Entity : "Emptiness is not other than Form ..."

If two phenomena are identical, they have the same generic image (logical identity & function). If they were not identical, they would have a different generic image. If two phenomena are not identical but are the same entity (like fire and its heat, or the body and its shape), this means they do not appear as separate to wisdom-mind, but appear as different to an ordinary conceptual mind. The same entity is at hand, but two different objects are known : the conventional nature or mode of existence is known by the deluded conceptual mind, the ultimate nature is known by enlightened wisdom-mind.

• The Profundity of the Two Truths being Nominally Distinct : "... Form also is not other than Emptiness."

Although the Two Truths are the same entity (Third Profundity), they are not identical. Being designated on the basis of the same form, they are two different epistemic isolates or two different objects of knowledge. The Two Truths can be distinguished on the basis of the difference between the conventional and ultimate nature of every object, not on the basis of two different objects (this would result in Platonism, positing a conventional world versus an ultimate world). The ultimate nature of an object is the object's emptiness of inherent existence established by wisdom-mind. The conventional nature of an object is the object's dependence on all other objects, i.e. it being other-powered. Hence, conventional objects are not independent substances, but interdependent, dependent-related phenomena.

In order of increasing subtlety, this dependence of objects on other objects can be analyzed in five ways :

1. dependence on determinations : phenomena depend on laws determining their evolution from initial condition to outcome. These laws may be causal, interactive, teleological, statistical, etc. ;
2. dependence on parts : if phenomena were independent of parts, we would be able to remove the parts and find the phenomenon ;
3. dependence on names : phenomena can only be conceptualized by way of the names & labels given to them. Nameless phenomena cannot be objects of conventional reason ;
4. dependence on a basis of imputation : the names given to phenomena are given to them because some identity & some functions have been grasped. The latter serve as the basis of designation, allowing the conceptual mind to impute or posit the name ;
5. dependence on imputation by conceptualization : phenomena cannot be understood to depend on determinations, parts, names and a basis of imputations without the cognitive process itself allowing the conceptual mind to produce empirico-formal propositions about them.

(f) The View in Hua-yen & T'ien-tai :

In the Flower Garland School, the focus lies on the relationships between phenomena. The dynamic aspect of the "dharmas", featuring the dynamic interaction between whole (totality) and parts (specific), between singularity & multiplicity, brings in six characteristics shared by all possible phenomena :

1. universality : each phenomenon is a whole and should be considered as such ;
2. specificity : despite being a whole, phenomena have functional parts which can be posited distinct from the whole ;
3. similarity : these functional organs, although themselves wholes are nevertheless parts of the whole phenomenon ;
4. distinctness : each part of the whole has a distinct function, i.e. executes a specific, precise task ;
5. integration : all functional parts of the whole make up the whole ;
6. differentiation : every functional part has its particular place not shared by other parts.

As these characteristics are shared by all phenomena, the universe is an organic totality interacting with its parts. Not a single phenomenon escapes this intrinsic dialectic between singular totality and multiple parts.

In the School of the Celestial Platform, all phenomena are seen as an expression of the absolute of "suchness" ("tathatâ") or emptiness. Here, phenomena are not the focus, but their emergence from the ultimate. Temporal limitations are apparent existences emerging from emptiness, while the latter is not found "outside" phenomena. Each phenomenon shows how the absolute and the relative are the same reality. The Two Truths (ultimate and conventional) are in fact three truths :

1. the truth of emptiness : all "dharmas" lack independent reality ; nowhere is their a substance in existence, all things are process-like ;
2. the truth of temporal limitation : a "dharma" has a functional, apparent existence perceived by the senses & grasped by the mind ; the process-like nature of things falsely represents the state of affairs, for although things seem independent from an apprehending consciousness, they are not objective in that sense ;
3. the truth of the middle : the true state is not to be found elsewhere than in phenomena and so the absolute and phenomena are one ; suchness is not "another realm" or "another reality" above, beyond or next to phenomena, but coincides with them.

Emptiness (ultimate truth), phenomenality (conventional truth) and the middle (suchness) are aspects of a single existence.

3.3 Absence of Essentialism in Classical Taoism.

Let us now turn to the Taoism of Lao-tzŭ and Chuang-tzŭ and understand their take on the lack of inherent existence or the absence of essentialism, i.e. the rejection of the philosophical idea objects have a "support", essence ("ousia") or Archimedean point to hold on to.

(a) The Nameless for Lao-tzŭ :

Lao-tzŭ makes clear the Way, the Tao, is "nameless", "formless", "imageless", "invisible", "inaudible", etc. This comes down to saying the Tao is "Nothing" ("wu"), not to be understood as naught (zero), but as no-thing, undifferentiated. This Nothing, the One, is the beginning of the difference (the Two) between Heaven and Earth in potentia ("yu"). However, in no way is the Tao to be viewed as a substance, or a fixed, unchanging entity, quite on the contrary. The absolute Tao self-determines itself and is the Gateway of Myriad Wonders, or the foreboding of all things as sheer possibility.

(b) The Negation-of-Negation-of-Negation of Chuang-tzŭ :

For Chuang-tzŭ, the Tao in its absoluteness defies all verbalization and language. At the level of language, the Way turns into a concept like "absolute" and then is exactly at the same rank as any other concept. To say the Tao is "non-differentiated", meaning there is no distinction between anything there, is no less a cognitive act as its opposition, "differentiated". The latter statement is typical for the empirical, common sense level of discourse, whereas the former points to the ontological indifferentiation characterizing the highest ontological level of the Tao. Unfortunately, although it points to this, it is not a well formed expression of this level, for it is nothing more than a contradiction of "differentiated".

"So we posit Beginning. (But the moment we posit Beginning, our Reason cannot help going further back and) admit the idea of there having been no Beginning. (Thus the concept of No-Beginning is necessarily established. Not the moment we posit No-Beginning, our logical thinking goes further back by negating the very idea which it has just established, and) admits of there having been no 'there-having-been-no-Beginning'. (The concept of 'No No-Beginning' is thus established.)"
Chuang-tzŭ : Chuang-tzŭ, section 2 (translation by Izutsu).

Let us go through these steps :

1. the concept of "beginning" is the initial point of the world of "being". This is a relative concept, opposed to no-beginning ;
2. the concept of "no-beginning" is the negation of "beginning" and also a relative concept, and so we remain on the same logical level. To stop this circular process from "beginning" and "no-beginning" and back, arriving at an absolute "no-beginning", we have to transcend it by negating "no-beginning" ;
3. "no no-beginning" is disclosed in an intuitive way, indicating the grasp of logical reasoning has been exceeded.

"In the same manner, (we begin by taking notice of the fact that) there is Being. (But the moment we recognize Being, our Reason goes further back and admits that) there is Non-Being (or Nothing). (But the moment we posit Non-Being we cannot but go further back and admit that) there has not been from the very beginning Non-Being. (The concept of No-(Non-Being) once established in this way, the Reason goes further back and admits that) there has been no 'there-having-been-no-Non-Being' (i.e. the negation of the negation of Non-Being, or No-No Non-Being)."
Chuang-tzŭ : Chuang-tzŭ, section 2 (translation by Izutsu).

The steps here are :

1. we posit "being", contradicted by "non-being" ;
2. we posit "non-being", contradicted by "no non-being" ;
3. we contradict "no non-being" and arrive at "no no-non-being", the absolute characterization beyond all possible further logic.

The Tao in its original absoluteness, or absolute Tao, is conceptually the negation-of-negation-of-negation. The opposition of "being" and "non-being", i.e. this negation is itself negated. So the absolute Tao is not simply "nothing" or "non-being", but a transcendent, absolute Nothing lying beyond the relative opposition between "being" and "non-being". If we refuse to transcend the level of logic, the absolute characterization of the Tao will be naught, i.e. "no no-non-being" will equal zero. As such it can not do justice to the transcendent reality of the Tao in its absoluteness. The conceptual activity of the mind proves powerless in grasping this ultimate, "nameless" absolute Tao, i.e. the Way as it really is.

(c) Classical Taoism and Śûnyatâ :

The parallels with emptiness ("śûnyatâ"), "Dharmakâya" and "nirvâna" are clear. Ultimate reality cannot be conceptualized, and the best we can do is eliminate substantial concepts by ultimate analysis. When the mind is free from

"Kaśyapa, it is like this. For example, two trees are dragged against each other by wind and from that a fire starts, burning the two trees. In the same way, Kaśyapa, if You have correct analytical discrimination, the power of a noble being's wisdom will emerge. With its emergence, correct analytical discrimination will itself be burned up."
Buddha
Śâkyamuni : Kaśyapa Chapter Sûtra.

"Being" and "non-being" are relative concepts. Both belong to the level of conventional knowledge. Ultimate truth is not opposed to conventional truth, just as "nirvâna" is not opposed to "samsâra". If this were the case, ultimate truth would be relative to conventional truth and this would eclipse the true wisdom at hand. The point is to thoroughly transcended the oppositions prevalent on the common sense conventional level. Applying the logic of Nâgârjuna is accepting one cannot say emptiness is A, -A, not A and -A, nor not (A and -A). Directly seeing emptiness is ending Kamalaśîla's (ca. 700 - 750 CE) Path of Preparation and "burning up" substantial instantiation. This is a cognitive, but non-conceptual act. Taoism and Buddhism agree : the fundamental nature of phenomena is the absolutely Absolute, or emptiness ("nirvâna" or the "Dharmakâya"), the absolute Tao.

After having reasoned his way up to the ultimate negation, Chuang-tzŭ typically asserts the futility of reasoning. He abandons all logical thinking concerning the Tao and immerses ecstatically in the non-conceptual, purely intuitive knowledge of the Way. Only in this way is a direct contact (what the Buddhists call "seeing") of the Tao possible.

"The Great Way is not named ; Great Discriminations are not spoken ; Great Benevolence is not benevolent ; Great Modesty is not humble ; Great Daring does not attack. If the Way is made clear, it is not the Way. If discriminations are put into words, they do not suffice. If benevolence has a constant object, it cannot be universal. If modesty is fastidious, it cannot be trusted. If daring attacks, it cannot be complete. These five are all round, but they tend toward the square. Therefore understanding that rests in what it does not understand is the finest. Who can understand discriminations that are not spoken, the Way that is not a way ? If he can understand this, he may be called the Reservoir of Heaven. Pour into it and it is never full, dip from it and it never runs dry, and yet it does not know where the supply comes from. This is called the Shaded Light."
Chuang-tzŭ : Chuang-tzŭ, section 2 (translation by Watson).

Just like emptiness, the Tao in its ultimate reality transcends conceptual reasoning. This conclusion of Chuang-tzŭ forms the starting-point of Lao-tzŭ. Every name given to the Tao is manmade, and as one cannot refer to the Way without naming it, the designation "Tao" is not satisfactory.

"The 'way' which can be designated by the word 'way' is not the real Way. The 'name' which can be designated by the word 'name' is not the real Name."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, chapter 1.

The "Way" is not a human "way" or an ethical "way" as it was given by Confucius and his school. The "name" which is not the "real Name" refers to Confucian categories like "benevolence", "righteousness", "wisdom", etc. These cardinal virtues are not aimed at. The Way is not a principle of ethical conduct. Although for Confucius, the principle of ethical conduct was a reflection in human consciousness of the highest law of the universe, this "cosmic" conception is not the real Way, for the latter is essentially unknown and unknowable in a conceptual way. Lao-tzŭ goes even so far as to say "benevolence" and "righteousness" (the names of ethical conduct) arise when the great Way declines !

So, the only "real Name" ("ch'ang ming") is the absolute Name assumed by the Tao in its absoluteness, and this is, paradoxically, "nameless" i.e. beyond conceptual reason. Hence, the absolute Tao is the "Mystery of Mysteries", but also the "Gate of all Wonders" !

(d) the Non-Essentialist & Non-Conceptual Absolute Tao :

We may conclude the likeness of the Tao in its absoluteness (i.e. the absolute Tao before any differentiation happened, i.e. before Heaven & Earth) is an absolute indifferentiation. This highest, ultimate stage of the absolute is non-essentialist and beyond conceptualization.

non-essentialist : the absolute Tao  has no "boundaries", no rigid, inflexible characteristics existing from their own side. Although essentialism is the view of the common man, the sage realizes this is not the ultimate view of things. There are no watertight compartments in existence becoming crystallized into fixed "things", given a "name" representing an "essential" fixity ensuring it from disintegration. All things ontologically interpenetrate one another, and so all things can be transformed in all other things, deemed impossible in essentialism (ontologizing or reifying the logical principle of identity). The original non-differentiated whole represented by the absolute Tao must not be divided up into fixed, unalterable substances or essences defining "this" or "that" once and for ever. Indeed, things are formed by their being designated by "this" or "that" particular name by virtue of relative social conventions. By fixing objects ontologically, all their other possibilities are nullified, and transformation (change) becomes impossible (a carved piece of wood has stopped being uncarved, i.e. receptive of all other forms). Hence, just as Nâgârjuna and the Mâdhyamaka with him underline, by confirming substance one negates change and by confirming interdependent change one negates substance (in other words, by establishing isolated substances, one nullifies any possible change) ;
non-conceptual : the absolute Tao does not transcend cognition, for in the nondual mode of cognition the sage intuitively & ecstatically apprehends it. Any conceptual "name" can however not be applied and if so, error is the outcome. The same critical sounds are heard in the writings of Tsongkhapa and his refutation of idealist Mâdhyamaka, Mind Only ontology and other-emptiness Buddhism. To posit a name regarding emptiness is to conceptualize it and to do so is to create problems for the absolute cannot be conceptualized. This does not mean the absolute Tao cannot be an object of cognition. If this were the case, it could not be approached. But it can, in an intuitive, nondual (not a-dual), direct & ecstatic manner, namely by enlightened wisdom-mind !

These equations show how the "nameless" absolute Tao and Buddha's "śûnyatâ" (emptiness) refer to one and the same thing. The connection with "pratîtya-samutpâda" (dependent arising) is also firm, for to posit essentialism (affirm inherent existence or the lack of emptiness as in eternalism) is to fix fundamentally dynamical things. Once fixed, changed cannot be thought. But as all things are constantly changing (cf. the doctrine of the I ching), nothing static can be found. Moreover, the absolute Tao, the "Mystery of Mysteries", cannot be an object of the conceptual mind. Like emptiness, it is apprehended ecstatically by wisdom-mind transcending meditation & post-meditation !

3.4 Brother Buddhism & Sister Taoism.

What have we learned ?

Buddhism focuses on wisdom-mind, bringing the non-substantial nature of phenomena to the fore. This absence of inherent existence is approached (a) by way of ultimate analysis (a reductio or argumentum ad absurdum proving positing substance leads to absurd conclusion) and (b) by exhausting the "king of logics", dependent arising. While the latter brings in the central conclusion substance cannot coexist with dependent arising, the Buddhadharma analyses the latter for the sake of realizing emptiness. The interdependent nature of phenomena is subjacent to the ultimate nature of phenomena. Even Tsongkhapa confirms this, for according to him Buddha-mind witnesses emptiness only (while simultaneously knowing how interdependent phenomena appear to ever-deluded sentient beings).

Taoism aims to understand the interdependent and changing nature of phenomena emerging from the empty, process-like absolute Tao. Interdependence is assessed by (a) apprehending how phenomena rise out of the absolute Tao (the object of the Flower Garland School) and (b) grasping how the ever-changing, ongoingness of the transformations of the "Ten Thousand Things" can be used to realize permanent health & longevity by way of Chi-circulation for the sake of fusing with the One (cf. infra) and attaining the state of the immortals ("hsien").

Identical fundamental categories (emptiness/absolute Tao and dependent arising/Tai Chi) are stressed differently. In Buddhism, realizing wisdom-mind stands out, in Taoism the 64 stages of the law of change & transformation. This reminds of Liu Hua-yang (1736 - 1846 ?) and his view on the complementarity between Buddhism & Taoism, seeing immortality and "Buddha-nature" as the same thing and stating Taoism is able to cultivate life, but not Buddha-nature, while Buddhism is able to cultivate the original spirit, but cannot lead to health or longevity.

Hence, in a metaphorical language, and grosso modo, we may say Buddhism and Taoism are like brother and sister. The masculine (Solar) approach of Buddhism aims at the direct realization of wisdom-mind (discussing interdependence in a secondary way, namely insofar as the analysis of the eleven effects of ignorance is at hand), while the feminine (Lunar) approach of Taoism is focuses on the five-phase elemental cycle (Wood-Fire-Earth-Metal-Water) and the 64 stages of interdependence to realize immortality, another name for awakening. The ultimate nature of reality is realized by probing the harmony between Heaven & Earth, not by surging into Heaven while leaving Earth behind (cf. Buddhist renunciation & Tantra). Buddhism aims at Heaven, Taoism at Earth ... Buddhism wants to escape Earth, Taoism wants to harmonize Earth with Heaven to attain spiritual immortality.

 4  The Tao : the Way in Absolute & Relative Terms.

{Ø} > 1 > 2 > 3 > ...

The Tao has an one absolute (non-differentiated) and various relative (differentiated) stages. These stages represent the absolute, self-existent Tao in various moments of self-determination. Each of them is the absolute Tao in a secondary, derivative and limited sense. The stage next to the absolute Tao, namely non-being or the One differs only slightly from the absolute Tao and so is almost the same.

(a) {Ø} The Absolute Tao - Uncreated and Creating :


The Absolute Tao or Mystery of Mysteries
The Nameless as Beyond All
the Great Mystery (black) & Gateway of Myriad Wonders (red)

So far we discussed the absolute Tao, non-local, non-temporal, non-differentiated, nameless, and empty of substance or inherent existence, without permanent and unalterable distinctions. This absolute Tao is beyond conceptualization and object of ecstatic, nondual apprehension.

"Even if we try to see it, it cannot be seen. In this respect it is called 'figureless'. Even if we try to hear it, it cannot be heard. In this respect it is called 'inaudibly faint'. Even if we try to grasp it, it cannot be touched. In this respect it is called 'extremely minute'. In these three aspects, it is totally unfathomable. They merge into One."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, chapter 14.

The absolute Tao is not turned towards phenomena, nor is it wholly self-referential. This "abstract of abstractions" cannot be conceptualized and named. It is Nameless. To reach the ultimate and absolute stage of the Way, we have to negate the opposition between being and non-being, positing "no no-non-being". This level can only be apprehended ecstatically, and this absolutely ineffable Lao-tzŭ symbolically calls the "Mystery of Mysteries". Mystery ("hsüan") originally means black with a mixture of redness. The absolute, unfathomable Mystery or "black" does reveal itself, at a certain stage, as being "pregnant" of the "Ten Thousand Things" or "red" in their stage of potentiality. In the Mystery of Mysteries being and non-being are not yet differentiated, and in this state "these two are one and the same thing".

Although the absolute Tao cannot be said to be turned towards the phenomena, in this utter darkness of the Great Mystery ("black"), a faint foreboding of the appearance of phenomena lurks ("red"). So the Mystery of Mysteries is also the "Gateway of Myriad Wonders". Hence, the "Ten Thousand Things" stream forth out of this Gateway !

So the absolute Tao ({Ø}) has two components :

1. a black component : the Great Mystery or ineffable utter darkness, absolutely invisible transcending being and non-being, the ultimate metaphysical state lacking even a shadow of possibility ;
2. a red component : the Gateway of Myriad Wonders, or the foreboding of all things as sheer possibility, pregnant with all things in potentia. This has again two components : the potential of non-being ("wu") and the potential of being ("yu").

(b) "1" WU : the One - Created Potential Non-Being :

The One :
The Nameless as Potentiality of Non-Being

When Lao-tzŭ introduces the Way as "the Granary of the Ten Thousand Things" (chapter 62), he aims at a stage slightly lower than the Mystery of Mysteries, the absolute Tao. At this stage, the Tao begins to manifest its creativity. The image of a "granary" conveys the sense all things are contained therein, not actually but in a state of potentiality. He refers to this aspect of the absolute Tao as "the eternal non-being", or "wu". At this stage, the absolute Tao is potentially already Heaven and Earth, i.e. being. Hence, the non-being referred to is not a passive Nothing, pure negative absence of being or existence (naught or zero), but a "something" in the sense of an "act", the act of existence itself or Actus Purus. It exists as the very act of existing and making things exist. This is called "the One".

"The Way does have a reality and its evidence. But (this does not imply that it) does something intentionally. Nor does it possess any (tangible) form. (...) It is the thing that makes the Heavenly Emperor divine. It produces Heaven. It produces Earth."
Chuang-tzŭ : Chuang-tzŭ, section 6 (translation by Izutsu).

This Actus Purus does not exist as a substance. In order not to reify it by way of concepts, the One can only be ecstatically intuited by "sitting in oblivion" (Chuang-tzŭ). The One is darkness not because it is deprived of light, but because it is too full of light, too luminous, i.e. Light Itself.

"A 'way' which is (too) bright seems dark."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, chapter 41.

From the point of view of the One itself, the One is bright. From the point of view of man, it is dark or Nothing. The One is the Great Singularity, a homogeneous & single plane not externally articulated, a unity ready to diversify, the absolute Tao as the principle of eternal and endless creativity. From the absolute Tao the One emerges as the unity of all things, the primordial unity in which all things lie hidden in a state of "chaos" without being as yet actualized as the Ten Thousand Things.

The One is the Unbounded Wholeness because it embraces in itself "the Ten Thousand Things under Heaven" (Tao-te ching, chapter 40) in the state of pure possibility or potency. The One is the "Urgund" of being.

If the absolute Tao is called "Nameless" because it is beyond all possible names, the One is called "Nameless" because for human consciousness it is as Nothing.

"The Way begets 'one' ; 'one' begets 'two' ; 'two' begets 'three' ; and 'three' begets the Ten Thousand Things. The Ten Thousand Things carry on their backs the Yin energy, and embrace in their arms the Yang energy and these two are kept in harmonious unity by the (third) energy emerging out of (the blending and interaction of) them."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, chapter 1 (translation by Izutsu).

(c) "2" YU : The Two - Created Potential Being :

The Two :
The Named as the Mother of the Ten Thousand Things
The Potentiality of Being

"The Nameless is the beginning of Heaven and Earth. The Named is the Mother of the Ten Thousand Things."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, chapter 1.

When it enters its first stage of "pure" self-manifestation or mere self-determination, Lao-tzŭ admits the One or active non-being assumes a positive "name". This name is "existence" or "being" ("yu"). The latter is also called "Heaven and Earth" ("t'ien ti"). The Way at this stage is not yet the actual order of Heaven and Earth, but only all possible things as "pure" being, i.e. again in potentia.

The One begets the Two : Heaven (Yang) and Earth (Yin), the cosmic duality. They are the self-evolvement of the absolute Tao, the Way itself. The One is the initial virtual point of self-determination of the Way, the Two brings about (as a mother) the possibility or probability of actuality and carries this over into actual reality. In this way, the One is the ontological ground of all things, acting as its ontological energy, while the Two develops this activity into a particular ontological structure, Yin and Yang and the Three, i.e. the blending & interaction between these ("Tai Chi"). Hence Heaven is limpid and clear, and Earth is solid and settled ...

The driving force giving to all things birth, growth, flourishing and return to its origin, allowing each and every thing to possess its own characteristics or nature, is nothing else than the absolute Tao as it actualizes Itself in a limited way in every thing or "Tai Chi", the universe of distance, dimensions, time, space and the world of interchangeable extremes where nothing is absolute.

"The Way is permanently inactive, yet it leaves nothing undone."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, chapter 37.

This happens naturally, without the Way "forcing" anything. Non-doing ("wu wei") is precisely letting each of the Ten Thousand Things be what they are of themselves. As the Way is not conscious of its own creative activity, it is unconscious of its results either. Infinitely gracious to all things, its activity is beneficial to all without counting the benefits and favors it never ceases to confer upon all things.

"It works, yet does not boast of it. It makes (things) grow, and yet exercises no authority upon them. This is what I would call the Mysterious Virtue."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, chapter 10.

 5  Taoist Metaphysics : Objective & Subjective Considerations.

Classical Taoism approached the absolute Tao from two directions : Lao-tzŭ articulated the creative activity of the Way (cosmology), while Chuang-tzŭ was more interested in the epistemological stages involved in the step-by-step ecstatic absorption into the Tao.

(a) The Cosmological Approach of Lao-tzŭ :

The objective side was the object of the previous paragraph.

Lao-tzŭ : the Cosmological Approach
Wu-Chi
Great Limitless

virtuality

emptiness Mystery of Mysteries
the absolute Tao
The
 Uncreated
The One
potential non-being or WU
The
Created
The Two
potential being or YU
actuality dependent
arising
Tai Chi
Great Ultimate
The Five Forces

(b) The Epistemological Approach of Chuang-tzŭ :

"When the discriminating spirit does not arise, aberrant fire goes out ; when aberrant fire goes out, true fire arises. When true fire arises, the harmonious energy is fertile and the mechanism of life does not cease ; so there is hope of attaining the universal Tao."
Liu I-Ming : The Inner Teachings of Taoism, in : Cleary, Th. : Op.cit., p.79.

Chuang-tzŭ is interested in the epistemological process preceding the final stage of illumination and tries to describe the experiential content at hand symbolically. The first point he considers is the centrifugal activity of the mind establishing boundary, fixed structure & limitation.

"The Way has absolutely no 'boundaries'. Nor has language absolutely any permanency. But (when the correspondence becomes established between the two) there arises real (essential) 'boundaries'".

Chuang-Tzŭ : Chuang-Tzŭ, II.

Futile verbalizations are caused by thinking one is a self-subsistent entity endowed with ontological independence (i.e. existing from its own side). This ego, the point of co-ordination of the disparate physical & mental elements of personality will cause the mind ("hsin") of an ordinary person to constantly move, going this way and then another way etc., and this in response to myriad impressions coming from the outside, attracting attention and arousing curiosity unceasingly. This centrifugal movement of the mind is like "sitting-galloping" ("tso ch'ih"), for while the body is sitting still, the mind is running around. This basic situation of the deluded mind is "shin hsin", or "making the mind one's own teacher", a disastrous situation. On an intellectual level, such a turbulent, dispersed mind has taken on a fixed, coagulated form, it is a "finished mind" ("ch'êng hsin"). Discriminating and passing judgments, such a mind falls deeper & deeper into the limitless swamp of ridicule and absurdity.

"Everybody follows his own 'finished mind' and venerates it as his own teacher. In this respect we might say no one lacks a teacher."
Chuang-tzŭ : Chuang-tzŭ, section 2 (translation by Izutsu).

Lao-tzŭ shares this view. He writes of a "constant or unchangeable mind" ("ch'ang hsin") loosing its natural "softness". Unnatural rigidity goes hand in hand with distinguishing and discriminating, perceiving right and wrong, good and bad etc.

"Thus the 'sacred man', while he lives in this world, keeps his mind wide open and 'chaotifies" his own mind toward all."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, chapter 49.

When the cognitive act, usually tending toward the outside, is curbed and brought back toward the inside, "illumination" ("ming") is the outcome. The centrifugal tendency must be turned into the centripetal direction.

"He who know others is a 'clever' man, but he who knows himself is an 'illumined' man."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, chapter 33.

The Tao is present in the "inside" of very human being. All humans are able to intuit the palpitating life of the Tao working there. The further one moves "outside", the less one is in touch with the Tao.

"Without going out of the door, one can know everything under Heaven. Even without peeping out of the window, one can see the working of Heaven. The further one goes out, the less one knows."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, chapter 47.

Chuang-tzŭ is interested in the process by which the phenomenal "returns" to the original state of absolute Unity, to the One. In order to do this, one has to totally "forget" the mental activity of the ego, resulting in "the void" ("hsü"). In this subjective spiritual state or attitude nothing obstructs the all-pervading activity of the Tao, and the activity of the mind corresponds with the structure of the Way itself. The void has no positive sense, it is totally negative (not virtual or potential), but identical with naught (mathematical zero or the total absence of nothingness). Then, "sitting-galloping" becomes "sitting-forgetting" or "sitting in oblivion".

"It means that all the members of the body become dissolved, and the activities of the ears and eyes become abolished, so that the man makes himself free from both form and mind, and becomes united and unified with the All-Pervader."
Chuang-tzŭ : Chuang-tzŭ, section 6 (translation by Izutsu).

The All-Pervader ("ta t'ung") is "ta Tao", the Great Way (cf. Ch'êng Hsüan Ying), for the Way pervades all things and enlivens them. One who lost ego rediscovers a "cosmic ego", freely transforming into all things transforming themselves into each other.

"Being unified, You have no liking. Being transmuted, You have no fixity".
Chuang-tzŭ : Chuang-tzŭ, section 6 (translation by Izutsu).

Thus transformed, the mind is like a clear, polished mirror, a firmly closed empty room mysteriously & calmly illuminating itself with a while light of its own.

"Look into that closed room and see how its empty 'interior' produces bright whiteness. All blessings of the world come in to reside in that stillness."
Chuang-tzŭ : Chuang-tzŭ, section 4 (translation by Izutsu).

Such a man cannot be intruded by things replacing one another before his eyes, for he maintains his "innermost treasure" "in a peaceful harmony with (all these changes) so that he becomes one with them without obstruction, and never loses his spiritual delight. (...) Such a state I would call the perfection of the human potentiality."
(Chuang-tzŭ, section 5).

Chuang-tzŭ : the Epistemological Approach
5. no death and no life
4. perceiving the Oneness
experiencing the Tao
3. to put life outside the mind opening the "inner eye"
2. putting the things outside the mind
1.
putting the world outside the mind
renunciation

Taking the ascending course, Chuang-tzŭ describes the stages by way of a conversation between the old Nü Yü and Nan Po Tzŭ K'uei, astonished at the young complexion of the old man.

These stages are as follows :

1. "putting the world outside the mind" & 2. "putting the things outside the mind" represent the external aspects of the world. Forgetting the world is the first stage of renunciation. Here, the "world" implies impersonal objects far from the mind. Next come the things needed in daily life, close to the ego. These are more difficult to forget, for they serve us daily and are very familiar to us.

These first two return in Buddhism as the Eight Worldly Concerns, all characterized by clinging (affirming, craving) & aversion (negating, rejecting) :

1. Attachment to getting & keeping material things.
2. Aversion to not getting material things or being separated from them.
3. Attachment to praise, hearing nice words, and feeling encouraged.
4. Aversion to getting blamed, ridiculed, and criticized.
5. Attachment to having a good reputation.
6. Aversion to having a bad reputation.
7. Attachment to sense pleasures.
8. Aversion to unpleasant experiences.

3. "to put life outside the mind" :

At this stage, the common ego is dropped and disappears from consciousness. When this happens, illumination immediately follows, for one's "inner eye" is opened and the "first light of dawn breaks through". The next two "stages" happen simultaneously and so occur all together after this inner eye has been opened :

4. "perceiving the absolute Oneness" :

When all and things become absolutely one, the opposition between object & subject is gone, for the seer and the seen are completely unified. Distinctions between "this" and "that" vanish, and the original unity of the One is restored in consciousness, timeless & abiding in the Eternal Now.

5. "no death and no life" :

As time has been transcended, all sense of sequence (past, present, future) is nullified and consciousness is in the midst of the Way, which is beyond life and death. Epistemological multiplicity is brought back to the absolute unity of the One. This is not a static state, but a dynamic non-movement, concealing within itself endless possibilities of action. This unity is itself a potential multiplicity and a stillness concealing a possible
unrestrained expression.

"That which kills life does not die. That which brings to life everything that lives does not live. By its very nature it sends off everything, and welcomes everything. There is nothing that it does not destroy. There is nothing that is does not perfect. It is, in this aspect, called 'Commotion-Tranquility' ('ying ning'). The name Commotion-Tranquility refers to the fact that it sets in turmoil and agitation and then leads them to tranquility."
Chuang-tzŭ : Chuang-tzŭ, section 6 (translation by Izutsu).

A certain parallel between these stages and the Five Paths of Kamalaśîla (ca. 700 - 750 CE) are apparent. The first two cover issues dealt with on the Path of Accumulation. The Path of Preparation preludes the opening of the inner eye, an event happening on the Path of Seeing. Entering this Path immediately initiates the work of the Ten Stages of the Superior Bodhisattva, finished in nine steps on the Path of Meditation (perceiving the One) and the Path of No More Learning (no death, no life).

 6  Ontological Tradition of the West.

"Chinese religion and philosophy did not have the other-worldly outlook of the Mesopotamian-Mediterranean beliefs, since in Chinese thought spirit and matter were not sharply divided ; both were held to operate together in the world of Nature, so when the body had been sufficiently purified and etherealized it could continue to exist in this world, or in the heavens, or both."
Cooper, J.C. : Op.cit., 1984, p.35.

Broadly speaking, the metaphysical tradition of Mediterranean thought, ranging from the start of the Pharaonic Period (ca. 3000 BCE) to the publication of Process and Reality (1929), can be characterized as substantialist, designating objects & subjects by attributing a fixed "core" or "essence" to them, an unchanging support as it were carrying their accidents, attributes or predicates. After nearly five millennia, this grand project can be said to have failed ! No reliable substance could be isolated.

Although this substantialist tradition evidences a vast complexity, it can be divided in four phases : Ancient Egyptian Heliopolitanism, Hellenism, Abrahamism & Modernism. Let me first summarize these grosso modo :

Heliopolitanism : before creation, in the vast, dark & undifferentiated Nun, the primordial ocean, the primordial Atum or "becoming totality" was "afloat" in a preexistent fashion. Heaven ("pet") and Earth ("ta") were not yet divided. At some point, Atum self-generated as the beginning of light (Re) and simultaneously divided in a company of nine primordial forces of nature ("paut" or "Ennead"), eventually actualizing as "Horus" ("heru"), "he upon high", the origin of the world-order presided by the divine king ("nesu"). The sky of Re was the world of self-subsistent lights ("akhu"), the ontological roots of all possible being. While this scheme is proto-substantial, it betrays a shamanistic intent bringing it close to what we found in Taoism ;

Hellenism : with the advent of formal thought, the pre-existent order is an Olympic world of being, and although Heraclitus evidences a non-substantial exception -even more apparent in the Orphic & Dionysian mysteries- the overall Hellenic concept is substantial, finally identifying an "idea of ideas" (Plato's "agathon") or an "Unmoved Mover" (Aristotle) at the origin of existence. In the philosophy of Plotinus, Greek substantial thinking reached its climax, positing a substance of substances (the Plotinian One) beyond the world of ideas. With this philosophy, the Greek inability to think emptiness, affirming relation as of lesser importance than independence, got epitomized ;

Abrahamism : the three religions "of the book" (Judaism, Christianity & Islam), inspired -in various meandering courses- by Heliopolitanism and the Ancient Egyptian heritage, worked out an onto-theology, an ontology of an objective, self-subsisting, substantial Supreme Being, conceptualizing it (a) in terms of the (neo)Platonic tradition, i.e. as a "summum bonum" (cf. Philo of Alexandria, Al-Kindi, Augustine) or (b) in tune with the Peripatetic emphasis on empirical reality (cf. Maimonides, Averroes, Thomas Aquinas). This ultimate God-as-substance created the world "ex nihilo", and is believed to be the ontological "imperial" root of all possible existence. Only in the more mystical traditions of these faiths do we find another, less positive affirmation of this substance-God's necessary supremacy : the negative veils "Ain", "Ain Soph" and "Ain Soph Aur" in Qabalah (Luria), the ineffable hyper-existence of God in negative theology (ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite, Marguerite Porete) and the unknowability of the Divine essence in Sufism (Ibn Arabi). But these refined mystical "apophatic" speculations were muted by the overall "katapathic" noise produced by the theologians, as always preoccupied by apologetic concerns and manipulative, power-based mass-indoctrination ;

Modernism : from the Renaissance onwards, empirism and rationalism become the two main organs of scientific thought, discarding fideism and the "revealed truths" of scriptures (Torah, New Testament, Koran), found to be man-made literary compilations of small scientific interest. Descartes designates three substances ("res extensa", "res cognitans" and God), whereas the empirists (Locke, Berkeley, Hume) try to erect the foundation of true knowledge on "sense data" (impressions derived from the five senses). Although intuitive knowledge is still part of the equation (cf. Cusanus, Spinoza), its role become fainter and then disappears. Finally, with Kant, substantialism comes under severe critical attack and neo-Kantianism validly argued why the possibility of knowledge cannot find a subjective (ideal) or objective (real) "sufficient ground" in anything outside the cognitive apparatus itself (cf. Criticosynthesis, 2008). Insofar as postmodernism does not leap into irrationalism (as protest philosophers like Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche & Bergson had done in the 19th century), a new kind of modular modernism or hyper-modernism may see the light.

Ending substantialism, process philosophy emerges as an alternative embracing the conclusions of relativity & quantum mechanics, heralding a radical paradigm shift. And although as yet the West has not really come to terms with process (still clinging to quasi-substantial forms of cognizing), there can be no doubt the process paradigm, integrating the core teachings of the Eastern "dharmic" view, as it appears in Buddhism & Taoism, is the paradigm of the future, integrating physical & social sciences, as well as the emerging green revolution of ecology.

(a) Ancient Egyptian Heliopolitan Cosmo-Metaphysics : Nun, Atum-Re, the Ennead & Horus.

Before rational thought rose as the result of the "Greek miracle", ante-rationalism (featuring mythical, pre-rational & proto-rational strands of cognition) dominated Antiquity. The oldest, most outstanding and longest example of this way of cognizing is given with Ancient Egyptian civilization. For more information : www.maat.sofiatopia.org.

Contrary to other cultures of the time, the Egyptians had a very pronounced interest in sapience (given formal thought was absent, the word "philosophy" is avoided), a fact recently acknowledged :

"Along with the Sumerians, the Egyptians deliver our earliest -though by no means primitive- evidence of human thought. It is thus appropriate to characterize Egyptian thought as the beginning of philosophy. As far back as the third millennium B.C., the Egyptians were concerned with questions that return in later European philosophy and that remain unanswered even today - questions about being and nonbeing, about the meaning of death, about the nature of the cosmos and man, about the essence of time, about the basis of human society and the legitimation of power."
Hornung, 1992, p.13.

Following characteristics of Egyptian thought played a prominent role in the constitution of Greek philosophy :

  • the words of god and the love of writing : in Ancient Egypt, it should be emphasized, both spoken and written words were very important : hieroglyphs were "divine words", endowed with magical properties, "set apart" and distinguished from everyday language and writing (in hieratic and later demotic). Pharaoh Unis (ca. 2378 - 2348 BCE) was the first to decorate his tomb with hieroglyphs to assure his ascension and subsequent arrival in heaven. Even if the offerings to his Ka would end, the hieroglyphs -hidden in the total obscurity of the tomb- contained enough "inner" power ("sekhem") to assure Wenis' felicity ad perpetuam ... While producing a vast literary corpus, Egyptian thought never reached the rational mode of cognition. Egypt's attachment to the contextual and the local, as well as the special pictorial nature of the "sacred script", all point to an ante-rational mentality, rooted in the mythical, pre-rational (pre-concepts) and proto-rational (concrete concepts) layers of early African cognition ;

  • accomplished discourse : the fundamental categories of Memphite philosophy were "heart/tongue/heart" insofar as theo-cosmology, logoism and magic were at hand and "hearing/listening/hearing" in moral, anthropological, didactical and political matters. The first category reflected the excellence of the active and outer (the father), the second the perfection of the passive and inner (the son). The active polarity was linked with Pharaoh's "Great Speech", which was an "authoritative utterance" ("Hu") and a "creative command" no counter-force could stop ("heka"). The passive polarity was nursed by the intimacy of the teacher/pupil relationship, based on the subtle and far-reaching encounters of excellent discourse with a perfected hearing, i.e. true listening. The "locus" of Egyptian wisdom was this intimacy ;

  • truth and the plummet of the balance : in Middle Egyptian, the word "maat" ("mAat") is used for "truth" and "justice" (in Arabic, "al-haq", is both "truth" and "real"). Truth is linked with a measurable state of affairs as given by the balance :

    "Pay attention to the decision of truth
    and the plummet of the balance, according to its stance !"
    Papyrus of Ani, Plate 3 - XXVIIIth Dynasty - British Museum

    This exhortation summarizes the practice of wisdom and its pursuit of truth found in Ancient Egypt. It also points to their philosophy of well-being and art of living happily & light-heartedly (for the outcome of the weighing is determined by the condition of the heart or mind alone). In this short sentence, the "practical method of truth" of the Ancient Egyptians springs to the fore : concentration, observation, quantification (analysis, spatiotemporal flow, measurements) & recording (fixating) with the sole purpose of rebalancing, reequilibrating & correcting concrete states of affairs, using the plumb-line of the various equilibria in which these actual aggregates of events are dynamically -scale-wise- involved, causing Maat (truth and justice personified as the daughter of Re, equivalent with the Greek Themis, daughter of Zeus - cf. "maâti" as the Greek "dike") to be done for them and their environments and the proper Ka, at peace with itself, to flow between all vital parts of creation. The "logic" behind this operation involves four rules : 

    1. inversion : when a concept is introduced, its opposite is also invoked (the two scale of the balance) ;

    2. asymmetry : flow is the outcome of inequality (the feather-scale of the balance is a priori correct) ;

    3. reciprocity : the two sides of everything interact and are interdependent (the beam of the balance) ;

    4. multiplicity-in-oneness : the possibilities between every pair are measured by one standard (the plummet).

Although Egypt had five schools of divinity (Memphis, Heliopolis, Hermopolis, Abydos & Thebes), the Pharaonic cult, with the divine king as "son of Re", was intimately connected with Heliopolis ("Iunnu"), the city of the supreme deity of the Pantheon, Re. The Heliopolitan cosmogony developed there dominated Egyptian thought for three millennia and indeed the whole Mediterranean basin, in particular its monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and metaphysics. The oldest text available to evidence this connection is the Pyramid Text of Unas.

Plan of the Valley temple and Pyramid-complex of Unas
(after Lehner, 1997, p.154)

King Unas, Unis or Wenis (ca. 2378 - 2348 BCE) was the last Pharaoh of the Vth Dynasty (ca. 2487 - 2348 BCE). His pyramid at Saqqara, called "Perfect are the Placed of Unas", is at the South-western corner of Djoser's enclosure and the smallest of all known Old Kingdom pyramids.

King Unas was also the first to include hieroglyphic inscriptions in his royal tomb, namely in its corridor, antechamber, passage-way & burial-chamber. The area around the sarcophagus and the serdab are left uninscribed. This coincides with a general increase of writing in general in the later Vth Dynasty. The Unas text, carved and filled with blue pigment, contains, in 228 of the 759 (Faulkner, 1969) known "utterances", the first historical account of the (Heliopolitan) religion of the Old Kingdom, in particular its royal cult. It precedes the textualization of the Vedas, reckoned at ca. 1900 BCE (Unas died ca. 2348 BCE).

"The Pyramid Texts reflect not only an Egyptian vision of the afterlife but also the entire background of Old Kingdom religious and social structures, and they incorporate an ancient worldview much different from that of more familiar cultures."

Allen, 2005, p.13.

Technically, the Pyramid Texts are a corpus consisting of "utterances" or "spells", so called because the expression "Dd mdw" ("Dd" = "word" ; "mdw" = "speech"), "to say" or "to say the words", i.e. the sacred words to be recited is, as a rule, atop most texts, allowing for a classification. The one introduced by
Sethe (1910, with 714 utterances), is an inventory of all texts, irrespective of the kind of text or its placement in the tombs.

Discovered by Maspero in 1881, the Unas text had been buried and left undisturbed for ca. 4200 years. An untainted primary religious source ! Together with the texts found in
the tombs of King Unas' successors, Pharaohs Teti, Pepi I, Merenre & Pepi II (ca. 2270 - 2205 BCE) of the VIth Dynasty, these compositions form the first known religious corpus in world literature, as well as the earliest example of extended writing worldwide (including a rich pallet of various styles, forms & intentions)

"... the Unas texts were evidently regarded as an integral work in their own right, and seem to have acquired 'canonical' status ..."
Naydler, 2005, p.149.

Maspero (1884, p.3) assumed these texts were exclusively funerary and divided them in ritual texts, prayers and magical spells. In the previous century, authors realized they include drama, hymns, litanies, glorifications, magical texts, offering rituals, prayers, charms, divine offerings, the ascension of Pharaoh, his arrival & settling in heaven, etc. They offer a glimpse of an African, ante-rational perspective on death, rebirth & illumination.

According to Allen (2005), the Pyramid Texts :

"are largely concerned with the deceased's relationship to two gods, Osiris and the Sun. Egyptologists once considered these two themes as independent views of the afterlife that had become fused in the Pyramid Texts, but more recent research has shown that both belong to a single concept of the deceased's eternal existence after death - a view of the afterlife that remained remarkably consistent throughout ancient Egyptian history."
Allen, 2005, p.7.

The direction of the texts was identical with the soul's path through the tomb, moving from the innermost parts of the burial-chamber (the "Duat" in the West), through the antechamber (the Eastern horizon or "Akhet"), to the outside of the pyramid via the second northern tunnel, flying to the Northern, circumpolar (imperishable) Stars, reaching the Field of Offering.

  • the Duat (burial-chamber) : though a part of the world (Earth), but neither Nun or sky, the Netherworld is inaccessible to the living and outside normal human experience. It is separate from the sky and reached prior to it. The Field of Reeds is the realm of the deceased and the deities and the mystery of Osiris. The Horus-king has perpetuated offerings, and stands at the door of the horizon to emerge from the Duat and start his spiritualization ;

  • the Horizon (antechamber) : "Axt" ("Akhet"), translated as "horizon", is both the junction of sky and Earth and a place in the sky underneath this point (before eastern dawn and after western dusk), a secret interstitial zone reached and crossed by boat. It is a zone of transition and a "radiant place", the "land of the blessed". The horizon is the place of becoming effective, the locus of the becoming "Ax" ("Akh"), an effective spirit. It summarized the king's passage through the night sky to the Sun at dawn. The process of spiritualization ends with the emergence of the new light ;

  • the Imperishable sky (northern corridor) : the process of transfiguration (ultimate spiritualization) being completed, the Akh-spirit leaves the tomb and ascends to the northern stars, becoming an Imperishable One.

Eyre (2002) suggests the training and initiation of the funerary priests points to this-life rituals. Perhaps the king rehearsed his forthcoming burial during life ?

"The promise of divine assistance, resurrection, and safe passage to the afterlife is not, however, a concern purely of funerary ritual, and the markedly initiatory form of parts of the mortuary literature must be taken as a pointer to contemporary 'this-life' ritual that is otherwise lost from the archaeological record."
Eyre, 2002, p.72.

Recently, Naydler (2005), by suspending the funerary interpretation, evidenced that the Pyramid Texts in general and the Unas texts in particular, reveal an experiential dimension, and so also represent this-life initiatic experiences consciously sought by the divine king (cf. Egyptian initiation). These may be classified in two categories : Lunar Osirian rejuvenation (cf. the texts of the burial-chamber), already at work in the Sed festival, and Solar Heliopolitan ascension (cf. the texts in the antechamber). Apparently the former was celebrated regularly, whereas the latter is foremost funerary.

Egyptian spirituality was two-tiered :

  1. VIA THE MOON : the (lower) sky of Osiris : the ultimate state of human blessedness is to live the life of an "Osiris NN", with a court, humbling servants and a kingdom situated in the vast darkness of the Duat (like creation is a bubble of moist air suspended in chaos). Even the smallest offer made with a sincere heart during earthly life might be enough to be helped by Isis or Osiris, and so the commoners made sure the holy family would notice them. This economy is inclusive of everyman, but conditional, except for Pharaoh - the Eye of Horus ;

  2. ENDING IN THE SUN : the (upper) sky of Re : the sky of Osiris and the sky of Re are proximate, and after the highest spirituality of servitude has been fulfilled, the "Ba" of the deceased is transformed, in the horizon, into an "Akh" of Re, sailing, among the other pure beings of light, on the Bark of Re, illuminating the beings of day and night, including the deities and the justified blessed dead of Osiris (who otherwise sleep). The sacred knowledge regarding this spiritual evolution was for the very few and, when first written down, portrayed in the tomb of kings only. This economy is exclusive of everyman, reserved to the deities (as the king and his high priests) and unconditional - the Eye of Re.

Summarizing the scholarly finding regarding these texts :

  • date of inception : the beginning of the IIIth Dynasty (ca. 2670 BCE) ;

  • aim of the texts : to assist the divine king in his royal cult, both during his life on Earth (namely through Lunar regeneration), and in the afterlife (to ascend to Re) ;

  • spatial semantics : there is a spatial symbolism at work in the actual placement of the texts in the chambers, passage-way & corridor : Lunar Duat (sarcophagus room) and Solar Akhet (antechamber) are at work in four directions : West (Duat, sarcophagus, false door, dusk), North (Imperishables, the sky of Re), South (cyclic stars, the inundation) & East (Eastern Horizon, rise of Re). The texts circumambulate the theme of the king's glorious being, both as a living Horus (a reigning monarch), a living Osiris (rejuvenated by the Sed festival) and, finally, a divine ancestor, a "power of powers" and "image of images", a god one with Atum ;

  • composition : the texts form a literary unity insofar as they represent a careful and conscious selection out of the available body of ritual utterances (cf. those found in the tomb of his successors plus very likely others). They are not narrative and do not represent the actual funerary ritual, nor the pyramid complex. As a ritual and magical anthology, they bring together all what is needed to bring about for the divine king his regeneration (in the Lunar Duat) and ascension (via the Solar Akhet) to the stellar Imperishables. The composition is not available as a linear narrative. There is matter of choice guided by spatial semantic, although an overall story-line is discernable ;

  • cognitive limitations : to back the unstable concepts of pre-rationality, a regression into myth is a common strategy, as are conservatism, contextualism and multiple approaches. As a lot of these myths are meaningless today, some connotations may seem pointless to a contemporary reader. Careful study of the images and the actual hieroglyphs used is often rewarding but seldom conclusive ;

  • hermeneutical typology : the Unas text contain short pieces of drama, hymns, litanies, glorifications, magical texts, offering rituals, prayers, protective charms and divine offerings. They invoke the regeneration of Osiris King Unas, the ascension of King Unas, his arrival in heaven, settling in heaven, eating the deities, etc. Predynastic, Heliopolitan, Hermopolitan, Osirian, royal, funerary, ecstatic, magical, occult & funerary registers can be isolated, making its unity and integration (in one tomb) even more remarkable.

The regeneration of the king happens against a specific cosmogonic background, given isolated attention in the Coffin Texts, composed later.

This cosmogony, influencing Greek cosmogony and the Abrahamic notion of a Creator-God creating ex nihilo, had several stages :

  • Nun : the unmanifested, chaotic sameness of everything ;

  • Atum : unmanifested light diffused in Nun ;

  • Atum-Kheprer : the unmanifested, self-created first occurrence of eternally recurrent light, splitting into a company of natural forces (the Ennead of deities) ;

  • Re : the manifest presence of Atum as light on the primordial "hill", the stable foundation escaping Nun.

"I was born in Nun before the Sky existed, before the Earth existed, before that which was to be made form existed, before turmoil existed, before that fear which arose on account of the Eye of Horus existed."
Pyramid Texts, utterance 486.

1. before creation : Nun : the container or milieu of the "Lord of Life" :

In precreation, nonexistence and nothingness are not identical. To be nonexistent is obviously to preclude actuality, but in Egyptian thought it never precludes the potentiality to come into existence, to become, transform or transmute. The latter is indicated by the verb "kpr", "Kheper". Hence, besides chaotic Nun, precreation also effectuates the capacity of autogenous creation or self-creation.

The issue of autogenous activity is another important concept. Light and life are spontaneous. Precreation is the conjunction of Nun and the sheer possibility of something preexisting as a nonexistent, virtual singularity. Precreation is the dual-union of Nun and Atum, of infinite energy-field and primordial atom.

Creation emerges from a monad, floating "very weary" (CT, utterance 80) in the dark, gloomy, lifeless infinity of Nun. Within the omnipresent substance of Nun, the possibility of order, light and life subsisted : a nonexistent object capable of self-creation ex nihilo. Hence, although Nun is nowhere and everywhere, never and always, it is the primordial, irreversible and everlasting milieu in which the eternal potential of creation creates itself.

The state-of-no-state is not identical with nothingness, the void.
For nothingness is absolute zero, as opposed to "virtual" zero, i.e. the virtual (empty) set V = {Ø}. Z = 0 does not define anything, and hence refers to nothing. Virtual nonexistence holds the possibility of a future ordered series of elements, i.e. the idea of all possibility, but absolute zero precludes existence as well as becoming. Precreation is not the absolute zero of nothing, but the virtual oneness of a monadic, autogenous potential to complete creation within the milieu of the limitless waters.

"Les Égyptiens ne rencontrent l'unicité absolue de dieu qu'en dehors du monde et de la création, durant la transition fugace entre la non-existence et l'existence. Par ses travaux créatifs, le premier - et à l'origine le seul dieu, disperse l'unicité primordiale en une multiplicité et une diversité de manifestations : ainsi, en dépit de multiples caractéristiques communes, chaque dieu est unique et incomparable."
Hornung, 1986, p.169, my italics.

2. during creation : Atum : he who is a virtual completeness :

Atum, who "created what exists" and who is the "Lord of all things" (CT, utterance 306), "Lord of All" (CT, utterance 167), "Lord of Everything" and "Lord of Life" (CT, utterance 534), is "the origin of all the forces and elements of nature" (Allen, 1988, p.9). His name is a form of the verb "tm", probably a noun of action, meaning both "complete, finish" and "not be". Indeed, Atum completes creation without belonging to the created order.


"Sur le plan de la philologique, nous évoluons sur des bases fermes car des termes égyptiens tels que tm wnn et nn wn sont sans conteste des négations du verbe 'être' - le premier refermant un verbe négatif, le dernier une particule. Il y a ausi l'adjectif relatif négatif (jwtj / jwtt) et un substantif qui en dérive ; littéralement, ces termes ne peuvent signifier que 'ce qui n'est pas' ou 'ce que n'existe pas'. Les Égyptiens établissent, en outre, une distinction nette entre le verbe 'être', 'devenir' et 'vivre'."
Hornung, 1986, pp.157-158.

Anthes (1957) translates Atum as "he who is integral", Bonnet as "he who is not yet complete". Kees (1941) opts for "he who is not present yet" or "he who does not yet exist completely", whereas Hornung (1986) chooses "he who is differentiated", eliminating the important connotation of the alternation-point between a mere potential (in precreation) and its actualization ...

"To say : Hail to You, Atum ! Hail to You, Kheprer, the self-created ! May You be high in this your name of 'Height'. May You come into being in this your name of Kheprer."
Coffin Texts, utterance 587 - § 1587

Both Nun and Atum received the epithet "father of the gods". Everlasting darkness and the efficient and dynamical, autogenous creativity have to be thought together and separately. Both form the dual-unity of precreation, the first of a set of equilibrated scalings, or monuments of opposites in balance (before creation, during creation, in creation and after creation). Atum spontaneously manifests as a seed floating in Nun, initiating the divine time of the deities. He completes creation by generating, before and outside creation, the forces ruling creation.

3. the First Occurrence :

A third major concept besides Nun and Atum is introduced : the "zep tepi" or "first occurrence". It stand between the moment of Atum's self-creation and the emergence of actuality (as Earth, sky and horizon).

Atum creates Atum on the first moment of the "zep tepi" ("zp tpi"), the "first occurrence" or "first time". Before that moment, no order, light or life preexisted. Precreation and Nun coincided. But on this instance, the patterns of existence were established and enacted. Creation was thus initiated by the distinction between the surrounding waters (Nun) and the primordial seed. Atum creates himself ex nihilo. He is not a transformation of a previous state. Nun is not changed because of Atum. Before this monad self-created, lifeless nonexistence prevailed. With this monad, nonexistence is divided into the chaotic waters and the seed of order, light and life. Atum represents the spontaneous potential of precreation to manifest creation, and because Atum self-creates, there is nothing anterior to this monad, except the liquid space of disorder and darkness.

This difficult notion is touched upon in this remarkable text :

"I am Nun, the sole one, without equal. That is where I (Atum) came into being on the
great occasion of my floating when I came into being. I am he who flew up, who came into being {...} who is in his egg. I am the one who began therein, (in) the Nun, and see : the chaos-gods came out of me, see, I am hale. I brought my power into being through my power. I am the one who made myself and I formed myself at my will according to my desire. (...)."
Coffin Texts, utterance 714 : the second first person refers to Atum, not Nun as the rest of the passage makes clear (nowhere is the name "Atum" mentioned).

Atum creates and completes the world for his own pleasure and according to his own heart (or divine mind - cf. Memphite theology). The reason why something came out of Nun is explained as Atum pleasing himself (the image of masturbation), not parenthood. Paradoxically, creation starts in precreation. To understand this, we need another concept, which the Egyptians derived from their sense of time : the timelessness of the eternal cycle of creation.

Ancient Egyptian Temporality

Phenomenal Time "of men on Earth"
at
("At")
moment, instant, small portion of time, culmination time unit of phenomenal time
ahau
("aHaw")
period, space of time, lifetime, man's age collection of time-units
Eternal time : the repetition and duration "of the gods"
neheh
("nHH")
timelessness - first time, eternity, eternal and unending repetitions Atum-Re, the deities and the blessed  dynamical, cyclic
djedet
("Ddt")
no-time, to be permanent, stable, enduring, everlasting Nun, the Ogdoad and the mysteries of Osiris, static, linear

With Atum and the first occurrence, no actual thing is positioned, but only the divine structure necessary to manifest the real. Indeed, only the formal conditions of creation are given (i.e. an outline of its elements and forces). Atum as it were contemplates his creation-to-be "in his heart" before a solid place emerges (definite forms of matter exist). The "zep tepi" is the eternity of the divine mind, the demiurge or architect of creation itself. As such, it is conceived as outside creation, although it always preludes it.

The first occurrence unfolds at the moment creation starts with the spontaneous emergence of Atum ex nihilo. Atum's self-generation and the creation of space ("Shu") and moist ("Tefnut") within the substance of the monad are simultaneous and take place before actual things come into existence.
Atum autogenerates for his own pleasure and by doing so immediately & simultaneously gives birth to Shu & Tefnut, the start of a chain of ordered structures (the Ennead or the sequence {1, 2, 3} U {4, 5} U {6, 7, 8, 9}). This first time is the imaginal continuum of natural parameters preparing to create and sustain reality. This is the divine mind with its infinite number of names, attributes and functions.

"... the concept of the Ennead describes the interrelationships between nine fundamental forces and elements of the Egyptian universe. Of these, four are primarily operative in the world of life and death as its exists after the creation. Osiris and Isis, Seth and Nephthys represent the opposing but balanced principles of order and disorder, growth and destruction, and the transmission of life."
Allen, 1988, p.8.

With the emergence of "ta-Tenen", the "first land" rising out of precreation (cf. the islands emerging after the inundation), i.e. the primordial Earth (cf. the hypostyle hall in the Egyptian temple), and with the first Sun-ray (of Horus-Re in the sky) touching it (cf. the Benben, the prototype for later obelisks, as a petrified beam), the first occurrence is over.

Nun

uncreated
not creating

precreation

everlastingness
djedet

Atum
& Ennead

uncreated
creating

eternal first time
neheh

Horus, Re
& Pharaoh

created
not creating

creation

phenomenal time

Atum
& Osiris

uncreated
creating

postcreation

eschatological time

Atum causa sui means an endless (re)generative capacity rooted ex nihilo (as "zep tepi") in the boundless chaos of the primordial ocean, creating everything for its own pleasure. The first occurrence is timeless & eternal but not everlasting (for given to an eternal cycle of recurrence).

How to identify substantialism here ?

Nun acts as the undifferentiated, primordial "stuff" of creation. This chaos remains at the background even after creation is initiated. In many ways, Nun represents the mythical deep-structure or matrix of ante-rational cognition. But with Atum, who self-generates (causa sui), the self-subsisting nature of existents is underlined. Atum is not produced by Nun, remaining passive, but by "putting his own seed in his own mouth", i.e. Atum generates Atum (cf. logical identity). The deities are the forces of nature rooted in this recurrent self-creative act of the fugal Atum. But given the "split" of Atum in Shu (heaven) & Tefnut (moist), occurring simultaneously with Atum's self-creation, we may say substantialist fixation is minimal.

Indeed, Egyptian ante-rational thought has a fugacity defying the permanence first given with Greek concept-realism. Nevertheless, creation cannot exist without the quasi-permanent, eternally recurrent Ennead and so in Heliopolitan thought, the forces of nature (starting with Atum creating Atum) and their harmonious concert (represented by Maat and the balance) represent the first stirring of the substantialist intention to fixate objects from their own side. The deities are projected "outside" and represent the luminous constants of creation. To return to these Polar "Imperishables" is the goal of Pharaoh's transformation, who tries to escape the Lunar vicissitudes of the Osirian realm, the Duat. Although truly African, and rooted in Shamanism and its awareness of the ongoing processes of nature, Egyptian spirituality tries to isolate and exalt the "fixed stars" in the various constellations of nature, while remaining aware of the constant unpredictable change undergone by the latter (cf. the strange attractor ruling the flood of the Nile).

Heliopolitanism represents substantialism in its ante-rational stage, still steeped in the dynamics of the natural world, but trying to escape it by establishing the first solid foundations (the primordial hill) upon which to erect a lasting Pharaonic model, transcending changing opposites in a higher, more enduring order (cf. the plummet of the scales of Maat). Just as Pharaoh assimilated the magical powers of the pre-historical great sorceress without eliminating her (cf. the Wadjet on the brow of the royal crown) and represents the quest for a stablility encompassing all opposites, Heliopolitanism integrates elements of Shamanism while introducing the need to find a solid, enduring (cyclical) order of proto-substances, of the deities rooted in the self-creating, fugal Atum-Re, and of the divine king who is the sole deity incarnating his spirit on Earth.


(b) Hellenism : Formal Reason and Concept-Realism.

From a philosophical point of view, the fact the Greek word "nous" (mind, thinking, perceiving) may be derived from the Egyptian "nw", "to see, look, perceive, observe", is noteworthy. The "logoic" nature of Greek philosophy, as well as its preoccupation with "aletheia" or "truth", are thus possibly linearizations of the Memphite philosophy to be found in both the work of Ptahhotep, the sapiental authors, and the theology of the priests of Ptah.

In their ante-rational discourse, the pre-Socratics sought the foundation or "archē" of the world. It explained existence as well as the moral order. For Anaximander of Miletus (ca. 611 - 547 BCE), the cosmos developed out of the "apeiron", the boundless, infinite and indefinite (without distinguishable qualities). Later, Aristotle would add : immortal, Divine and imperishable.

The Archaic, pre-Socratic stratum of the "Greek Miracle" was itself layered :

  • Milesian "archē", "phusis" & "apeiron" : the elemental laws of the cosmos are rooted in substance, which is all ;

  • Pythagorian "tetraktys" : the elemental cosmos is rooted in numbers which form man, gods & demons ;

  • Heraclitian "psuche" & "logos" : a quasi-reflective self-consciousness, symbolical & psychological ;

  • Parmenidian "aletheia" : the moment of truth is a decision away from opinion ("doxa") entering "being" ;

  • Protagorian "anthropos" : man is the measure of all things and the relative reigns.

The Eleatic effort (cf. Parmenides of Elea (ca. 515 - 440 BCE), inspired by Pythagoras of Samos (ca. 580 BCE - 500)), to posit the necessity of logic & unity was turned into rhetoric by the wandering Sophists. By so introducing the relativity of thought (skepticism and humanism), they prompted a new quest for a comprehensive system. In it, the various facets developed since Thales of Miletus (ca. 652 - 545 BCE) would have to be brought together in such a way that true knowledge would remain certain and eternal (and not circumstantial and probable).

"Nothing exists. If anything existed, it could not be known. If anything did exit, and could be known, it could not be communicated."
Gorgias of Leontini : On What is Not, or On Nature, 66 - 86.

The systems of Plato (428 - 347 BCE) & Aristotle (384 - 322 BCE) are also a reply to the Sophists. Protagorian relativism is wrong. To refute this skepticism, i.e. the unwillingness to accept there is only "doxa", opinion, not "aletheia", truth, Classical philosophy opts for substantialism, the idea some permanence exists in the things that change. This core or essence is subjective or objective. In the former, it is a subject modified by change while remaining "the same", acting as the common support of its successive inner states. In the latter, it is the real stuff out of which everything consists, allowing the manifestation of the real world "out there".

Both Plato & Aristotle are concept-realists, and their systems are examples of foundational thinking. Truth is eternalized and static. Concept-realism will always ground our concepts in a reality outside knowledge. Plato cuts reality in two qualitatively different worlds. True knowledge is remembering the world of ideas. Aristotle divides the mind in two functionally different intellects. To draw out & abstract the common element, an intellectus agens is needed. The first substance is "eidos", i.e. the form, or Platonic idea realized in matter (cf. hylemorphism).

The foundationalism inherent in concept-realism seeks permanence and cannot find it. It therefore ends the infinite regress ad hoc and posits something to be possessed by the subject. This is either an object of the mind (a permanent soul) or an object of the world (the permanent stuff of reality). Greek concept-realism seeks substance ("ousia") and substrate ("hypokeimenon"). This core is permanent, unchanging and existing from its own side. In a further reification of this foundationalism, subtle substance is introduced, and the eternalizing tendency gives rise to "universalia", eternal ideas (in the mind of God).

Substance is the eternal, permanent, unchanging core or essence of every possible thing, existing from its own side, and never an attribute of or in relation with any other thing.

So Greek concept-realism, in tune with the  tendency of thought to fossilize and substantialize, developed these two radical answers and two major epistemologies : the Platonic and the Peripatetic. These were foremost intended to serve ontology, the study of "real" beings and being, as does the logic that underpins them. Indeed, neither Plato or Aristotle developed the quantitative view of the world as proposed by Democritus of Abdera (ca. 460 - 380/370 BCE). Their systems are devoid of mathematical physics.

In Greek concept-realism, concepts must refer to something "real". Our thoughts are always about some thing. The "real" is a sufficient ground guaranteeing the identity of every thing. For these Greeks, the "real" had to be universal ("ta katholou", or applicable everywhere and all the time). Either these universals exist by themselves outside the sensoric world (the real is ideal) or they only exist as the form of things in each individual thing (the ideal is real). In the former, a cleavage occurs and dualism emerges (between being and becoming), in the latter, a monism ensues.

For Plato , strongly influenced by Pythagoras and the Eleatics, there is a real, Divine world of ideas "out there" or, as in neo-Platonism, "in here", a transcendent realm of Being, in which the things of this fluctuating world participate. Ideas are those aspects of a thing which do not change.

Obviously then, truth is the remembrance (anamnesis) of (or return to) this eternally good state of affairs, conceived as the limit of limits of Being or even beyond that. These Platonic ideas, like particularia of a higher order, are no longer the truth of this world of becoming but of another, better world of Being, leaving us with the cleaving impasse of idealism : Where is the object ?

The Platonic ideas exist objectively in a reality outside the thinker. Hence, the empirical has a derivative status. The world of forms is outside the permanent flux characteristic of the former, and also external to the thinking mind and its passing whims. A trans-empirical, Platonic idea is a paradigm for the singular things which participate in it ("methexis"). Becoming participates in Being, and only Being, as Parmenides taught, has reality. The physical world is not substantial (without sufficient ground) and posited as a mere reflection. If so, it has no true existence of its own (for its essence is trans-empirical). Plato projects the world of ideas outside the human mind. He therefore represents the transcendent pole of Greek concept-realism, for the "real" moves beyond our senses as well as our minds. To eternalize truth, nothing less will do.

Aristotle (384 - 322 BCE) rejects the separate, Platonic world of real proto-types, but not the "ta katholou", the generalities ("les généralités", "die Allgemeinen"), conceived, as concept-realism demands, in terms of the "real", essential and sufficient ground of knowledge, the foundation of thought. So general, universal ideas do exist, but they are always immanent in the singular things of this world. There is no world of ideas "out there". There is no cleavage in what "is" and there is only one world, namely the actual world present here and now. The indwelling formal and final causes of things are known by abstracting what is gathered by the passive intellect, fed by the senses, witnessing material and efficient causes. The actual process of abstraction is performed by the intellectus agens, a kind of Peripatetic "Deus ex machina", reflective of the impasse of realism : Where is the subject ?

"The faculty of thinking then thinks the forms in the images, and as what is to be pursued or avoided is already marked out for it in these forms, the faculty can, by being engaged upon the images, be moved, and this also in a way independent from perception."
Aristotle : De Anima, III.7.

How is this first intellect able to derive by abstraction the universal on the basis of the particular ? How does it recognize the forms in the images without (Platonic) proto-types ? Even a very large number of particulars does not logically justify a universal proposition, as Aristotle knew. Induction has no final clause, for all past causes can never be known. How does this active intellect then recognize the similarities between properties offered by the passive intellect, if not by virtue of a measure which is independent from perception (and so again introducing a world of ideas) ?

Aristotle posits the objective forms in the actual world. In the latter, both being and becoming operate. This was a major step forward, for ontological dualism is explicitly avoided, although implicitly reintroduced within psychology. The forms are realized in singulars, but known by accident of a universal intellect he does not study. For him, the "real" is known through the senses and the curious abstracting abilities of the mind. The workings of the intellectus agens remain dark. This concept-realism is immanent. All things are explained in terms of four causes : causa materialis, causa efficiens, causa formalis and causa finalis. Experience of the first two causes, triggers the process of cognition and knowledge of material bodies. Abstracting the last two causes, allows one to understand the "form" or essence of things.

In Platonic concept-realism, one cannot avoid asking the question : How can another world be the truth of this world ? The ontological cleavage is unacceptable. Peripatetic thought summons a psychological critique, for how can the human soul possibly know anything if not by virtue of this remarkable active intellect ? Both reductions are problematic. Because they try to escape, in vain, the Factum Rationis, and so represent the two extreme poles of the concordia discors of thought, they form an apory. Plato, being an idealist, lost grip on reality. Aristotle, the realist, did not fully probe his own mind. Composite forms of both systems do not avoid the conflict, although they may conceal it better. The crucial tension of thought was not solved by Greek concept-realism.

(c) Abrahamic Traditions : God as Caesar.

"The notion of God as the 'unmoved mover' is derived from Aristotle, at least so far as Western thought is concerned. The notion of God as 'eminently real' is a favourite doctrine of Christian theology. The combination of the two into the doctrine of an aboriginal, eminently real, transcendent creator, at whose fiat the world came into being, and whose imposed will it obeys, is the fallacy which has infused tragedy into the histories of Christianity and of Mahometanism. (...) The Church gave unto God the attributes which belonged exclusively to Caesar."
Whitehead, A.N. : PR, §§ 519 - 520.

The monotheisms introduce theo-ontology : existence is created by the revealed God. This singular God is the sole Supreme Being, the substantial absolute of absoluteness creating a plural creation ex nihilo. As the "summum bonum", God does not tolerate evil, considered as the mere absence of goodness ("privatio boni"). In these religions, the focus is not on truth & ontology, but on salvation, the restoration of the link with God. But in the process of erecting the salvic model, a theology was invented build upon Greek concept-realism. This superstructuring of religious experience using "heathen" intellectual constructs would prove to be detrimental to the survival of fundamental theology.

These religious philosophies tried to bring faith and reason together, but failed. By identifying the mind of God with Plato's world of ideas, the Platonists had to exchange Divine grace for intuitive reason. The Peripatetics introduced perception as a valid source of knowledge and so prepared the end of Christian theology, the rational explanation of the "facts" of revelation. There seemed to be no facts after all !

When Peripatetic metaphysics got integrated in monotheist theology, the end of fundamental theology could not be far off. Indeed, how to assimilate the more empirical approach of Aristotle without harming the God of revelation ? As soon as the natural world became focus of attention, the "facts" of revelation could no longer be believed at their face value. Moreover, Aristotle's concept of the "Unmoved Mover" reaffirmed the general Greek prejudice against relationality, identifying objects entertaining relationships with other objects as of "lower rank" compared to objects removed from empirical actuality, looking down at the world from their unmoved Olympic heights.

Indeed, for Thomas Aquinas
(1225 - 1274), the relation between God and the world is a "relatio rationis", not a real or mutual bond. This scholastic notion can be explained by taking the example of a subject apprehending an object. From the side of the object only a logical, rational relationship persists. The object is not affected by the subject apprehending it. From the side of the subject however, a real relationship is at hand, for the subject is really affected by the perception of the object. According to Thomism, God is not affected by the world, and so God is like an object, not a subject ! The world however is affected by this object-God, clearly not "Emmanuel", God-with-us. Hence, the relationship between God and the world is deemed not to be reciprocal. If so, the world only contributes to the glory of God ("gloria externa Dei"). The finite is nothing more than a necessary "explicatio Dei". This is the only way the world can contribute to God.

In the line of this reasoning, the monotheist God, like a Caesar of sorts, is omnipotent and omniscient. This means God knows what is possible as possible, what is presently real as real and also the future of what is real. Moreover, God can do what He likes and so is directly responsible for all events. These views make it however impossible not to attribute all possible evil, like the slaying of the innocent, to God ! Such a theology turns the good God into a brutal monster or proves the point He cannot exist (cf. Sartre). Finally, free will cannot be combined with this view of God as the sufficient condition of all things, for freedom only harmonizes with a view of God as the necessary condition.

In a philosophical discourse on the Divine influenced by the data of science, no longer a priori -as a handmaiden- forced to take sides with the dogma's of revelation, these inconsistencies in monotheist theology could no longer be maintained. Fundamental theology was finally shipwrecked, and the distinction between the discourse of faith and the reasons of metaphysics became more pertinent (cf. deism). The Age of Enlightenment would eliminate the more "scientific" pretensions of the revelations (like the story of creation, geocentrism, the position of woman, slavery and other contra-factual & immoral views), and by the beginning of the XXth century, relativity & quantum mechanics introduced a new, post-Newtonian view on spatio-temporality and the physical categories of determination (replacing efficient causality with neo-causality, interaction, statistical probabilism, teleological determination, etc.). The Judeo-Christian socio-political grip on humanity was incapacitated. In Islam, the revolution of "an age of enlightened reason" is still on its way and can today be felt in the so-called "European Islam".

Clearly, a new philosophical view on God is needed.

(d) The Renaissance and Modern Scientific Thought.

Influenced by the "Orientale Lumen" and Arabic scholarship, the cultural movement known as "the Renaissance", born in Florence as early as the 14th century and spreading over Europe in the following three centuries, placed the human phenomenon center stage, rediscovered Late Hellenism and tried to end Catholic supremacy on knowledge, learning and the arts. The "via antiqua" was over. Times of religious turmoil were at hand. The Renaissance and its humanism sparked the Reformation and other debates & conflicts. With the French Revolution (1789) the political translation of modernist thinking was on its way.

Renaissance thinking is still foundational. It still clings to substance in terms of the Platonic world of ideas being the mind of God, or posits a Peripatetic active intellect able to abstract the essential core of sense objects. Saturated with centuries of Christian idealism, substance itself was not (yet) rejected, only its fixation in terms of the Judeo-Christian & Catholic monopoly. Renaissance thinkers are self-conscious. With the birth of reflection as a cultural phenomenon, European thought was liberated from the chains of authority and magisterial dogmas. As reflection was immature, only the intellectual freedom to do so was demanded, so the fundamental substances could be scrutinized by facts & arguments, unassuaged by oppressing clerical influence.

The ontological system of René Descartes (1596 - 1650) foresaw three fundamental substances : "res cogitans" or the thinking substance (consciousness), "res extensa" or the extended substance (matter) and God. The ontologies after him return to this division and either introduce reductions (of mind to matter, or matter to mind) or rename the Cartesian triad, this summary of all previous ontologies. Descartes himself was not a reductionist. The three substances have their own kind of (interacting) existence. Mind points to consciousness and its freedom. Matter is limited and bound to cause & effect. God is the ultimate guarantee things happen as they happen.

Leibniz (1646 - 1716) occupies a central place in both philosophy and science. He invented the infinitesimal calculus independently of Newton, with a notation in general use since then, as well as the binary system, making him the founding father of all modern computer architectures ... He also made contributions to physics, technology, anticipated notions surfacing later in biology, medicine, geology, probability theory, psychology, linguistics, information science, politics, law, ethics, theology, history & philology !

In philosophy, Leibniz was an optimist. In his theodicy, he explains the world as the best possible combination available to God. Ontologically, Leibniz was not a triadist or a monist but a pluralist, focusing on how a plurality of substances can form a unity. In his view, there are infinitely many simple substances (monads).

In his The Monadology, Leibniz explains how monads are metaphysical points, animate points or metaphysical atoms. In contrast to atomism, they are not extended (not bodies). Neither are they immaterial ! Monads consist of two principles inseparable from each other, but together constituting a complete substance. The innermost center of a monad, i.e. the mathematical point, where the entelechy, soul or spirit is located, is its inner form. This has no existence in itself, but is incarnated in a physical point or an infinitesimally small sphere, which is the "vehicle of the soul". This hull consists of a special matter, called primary matter ("materia prima"). Monads have "no windows" or portals. So nothing can enter them from the outside or could escape from the inside. Despite this, the monad, in a spontaneous act, represents the surrounding world with an individual perspective, constituted by its punctual inner structure of centre, radius and circumference.

In his Ethica, Spinoza (1632 - 1677) rethinking Descartes and Leibniz, tries to prove his monist version of rationalism "de more geometrico". With the Spinozist definition of "substance" (nature or God), the rational definition of substance matured. The stuff of existence is an infinite, closed, solitary, singular, unchanging, eternal & everlasting monad from its own side, the only free Supreme Being, an abstract "God" (also called "Nature") or "Godhead", the root of theo-ontology, involved in the permanent direct experience "Face-to-Face" of God with God.

"By God, I mean the absolutely infinite Being - that is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each expresses for itself an eternal and infinite essentiality."
Spinoza : Ethics, Part I, definition VI.

"That thing is called 'free', which exists solely by the necessity of its own nature, and of which the action is determined by itself alone. That thing is inevitable, compelled, necessary, or rather constrained, which is determined by something external to itself to a fixed and definite method of existence or action."
Spinoza : Ethics, Part I, definition VII.

At the end of the XVIIIth century, a variety of ontological systems had been proposed and substantialism had come under severe attack by empirism. What if only direct experience is valid ? Is there a permanent, fixed Archimedean "support" or sufficient ground outside or inside the subject of experience ? Perhaps science, in the sense of eternalizing statements about the world, is impossible, as Hume (1711 - 1776) conjectured ? Moreover, how can two contradictory answers to the same question, seeming equally reasonable, be both true (cf. "antinomies") ?

Kant (1724 - 1804) deemed the situation, giving him sleepless nights, scandalous, and his Kritik der reinen Vernunft (KRV) initiated the "Copernican Revolution" of philosophy.

This major revolution in Western thought and its strong influence on the critical tenets of contemporary epistemology have been studied elsewhere.

 7  A New Theology.

"God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers ? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives : who will wipe this blood off us ? What water is there for us to clean ourselves ? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us ? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it ?"
Nietzsche, F. : Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (section 125 : The Madman).

(a) Reasons to Resuscitate God ...

When Nietzsche's madman cried "God is dead", he was pointing to the "God" of scholasticism, in particular the Christian God construed in terms of the Apollinic (Platonic) model. So he is not lamenting the physical death of an "imaginary being" called "God", but the end of an external, absolute basis for morality, leaving humanity with the responsibility of coming up with our own morality. This burden may be too great for ordinary mortals, and so only an "Übermensch" has the strength to live in a Godless world without falling into nihilism.

So for Nietzsche, the death of this God implies we are no longer able to believe in any such cosmic order. We no longer recognize it. The death of this God will lead, so Nietzsche thought, to the rejection of a belief in a cosmic order but also to a rejection of absolute values themselves and the adherence to an objective and universal moral law, binding upon all individuals. And for ordinary men (the Nazi "Untermenschen"), this conjectured loss of an absolute basis for morality leads to nihilism.

Besides the fact Nietzsche's proposed Dionysian Will at the core of his irrational protest philosophy remains dependent on the Platonic (Apollinic) "summum bonum" he rejected, being its mere reversal, there are valid reasons to doubt whether the dead of the monotheist "Deo revelatio" indeed leads to the rejection of a cosmic order or nihilism. Firstly, because the Christian God is not the best model of God available and secondly, because there are good reasons to resuscitate the idea of God. Let us first discuss these reasons.

1. Reasons from Logic :

1.1 The Argument of the First Conserver from Conservation :

"All the conserving causes simultaneously concur for the conservation of an effect ; if, therefore, in the order of conserving causes we go on ad infinitum, then an infinite number of things would be actually existing at the same time. This, however, is impossible ..."
Ockham : Questionis in lib. I Physicorum, Q.cxxxvi.

For William of Ockham (1290 - 1350), who took the equipment to develop his terminist logic from his predecessors, empirical data were primordial and exclusive to establish the existence of a thing. So the only way to prove God's existence would be as efficient cause of all things, remaining within the finite order. Indeed, Ockham stops at the first efficient cause. The reasons for this move also explain his rejection of the arguments of God from necessity and from perfections. Infinite transcendence is thus avoided. But to identify this cause with God is not possible, for this cause could be a heavenly body (Quodlibet). It cannot be proved this supposed heavenly body is caused by God, for we have only immediate and mediate sense data of corruptible things, not of any transcending concept.

In the traditional argument from efficient causes, it is assumed an infinite regress in causes of the same kind is not possible. The world was deemed finite and the world of ideas infinite. For the scholastics, to say the world is infinite is sheer blasphemy, for it ruins the strict line drawn by these theists between a finite creation and an infinite Creator. In such a context, free natural inquiry is repressed. For Ockham, the finitude of the world cannot be strictly demonstrated. Maybe an infinite series exists, maybe not. All previous proofs presupposed the truth of the proposition "The world is not infinite.", but this is not necessarily so. Nevertheless, probabilities may be assessed and calculated.

To avoid the question of the infinite ingress in time, i.e. as a horizontal sequence of interacting and interdependent efficient causes, Ockham's argument ingeniously jumps to the actual, vertical order of events "here and now", i.e. as they are happening in every moment. By doing so, it avoids an infinite regress, for it is a solid logical premiss to affirm the world is not infinite in each actual moment !

Ockham's argument of the First Conserver from conservation runs as follow.

As a contingent thing coming into being and is conserved in being as long as it exists, its conserver is dependent, for its own conservation, on another conserver or not. To suppose a thing is not conserved is absurd, for its actuality proves it is conserved in the vertical order of things here and now. So things are conserved in each actual moment. As only necessary beings conserve themselves and the world only contains contingent things, it follows every conserver must depend on another conserver, etc. As there cannot be an infinite number of actual conservers "hic et nunc", i.e. in each actual moment (cf. supra), there must be a first Conserver. An infinite regress in the case of things existing one after the other (like horizontal causes of the same kind) is indeed conceivable (and that's why all these arguments fail). But an infinite regress in the actual, empirical world here and now would give an actual infinity, which is absurd. Indeed, to avoid the first Conserver, actual reality would become infinite ! Ergo, the first Conserver probably exists.

This is a terministic (probabilistic) proof because it is based on reasonable assumptions, namely (a) things are conserved as long as they exist, (b) the world is not infinite in each actual moment and (c) the world contains no actual infinity.

This elegant proof of the first Conserver is completely a posteriori. It avoids the order of infinity, and considers the world finite. No limit-concept is invoked, no transcendent being deduced. The "essence" of God cannot be known, lies outside reason. The existence of God cannot be demonstrated by necessity, but argued by probability, for the finite order of contingent beings cannot be conserved without a first Conserver. So, according to Ockham, in the order of rational, empirical knowledge, natural necessity and a first Conserver is all philosophy can infer as proven, probable knowledge. Nothing which is really God can be known by us without something other than God being involved as object. There is no simple concept proper to God mirroring the essence of God adequately. We are left with the first Conserver, and reason cannot advance further. So far William of Ockham.

1.2 The Argument of the Architect of the World :

Although Kant is associated with rejecting the proofs of God, it is often forgotten he too favored the proof of the "architect of the world".

Kant reclassified the proofs of the existence of God as follows :

  1. ontological : whatever our concept of an object may contain (for example, the idea of the "ens realissimum" as the idea of an absolutely necessary being), we must always step outside it in order to attribute existence to it. Existence is not a predicate and adds nothing to an object, not even in the unique case of the most perfect being. To say something "exists" is to posit the subject with all its predicates. To say "God does not exist." is to annihilate all the predicates, not just "existence". Hence, the ontological argument fails ;

  2. cosmological : this proof will always complete the series of phenomena in the unconditioned unity of a necessary Being, and by doing so, overstep the boundaries of reason, for the categorial principle "everything contingent has a cause" is only valid in the realm of sense-experience (the world) and it is only there it has meaning, never outside it (cf. the arguments from motion, efficient causes, perfections & necessity). Again the argument fails ;

  3. physico-theological : this proof of finality, aim or design is based on an analogy from human adaptation of means to ends. We can move from the idea of design to the idea of a Designer, but not from the latter to the transcendent Creator of the world. This would again involve a misuse of the transcendental ideas of reason, a crossing over of the ring-pass-not of pure reason. The argument fails.

Kant retained a real respect for the argument from design, being the oldest, clearest and most in conformity with reason. It can prepare the mind for practical theological knowledge and give it "a right and natural direction" (KRV, B665). Moreover, it gives life to the study of nature, "deriving its own existence from it, and thus constantly acquiring new vigour" (KRV, B649).

To posit a necessary & all-sufficient Being (the monotheist God of scholasticism) means it is so overwhelming and so high above everything empirical and conditioned, we never would find enough material in experience to fill such a concept. If it is part of the chain of conditions, it would require further investigation with regard to its own still higher cause, but if it stands by itself, it is outside the chain and thus a purely intelligible Being. But then, "what bridge is then open for reason to reach it, considering that all rules determining the transition from effect to cause, nay, all synthesis and extension of our knowledge in general, refer to nothing but possible experience, and therefore to the objects of the world of sense only, and are valid nowhere else ?" (KRV, B649).

With regard to causality, we cannot do without a last and highest Being, but such a transcendental idea, although agreeing with the demands of reason, would only give a faint outline of an abstract concept (emerging when we represent all possible perfections united in one substance). It would favour the extension of the employment of reason in the midst of experience, guiding it towards order and system, and would not oppose any experience. But this is not the same as proving the existence of a necessary and self-sufficient God and Creator à la monotheism.

"The transcendental idea of a necessary and all-sufficient original Being is so overwhelming, so high above everything empirical, which is always conditioned, that we can never find in experience enough material to fill such a concept, and can only grope about among things conditioned, looking in vain for the unconditioned, of which no rule of any empirical synthesis can ever give us an example, or ever show the way towards it."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, B646.

The inference, proceeding from the order and design observed in the world as a contingent arrangement (one with a possibility of happening) to the concept of a cause proportionate to it, teaches us something quite definite about this first cause, namely that it is a very great being of an astounding and immeasurable might and virtue, but not what the thing is by itself. Or, in other words, the harmony existing in nature proves the contingency of the form, but not of the matter or the substance in the world (we grasp the form, but do not observe the matter). To prove the contingency of matter itself would require us to show that in the substance of the things of the world, the product of a supreme wisdom exists. But the latter is not part of the world and thus no object of the senses. The conclusion is clear :

"The utmost, therefore, that could be established by such a proof would be an architect of the world, always very much hampered by the quality of the material with which he has to work, not a creator, to whose idea everything is subject. This would by no means suffice for the purposed aim of proving an all-sufficient original Being. If we wished to prove the contingency of matter itself, we must have recourse to a transcendental argument, and this is the very thing which was to be avoided."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, B653.

This argument, although using a variant terminology (rooted in the transcendental method) is in tune with Ockham's first Conserver (of each entity hic et  nunc). In the vertical order of simultaneity, the a posteriori series (of conservers) has to be stopped before exiting the order of the world. Hence, the apex reached is well within the world and at the top of the chain. The first Conserver too is a cause proportional to the arrangements within the world, and does not step outside the world. This first Conserver is the "anima mundi", but not the transcendent, omnipotent & omniscient God of the monotheisms.

2. Reasons from Science or the Argument from Design :

The Platonic strategy of the ontological argument a priori favored by traditional theism fails. Its aim was to prove a necessary, absolute Being beyond nature, not a principle existing inside nature. This peculiar immanence is not the ultimate, absolute cause, which is transcendent, but exists within nature, as it were coinciding with her. The degree of perfection of this cause lies within what is possible in experience, and so could be called the first immanent cause. It explains the over-arching unity, order and harmony of the world without advancing further, without stepping from this likelihood of immanent excellence to its determining concept as an all-embracing Divine transcendence, as it were bridging the broad abyss between immanent existence of actual entities and the necessary transcendent Being. The cause advanced in the argument from design is not the absolute unity of a transcendent Being beyond reason, but the peculiar unity explaining the skilful edifice, a cause proportionate to the order and design everywhere to be observed in the world.

"This present world presents to us so immeasurable a stage of variety, order, fitness and beauty, whether we follow it up in the infinity of space or in its unlimited division, that even with the little knowledge which our poor understanding has been able to gather, all language, with regard to so many and inconceivable wonders, loses its vigour, all numbers their power of measuring, and all our thoughts their necessary determinations ; so that our judgment of the whole is lost in a speechless, but all the more eloquent astonishment."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, B649.

The logical core of the argument from design is a procession from the observed contingent order to the existence of a very great cosmic might, one making the peculiar unity of the world possible, i.e. the first immanent cause. As no cause outside the world can ever be definite, no rational principle of transcendent theology (the theist concept of a necessary Being), forming the base of religion, can be given. But, if we can infer an immanent cause of the world, then an immanent metaphysics can be used to construct a natural religious philosophy, the pantheist ideal of a necessary being inside the world. Although such a concept merely suggests a still higher cause, one explaining Ultimate Authorship, no transgression is allowed and so, from this natural vantage point, in strict rational terms the concept of the Author of the World must remain empty (in the sense of zero).

Summarize the logical steps of the traditional argument from design as follows :

  1. Major Premiss 1 : the world is an organized, contingent whole, evidencing variety, order, fitness and beauty ;

  2. Major Premiss 2 : it is impossible for this arrangement to be inherent in the things existing in the world, i.e. the different entities could never spontaneously co-operate towards such obvious definite aims ;

  3. Minor Premiss : definite aims need a selecting and arranging purposeful rational disposing principle ;

  4. Conclusion 1 : ergo, there exists a sublime and intelligent cause (or many) which is the cause of the world, not only in terms of natural necessity (blind and all-powerful), but as an intelligence, by freedom ;

  5. Conclusion 2 : the unity of this cause (or these causes) may be inferred with certainty from the unity of the reciprocal relation of the parts of the world as portions of a skilful edifice so far as our experience reaches. Ergo, the intelligent cause or causes of the world forms or form a unity of design ;

  6. Lemma : if this cause is projected outside the world to explain its activity, then the domain of reason is left and the argument from design becomes the refuted argument from necessity (cf. the cosmological argument). Ergo, the argument from design does not prove an ultimate, but a proximate cause.

For Kant, the argument from design led to the "stage of admiration" of the greatness, the intelligence and the power of the Architect of the World, who, unlike a Creator or Author, who is self-sufficient, necessary and transcendent, is very much hampered by the quality of the material with which to work.

This argument from design works well together with Ockham's revised a posteriori argument from efficient causes :

  1. Major Premiss : in the contingent order of the world nothing can be the cause of itself or it would exist before itself ;

  2. Minor Premiss 1 : an infinite series is conceivable in the case of efficient causes (existing horizontally one after the other), but impossible in the actual (vertical) order of conservation "hic et nunc" ;

  3. Minor Premiss 2 : an infinite regress in the actual, empirical world here and now would give an actual infinity, which is absurd ;

  4. Minor Premiss 3 : a contingent thing coming into being is conserved in being as long as it exists ;

  5. Minor Premiss 4 : as only necessary beings conserve themselves and the world contains contingent things only, every conserver depends on another conserver, etc. ;

  6. Conclusion 1 : ergo, as there is no infinite number of actual conservers, there is a first Conserver ;

  7. Lemma : if we suppose an infinite regress in the actual, empirical world here and now, then an actual infinity would exist, which is absurd, ergo, the first Conserver exists.

The conclusions of both arguments, given the terministic nature of logic, are not certain but probable. This is in tune with our non-foundational epistemology. They support a conserving cause of the world, intelligently pre-planning the universe in a design, like an architect or demiurge, with a freedom limited by the own-forms of the actual entities "at hand", working on the "tick" of the cosmic clock to conserve and maintain the universe. Clearly such a very great being, possessing the highest natural wisdom, is not a final concept. But immanent metaphysics cannot advance further.

The Intelligent Conserving Cause itself cannot be explained by ante-rationality, reason or the creativity of immanence. A "desperate leap" across the "broad abyss" between the unity of the world and the Author of the world may be attempted, but without any valid reason. For it is all together a different thing to be creative thanks to casual intellectual flashes in an airy, shaded room, than to be constantly a witness of the full blaze of the Sun and its brightest light. As Ionescu (1909 - 1994), the founder of Absurd Theater, one may choose to walk away from it ... To posit transcendence is impossible. This truth is the major obstacle in any serious apology of the traditional theist God. Absolute totality can only be suggested by sublime poetry. Religions are poetical constructs of a certain quality.

Transcendent meta-rationality (nondual intuition) is non-conceptual, like an intuition without image, a merging without seed, a union without means, an experience of silent namelessness. The meaning of grand poetry is the object of metaphysics. Arguments can be presented. But in a transcendent metaphysics, these poetical forms become revealed cosmogonies explaining the creation of the universe. In the deepest sense they try to fathom the unconditional, and have, like koans, an exemplaric relevance. But to those who adhere to them, they are windows to the transcendent God.

To solidify the argument from design even more, its pivotal second major premiss needs to be studied and backed in more detail :

  • Major Premiss 2 : the different entities composing the world could never spontaneously co-operate towards definite aims.

Indeed, central to the debate (cf. Dembski & Behe (1998) and Hamilton (2002)), is the question whether the organization of the universe and the emergence of life are accidental ? Hoyle (1986) concluded random events and change occurrences are insufficient to account for the complexity of living organisms. Hoyle compared the likelihood of the random emergence of higher forms of life with the probability of a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard ending up assembling a Boeing 747 ! A highly unlikely event. He also seriously tried to show why Darwin's theory is not supported by the mathematics of evolution. Perhaps the "grand story" of (neo-) Darwinism is over too ... Since Prigogine (1917 - 2003) wrote La Nouvelle Alliance (1979), a weak form of finality is gaining ground in science. He suggested the return of finality in open, dissipative (physical, biological and social) systems.

Four analogies provide a strong backing for the case presenting the non-spontaneous becoming of the actual world process.
How to detect non-spontaneous "design" ?

  1. design by analogy of human products : the proximate cause proportional to the order, harmony, fitness & freedom observed in the world can be identified (named) by following the analogy of products of human design. In doing so, only the "form" aspect of the world is observed to identify design. In this way, the "matter", or substance of the world, is not targeted, and it is no longer necessary to prove in addition, that the things of the world, given the laws of nature, were in themselves incapable of such order and harmony. Hence, to avoid backing the premiss, it is accepted no supreme intelligence exists in the material substance of the things of the world. In the traditional Peripatetic account, four causes are at work in the world : material, efficient, formal & final. By analogy of human products, the design involves the formal and final causes only ;

  2. design by analogy of outcomes in living organisms : all living things seem tailor-made for their function and appear to interact purpose-fully with their environments : animals use camouflage, most parts of our bodies, down to our DNA helix, are very delicately engineered, and large numbers of apparent coincidences exist between various living organisms, etc. These highly ordered biological schemata seem places of reference to back the premiss, for how could such a complexity rise out of simplicity without a pattern of intelligent choices ? The chances are small enough, given what science demands in other areas, to dismiss spontaneous, random activity. Nevertheless, this study of outcomes was seriously affected by the discovery of the Darwinian principle organisms evolve by natural selection, adaptations and (random) mutations. If all biological events can be explained by this principle (turned into a paradigm), then indeed there is no "purpose" behind the grand natural symphony. Darwin (1809 - 1882) and neo-Darwinism were able to explain much of the data of his time and the first half of the previous century. Even societies could be studied in terms of the survival of the fittest (Monod, 1970). But, recent studies show how the theory has been unable to account for certain more subtle phenomena uncovered by the biochemistry of the last 50 years, mostly related to complex events such as protein transport, blood clotting, closed circular DNA, electron transport, photosynthesis etc.

    Progressive metamorphosis, with the emergence of increasingly complex and intelligent species in a step-wise, sequential pattern was recently proposed (Joseph, 2002). Large-scale protein innovation (Aravind, 2001), "silent genes" (Henikoff, 1986, Watson, 1992), the precise regulatory control of genome novelty (Courseaux & Nahon, 2001) and the overall genetically predetermined "molecular clockwise" fashion of the unfoldment of the human being (Denton, 1998), underline the evolutionary metamorphosis theory of life and intelligent design. So, beyond the grip of Darwin's macroscopic view, on those more subtle levels of biology and biochemistry, design may be detected and purposeful arrangement of parts suspected. A revised analogy of subtle outcomes becomes thus again possible, leading to a more comprehensive backing of the premiss ;

  3. design by analogy of the forms of the laws of nature : Maxwell (1831 - 1879) pointed to molecules as entities not subject to selection, adaptation & mutation. The contrast between the evolution of species, featuring biological changeability, and the existence of identical building blocks for all observed actual physical entities is crucial.  Given the effectiveness of Newton's laws on the mesolevel (the inverse-square law of gravity being optimal for the becoming of the Solar system), our knowledge of what happens in stars (in particular the production of carbon and oxygen) and the cosmology of the Big Bang, then calculate the odds of spontaneous emergence. A choice has to be made between either an intelligent design (which does not offend intelligence by leaping into silly forms of creationism) or a monstrous random and blind sequence of accidents producing a gigantic complexity, in other words either a natural higher intelligence or the ongoing mathematical miracles of a blind nature morte. Indeed, ad contrario, the form of the laws of nature underlines the presence of a deep-laid scheme, representing an accurate mathematical descriptions of the natural order (both in genesis as in effect). Although no "consensus omnium" has been reached, the laws of nature likely accommodate biology ;

  4. design by analogy of fundamental constants : the actual irreducible mathematical presence of immutable natural building blocks such as the natural constants, seems to give a palpable proof of the existence of something independent of every human measurement (and its biological constitutive). These constants define the fabric of physical reality and determine the nature of light, electricity and gravity. They make particles come into existence and fundamental forces work. They actualize the laws of physics by giving equations numerical quantity and are necessary in the logic of physics. What can be said about the particular values takes by these constants ? The conditions for order and eventually life to develop have been found to heavily depend upon these constants. Indeed, although mathematically, the equations of physics, representing the fundamental architecture of the order of the world, also produce outcomes when other quantities of the same constants are introduced, the world would be lifeless and barren (instead of a haven for incredible complexity) if even a small amount of these values would be changed. Ergo, the various values of the constants of nature were designed, and pre-planned. An infinite number of different worlds are possible, but only in one are order, fitness, beauty and life actual. Only our universe has observers witnessing it. The chances of all of this happening at random are so small that someone versed in the simple basics of probability theory would frown at the idea. Leibniz was right in assuming it to be impossible for this precise combination to arise without Divine intervention. And this backed his optimism !

3. Reasons from Metaphysics :

"... speculative philosophy (= metaphysics) is the endeavour to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of experience can be interpreted."
Whitehead : Process & Reality, Op.cit., § 4.

The foregoing arguments make clear the manifold we call "world" can only be understood if we reintroduce (a) a principle of order and (b) a level of all-comprehensive synthesis.

3.1 The Necessity of Synthesis :

The world does not manifest itself to us and our sciences as a single substance (as Spinoza claimed), but as a multiplicity under unity, as Leibniz conjectured. A multitude of experiential happenings constantly occur, often in complex networks with several hubs. Reality is what works, what happens and a lot is constantly going on. Leibniz' ontological pluralism is confirmed by science. Hence, the problem of unity (both in the micro-, meso- and macro- dimensions of the universe) becomes more acute : How is this incredible variety of singular events brought under unity. How is a pluriverse avoided and the universe possible ? Unity does not result by virtue of some overarching ontological super force or "vis a tergo", but is constantly regained  based on previous agents, and so this begs the question of a higher-order level of synthesizing, the act of bringing the manifold under unity by way a principle beyond the nominal order of events characterizing the manifold. To be a universe, multiplicity must be connected, related and so interdependent. Such a higher-order level must take the dynamical features of the universe into account and so avoid (a) the idea of a "ruling Caesar" (a Higher Principle deciding over everything) and (b) a "Dieu hologer" (regulating events from the outside).

To see this Higher Principle, philosophically (not religiously) called "God" or "Godhead" as all-encompassing, does not necessitate pantheism, for Godhead does not necessarily exhaust Itself in these finite agents. Instead of pantheism, pan-en-theism is a hand, positing both an immanent and a transcendent side of the Divine. The former coincides with the notion of the Architect of the World, whereas the latter points to the dimension of the Author of the World. The Architect remains within the boundaries of (conceptual) immanent metaphysics, whereas the Author, insofar as a "Supreme Being" is envisaged, refers to the nondual, transcendent side. Avoiding the substance-theology of a "Supreme Being", and thus Kant's decisive criticism, is introducing a new way to approach this transcendent side of the Higher Principle.

3.2 The Principle of Order :

There can be no order in the universe without an ordering principle. This is the teleological argument. This can be conceived in two ways. Either this principle acts from the "outside" of the universe it created (as in traditional substance-theology), and in this case it is either (a) a cruel and oppressive Caesar or despot, or (b) a kind of watchmaker or silly puppeteer, regulating all events reduced to marionettes. As such a transcendent principle moves outside the limitations of reason, it cannot function in a valid metaphysics. Hence, although the principle of order functionally differs from all other events in the universe, it cannot be another static ontological level, splitting the world in a Platonic dyad, with a "perfect" world of being posited against an "imperfect" world of becoming. This catastrophic move was made by all monotheisms and lead to various irrationalities covered by the "mysterium fidei".

"Undoubtedly, the intuitions of Greek, Hebrew, and Christian thought have alike embodied the notions of a static God condescending to the world, and of a world either thoroughly fluent, or accidentally static, but finally fluent - 'heaven and earth shall pass away'."
Whithead, A.N. : Process and Reality, 1929, § 526.

Order is not a random property of events, but the conditions of their existence. The world cannot produce its own order, but needs it to actually exist. However, this necessary Principle of Order invoked to explain this order must, to allow for panoramic overview, somehow transcend these events, and this without belonging to another order of reality (as was the case in traditional Greek-based theology). To succeed in successfully positing it, it must altogether embody a different functional operation while remaining fully an ontological part of the Real, i.e. not a static stratum outside the world (creating the world ex nihilo). Such a Divine possibility must therefore encompass (a) the actual dynamism of God being near all events (concrete) and (b) the abstract Godhead carefully considering and thus weighing the probabilities of all possible events in terms of unity, harmony & beauty (cf. infra). In Process Theology, the former is called the "consequent nature" and the latter the "primordial nature" of God (cf. infra). This division is not an ontological split.

4. Reasons from Personal Experience or Religious Existentialism :

Is the production of the Divine fact possible ? Can empirico-formal propositions objectify the Divine ? Is there an experimental methodology, itinerary or protocol leading towards spiritual experience ("cognitio Dei experimentalis") ? If so, then an experimental argument a posteriori may be inferred. Finally, if the mystics give an exemplaric account of a bi-polar, i.e. pan-en-theist Divinity (transcendent as well as immanent), then can we allow transcendent metaphysics to merely poetically suggest the conceptually improvable existence of the absolute totality, entirely impossible on rational (conceptual) grounds ? Can the religions, as institutions of poetry of a certain quality, be given new meaning and momentum ?

Ockham's & Kant's general arguments in favour of the intelligent design of the world, the fitness and harmony existing in the works of nature point to an Architect of the World. Although intelligent, this being is always hampered by the quality of the materials used, but nevertheless shows us the "right and natural" direction. For Ockham, contingent beings are unable to conserve themselves and if we take the complete vertical chain of conservers hic et nunc, we must conclude, hand in hand with natural necessity, the first Conserver exists. Both positions are strong.

To make clear what an immanent perspective means, let us take the example of the rejected a posteriori argument from necessity.

If it is legitimate to ask how the world composed of contingent objects was caused, then the totality of objects must have a reason external to itself. Why ? This reason cannot be part of the contingent world (rise and perish), for then it could not be a satisfactory explanation of the reality of the world (it would also rise and perish). Hence, and here the category-mistake creeps in, a transcendent necessary being exists, for an infinite series is deemed impossible. Moreover, the question remain whether it is indeed impossible to explain the reality of the world in terms of rising & perishing ? Perhaps one can posit a holomovement, a continuous series of symmetry-transformations, a "style" manifesting itself solely in and through movement (as is the case of a swimming style) ?

The arguments of motion, efficient causes and perfections also stop this infinite regress as hoc by "filling the gap" and jumping outside the order of the world. Only the argument from design avoids this problem. However, if Bertrand Russell is right, and the world is "just there and that's all" or "actual process", as Whitehead thought, and together with Kant we reject any illegitimate transgression in the use of the ideas of reason, then the "optimum" our reason seems to arrive at, is a strong form of pantheism, positing the concept of a necessary, first conserving, most perfect, intelligent immanent Conserver of the world. Is it possible to say more ? How to defend pan-en-theism, introduce transcendence without an ontological division between the "world" and "Godhead" ?

The valid argument a posteriori calls forth the following witnesses :

  1. the fact of design : the world is not the work of a blind watchmaker, but of an intelligent Designer ;

  2. the fact of spiritual experience : the experience of the Divine can be (re)produced and its protocol transmitted ;

  3. the possible entelechy of the world : the order and beauty of the world point to a final end : to actualize all possibilities (which is an ongoing, endless process).

The fact of design can be demonstrated without the fact of spiritual experience. But, by fulfilling the conditions to experience Divine immanence, one furthermore acquires the necessary "form" or "spiritual attitude", a key to open the "doors of perception" (cf. Huxley). Indeed, the direct, immediate observation of the Divine is not self-evident, nor necessary. Self-realization is only triggered by a free intention. There is no "natural" necessity to seek out, see and meet the soul of the world or the beyond.

By a strong focus on orthopraxis, the problem of the production of the spiritual fact comes into perspective. A direct plug-in or access to the supposed "soul" of the world and beyond must, ex hypothesi, be given. Otherwise, the concept of an immanent Designer would imply remoteness and inaccessibility, which is in contradiction with the relatedness shown in the design. The Architect is not in one place, but in all places all the time. Moreover, if a plug-in (a software) is postulated, then a material manager (a hardware) must be identified to compute & process (execute) this own-form of human spirituality. This line of argument boils down to the presentation of a spiritual protocol with minimal orthodoxy, one which is all about doing, practice, discipline and constant devotion (a userware). This spiritual methodology is then a series of actions, affects and thoughts producing at least a direct experience of the immanent totality conserving the world-process, if not more.

(b) Desubstantializing Western Theology.

"So long as the temporal world is conceived as a self-sufficient completion of the creative act, explicable by its derivation from an ultimate principle which is at once eminently real and the umoved mover, from this conclusion there is no escape : the best that we can say of the turmoil is, 'For so he giveth his beloved - sleep.' This is the message of religions of the Buddhistic type, and in some sense it is true."
Whithead, A.N. : Process and Reality, 1929, § 519.

In the traditional onto-theological scheme, initiated in Heliopolitan thought, finding its rationality in Greek philosophy and developed by Abrahamic theology into the concept of a static, substantial, essentialist & self-powered God, revealing Himself in likewise unchanging holy scriptures, there is no room for a relational Deity, for God is a Supreme Object, unstirred by His creation. To maintain this view, posing problems in terms of soteriology, creation has no good reason. Why would an impassible, ineffable, self-powered, omnipotent & omniscient Supreme Being (who's essence is only known by Himself) want to create anything ? If God is totally self-sufficiently perfect, without being touched by anything except God, then creation can have no other reason than being His free gift to His creatures. Creation is willed by God because God wills it so ! Further than this circular logic one cannot move. In this line of thought, before creation actually happens, there cannot be anything besides God. In monotheism, the Greek solution of primordial matter (chaos) fashioned by a "demiurgos" is rejected. God is the sole, unique, singular Supreme Being, and by positing this remote God, His involvement in the world becomes paradoxical and therefore the object of mystifications called "mysteries". How can such a hidden God show interest and participate ? Can He be more than a "Deus absconditus", an absent God ? Only Christianity posits a human factor in God (Christ) and so is able to remedy this theology, but not without causing new problems & schisms (cf. Trinitarism, Christology, Christocentrism & the status of the Holy Ghost).

Before creation, concepts such as the "outside" or "inside" of God have no meaning. In the three "religions of the book", they are posited by the Will of God creating creation, separating "before" & "after", "inside" & "outside". Nothingness has no existence of its own, nor are potentiality, virtuality or possibility considered, for the essence of God is deemed a self-subsistent super-substance. The "nihil" in "creatio ex nihilo" merely indicates nothing but God's Will rose creation. Hence, God's creative Will is not bound by any necessity, but lawless (not random) and absolutely indeterminate (but not disorganized). How this has to be conceptualized is unclear. God is beyond the created order, and in no way in need of creation or bound by any necessity to create - creation is "ex nihilo", i.e. with the absence of any possible necessity "ex parte Dei", in other words, the result of a Divine contingency in the act of the creative Will of God. So the whole of creation exists by the grace of the Will of God, who is not a "deus ex machina", nor an impersonal Power of powers or Principle of principles.

Clearly, this substantialist view, not really backed by revelation itself, was the result of what Ockham considered to be unnecessary infiltrations of Greek metaphysics into (Christian) theology. Indeed, for Ockham, the metaphysics of essences was introduced into (Christian) theology and philosophy from Greek sources. His strict nominalism did not incorporate them. There are no universal subsistent forms, for otherwise God would be limited in His creative act by these eternal ideas or self-subsisting substances ! This non-Christian invention had no place in Christian thought. Universals are only "termini concepti", terms signifying individual things standing for them in propositions. Unfortunately, like many other formidable intuitions of Ockham, his views were ahead of his time and so sidetracked.

To be able to think Godhead more consistently, reducing the part of paradox, irrationalism, fideism & mystification and introducing the "God of the philosophers" instead of a Hellenized "Deo revelatio", this traditional ontological approach must be relinquished. Strict nominalism implies the Divine, as all other things in existence, is empty of inherent existence, and so does not "exist" from its own side, but as a result of determinations, circumstances & conditions, i.e. is other-powered. Then God can be understood as passible and influenced by the world, making sense of the notion of "covenant" and the alliances of God with humanity. And this hand in hand with a more abstract appreciation of God, i.e. "Godhead".

If we accept there is only one reality, namely the order of abstractions & events or what is just there, then the Divine is never "outside" the world, for the world is all there is. So the notion of "creation" is also dubious, for suggestive of a period the world was not present and only Godhead was. This same idea is given with the event seemingly "starting up" the universe, the "Big Bang". But the question : "What was there before the Big Bang ?" is nonsensical, for the advent of the spatiotemporal order, as general relativity claims, coincides with this event. Suppose we introduce, in the physical order of things, a "fourth time", escaping the order of past, present & future (a kind of Eternal Now), then when the "Big Bang" was "not yet", mere virtual particles & forces (a potential, folded or implicate space-time configuration) existed, while after this (lesser) singularity particles & forces unfolded to become manifest. But both virtual & manifest particles belong to the world, or the Real.

And if the actual world of events is deemed a dynamic network, then the manifest God -or Architect of the World- is its "hub of hubs", being near all events (all-encompassing) and, for all of eternity, as abstract Godhead, or Author of the World, weighing in favour for the possibility of Beauty (eternal). The conditions of these two aspects are not identical, for to be near all events God must encompass all what happens, and to lure events towards their greatest possible harmony, Godhead must be an abstract principle "next" to or "with" all events, but not beyond any occurrence, or instance of existence.

 8  The God of Process Theology.

"... God is to be relied upon to do for the world all that ought to be done for it, and with as much survey of the future as there ought to be or as is ideally desirable, leaving for the members of the world community to do for themselves and each other all that they ought to be left to do. We cannot assume that what ought to be done for the world by deity is everything that ought to be done at all, leaving the creatures with nothing to do for themselves and for each other."
Hartshorne, Ch. : Op.cit., 1964, p.24.

(a) The Fundamental Categories of Process Philosophy.

"... how an actual entity becomes constitutes what that actual entity is ; so that the two descriptions of an actual entity are not independent. Its 'being' is constituted by its 'becoming'. This is the 'principle of process'".
Whitehead, A.N. : PR, §§ 34 - 35.

§ 1

Alfred North Whitehead (1861 - 1947), the mathematician who, together with his ex-pupil Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970), wrote Principia Mathematica and accepted to teach philosophy at Harvard at 63, developed a system of thought no one will ever succeed in writing a short account about. His work evidences shifts of opinion and in the course of his long life, he developed many loose and at times obscure expressions, producing desperation in anyone trying to be his chronicler. Hence, Religion in the Making (1926) and Process and  Reality (1929) are fundamental, and while dispensing, as much as possible, with the technicalities, we shall focus on the latter. He is an important figure because he integrated mathematics, biology, relativity and quantum physics into his thought (cf. his The Principle of Relativity, 1922). He is often associated with Charles Hartshorne (1987 - 2003), who, during one semester, was his assistant, and who focused on the status of God in process philosophy.

In his The Concept of Nature (1920), we learn about his view on the philosophical ideal in general, and metaphysics in particular, as the attainment of "some unifying concept" able to unify science. The metaphysician has a descriptive role to play. He seeks to understand the general characteristics of reality, setting these up tentatively as categories. This description of the most general features of experience is not argumentative, but rather in accord with the "I'm telling You !" method.

The word "process philosophy" was probably coined by Bernard Loomer, and in a general sense the idea of the interconnectedness between all events in the universe as well as the importance of becoming, was preluded in the work of Schelling, Hegel, Peirce, James, Bergson & de Chardin.

§ 2

"The notion of 'substance' is transformed into that of 'actual entity'. (...) The ontological principle can be summarized as : no actual entity, then no reason."
Whitehead, A.N. : PR, § 28.

The basic intuitions of this system are :

• we live in a universe, not a pluriverse : it is a philosophy of organicism, thinking the unity of all what happens ;
• part of this unity evidenced by the universe can be grasped by reason, allowing for science. Not a single generalization would be possible if the universe were totally random & chaotic ;
• the universe appears to be a dynamic whole, and so growth and becoming are fundamental to it ;
• the displayed dynamism implies novelty and this means an event is never completely determined by what happened before it, for otherwise nothing would truly "happen". The universe is always an incomplete abiding synthesis and must be "remade" every time. This is "creative synthesis" or "creative advance" ;
• this creative becoming is from the inside aimed at the realization of esthetic value or harmony. This beauty is the result of multiple adaptations of multiple elements to each other. Harmony is the result of this multiplicity brought under unity.

§ 3

For Whitehead, actual entities are the basic category of his system. Events are a nexus of actual entities. Everything that exists is an actual entity. When something is real, it is a happening, and occasion. Hence, there is a plurality of nodes of activity. Actual entities are like Leibniz' monads, with the exception they do have "doors & windows", i.e. they enter each other's selfbecoming or "concrescence".

Besides real spatiotemporal actual entities, i.e. compounds or societies of actual occasions, Nature also encompasses three abstract formative elements escaping space & time : creativity, eternal objects & God. Creativity is formless and eternal objects are pure possibilities. These two formative elements are not actual, merely potential. God however, is actual but nevertheless escapes the spatio-temporal order.

Basic Categories of Process Ontology

reality

the Real
temporal actual world real actual
entities
actual
world
non-temporal God abstract actual
entity
formative
elements
eternal objects pure possibilities
creativity

This scheme makes clear God is a non-temporal actual entity giving relevance to the realm of pure possibility in the becoming of the actual world, encompassing non-temporal everlastingness & temporal (recurrent) eternity. God, both potential & actual, is the meeting ground of the actual world & pure possibilities. Together, the realm of abstract possibilities and the actual world form reality or the Real.

§ 4

Whitehead seeks to introduce a new "ontological principle" able to think becoming and change. The "ousiology" of past thinkers was unable to do this, for it was based on the changeless, permanent nature of the essence and its identity (cf. the Platonic "eidos"). In this traditional view, only accidents change and the "ousia" remains identical with itself. This creates a difference between a "supposed but unknown support" (Locke) and the subjective accidents of predication, returning in Cartesian thought as the polarization between "res extensa" & "res cogitans". Whitehead disagrees with this distinction and seeks to integrate it on a higher level.

The Cartesian "ego", which is ontological (as Kant also stressed), is also rejected. To distance oneself from substantialist thinking means to deobjectify all elements of metaphysics. Being more radical than Kant, Whitehead underlines the subjective nature of reality. He does not need the "fuel" of "objective" sensations to turn on the "engine" of the categories to guarantee the possibility of synthetic propositions a priori. On the contrary, all is subject. Hence, the actual world is a subject. So the actual whole is an organic unity of those elements disclosed in the analysis of the experience of subjects. We cannot go further. We cannot pull ourselves outside ourselves. Knowledge is subjective, for nobody escapes his or her own form of definiteness.

This "subjectivist principle" is another way to state the principle of relativity. All things are qualifications of actual occasions and there is nothing else. The Platonic world is unmasked as the root of all ousiological constructs. The world is a unity of actual entities and without the latter there is nothing. There is no transcendent world, no ontological stratum "above" the world we observe. The exercise of metaphysics is immanent, not transcendent.

In this "self model", the "cogito" is thus the definition of actuality. Only "actual occasions" of "actual entities" are the building-blocks of the universe. Only actual ntities exist. An event is then a "nexus" of actual entities. Causality is also implied. If there are no events, then there can be no causality. But events happen. If event A exerts its influence on event B (or "causal efficacy"), then B cannot be totally explained by A. This because the "novelty" of event B cannot be explained in terms of past initial events only. So, besides efficient causality, he conjectures a "formal causality", which is the cause of the becoming of the "novelty" incorporated in B. This formal causality aims at self-realization and self-creation.

"... nexus is a set of actual entities in the unity of the relatedness constituted by their prehensions of each other, or -what is the same thing conversely expressed- constituted by their objectification in each other."
Whitehead, A.N. : PR, § 35.

This self-creation of the actual entities is the self-constitution of an experience. In the process of the non-I exerting an influence, something is experienced (this is the causal efficacy). Besides, there is the "subjective immediacy" of the self-experience, accomplishing a new synthesis between the multiplicity of the many influences and the own form of definiteness. Hence, the actual entities are not solipsist (like monads), but continuously enter in each other's self-creation. "Being" is hence always to be in another. Being (events) & becoming (self-creation) imply the capacity to enter in another, new actual entity. The universe is hyper-social.

"... it belongs to the nature of a 'being' that it is a potential for every 'becoming'. Thus all things are to be conceived as qualifications of actual occasions."
Whitehead, A.N. : PR, § 252.

Whitehead understands being from the vantage point of becoming. He does not eliminate the eternal, for not only does he wish to replace a teaching on substance with a teaching on events, but he virulently reacts against the "vicious separation" between "flux" & "permanence". This distinction introduced the bi-polarity between temporality (becoming) and eternity (being) and the adjacent aporic pendulum-movement between the two (the same dyad returns in all areas of Greek, scholastic and pre-Kantian thought and influenced most religions).

Traditional metaphysics conceptualized being and identity and so construed a static God, an "aboriginal, eminently real, transcendent creator". Instead, metaphysics thinks "permanency in fluency, fluency in permanence".

Although becoming is the sole point of view, one cannot grasp the ultimate nature of the universe without simultaneously thinking both the changing world of events and the eternal realm of pure potency. The dyad remains, but devoid of possible substantialist antagonism. The universe is dual, for it is both transient (conventional or actual) and eternal (ultimate or potential). There is nothing "outside" reality, constituted by both formative elements and actual entities.

§ 5

Although nothing except actual entities exist, the world of actual events is not the Real as a whole. Although there is no world "behind" the world of events, and this changing, phenomenal reality is all there is, one is able to think (conceptualize) the eternal and the permanent. This is not an ontological realm, source of being, transcendent sufficient ground, "prima materia" or pre-creation initiating creation "ex nihilo", for actual entities are the only existing things, i.e. the ultimate exists conventionally. In separation from actual entities, there is nothing, merely nonentity. But a "category of the ultimate" can and should be thought.

In Religion in the Making, the three "formative elements" called in to guarantee order & novelty in the actual world are explained thus :

  1. creativity realized in actual entities :

    "'Creativity' is the universal of universals characterizing ultimate matter of fact. It is that ultimate principle by which the many, which are the universe disjunctively, become the one actual occasion, which is the universe conjunctively. It lies in the nature of things that the many enter into complex unity. 'Creativity' is the principle of novelty. An actual occasion is a novel entity diverse from any entity in the 'many' which it unifies."
    Whitehead, A.N. : PR, § 31.

    Thanks to creativity, the real actual world lapses into a new world order. The dynamism of the world of actual entities, grasped by the senses, implies novelty, for the unity of experience here and now is an original concrescence of previous experiences and my own form of definiteness and determination. The creativity of the actual universe demands everything influences everything, bringing multiplicity to unity. The actual course of events is thus not self-evident. The sheer ongoingness of the universe speaks of permanent creativity, from the smallest subatomic particle to God's eternal valuation of possibilities. Creativity is the "natural matrix of all things" and real when realized in an actual entity. The self-creativity of entities is an instance of this creativity, which itself is not a substance, nor an entity, nor a reality. It is a "category" qualifying (determining, limiting) all actual entities ;

  2. potential eternal objects forming actual entities : the "perpetual perishing" of actual entities cannot be "saved" by something which is itself an entity, for all entities are "on the move", all actual, concrete things change (impermanence). Next to (not behind, nor underneath or above) the world of actual entities, Whitehead postulates a world of pure potency and possibility. This abstract world is the domain of "pure potential for the specific determination of fact". These eternal objects are implied by the fact no two actual entities are completely identical although similarities can be determined. The latter point to a "form of definiteness". These forms participate in the becoming of actual entities, but are themselves not actual or concrete. Neither are they unreal, but potential, i.e. indicative of possibility. Because they remain identical with themselves, these objects are called "eternal". They escape the permanent change of the real world, and because they are in no way "subject", i.e. an actual, real entity, they are "objective" and "grasped" by mental "prehension". The "objective" is not "the concrete" (for only actual, subjective entities are so), nor "unreal" (as nonentity or fiction). The objective is sheer potentiality ;

  3. God harmonizing endless potentiality : the domain of pure potentiality is per definition limitless. The eternal objects give form to actual entities but are themselves without borders. By giving "graded relevance" to these various endless possibilities, God harmonizes the different possibilities and so orders the becoming of the actual entities from within, receiving form & structure. The "key" used by God is called "harmony" and "beauty". God embraces all possibilities but offers them as the esthetic possibility of self-creation. God rules all possibilities and is also the principle of definiteness. God grasps all possibilities and harmonizes them. God limits the limitless domain of pure potentiality so something may enter actuality. Every valuation is contingent, and without God no possibility can become actual. Because of God's "vision of beauty", continuous pressure is put on all events, giving them their "initial aim". As God is not creativity itself, God is not responsible for all what happens !

(b) The Primordial Nature of God.

"Viewed as primordial, he is the unlimited conceptual realization of the absolute wealth of potentiality. In this aspect, he is not before all creation, but with all creation. But, as primordial, so far is he from 'eminent reality', that in this abstraction he is 'deficiently actual' - and this in two ways. His feelings are only conceptual and so lack the fullness of actuality. Secondly, conceptual feelings, apart from complex integration with physical feelings, are devoid of consciousness in their subjective forms."
Whitehead, A.N. : PR, §§ 521.

Among the formative elements, God is an actual entity, while the eternal objects are not. God is the anterior ground guaranteeing a fraction of all possibilities may enter into the factual becoming of the spatiotemporal world. Without God, nothing of what is possible, can become some thing, change and create. The universe, its order and creativity are the result of a certain valuation of possibilities. However, God is not the universe, nor its order (derived from eternal objects) or the creativity at work in actual entities. The latter are concrete actual entities, while God is an abstract actual entity, while creativity & eternal objects are non-actual formative elements.

  1. concrete actual entities (the actual world) : all what exists in the world of facts and events ;

  2. abstract actual entity (the abstract) : God "the organ of novelty, aiming at intensification" is the Artist who makes a beautiful world more likely ;

  3. potential eternal objects (the potential Realm of Possibilities) : selfsame, "pure" forms outside the stream of actual entities, organizing them ;

  4. creativity : the formless "matrix" of all things, the principle of the continuous becoming of novel unity and creative advance out of multiplicity.

God is the instance grounding the permanence and continuous novelty characterizing the universe. This primordial nature of God is completely separated from the actual world. For although an actual entity, God's activity is "abstract", namely in the esthetic (artistic) process of valuating possibilities, which are no fictions. But God is engaged in the factual becoming of the actual entities, but cannot be conceived as a concrete actual entity, a fact among the facts. God is the only "abstract" actual entity possible. Besides being an abstract Godhead, God is also a Divine consciousness prehending all events. This is his consequent nature. In these two ways, God is related to the realm of actualities.

God's primordial nature is transcendent and does not touch the universe, the actual world. This aspect of Deity is God as the "Lord of All Possibilities". It offers all events the possibility to constitute themselves. If not, nothing would happen. Possibilities, although highly abstract, are no fictions, and enter concrete entities (cf. Popper's propensity-interpretation of the Schrödinger equation). Although there is no imaginary heavenly (Platonic) museum displaying the statue of David before Michelangelo fashioned it, the latter did not invent the material, the possibility allowing him to do so. So the fact formless creativity received definite form is attributed to God as Principle of Definiteness. By way of conceptual valuation, God imposes harmony on all possibilities, for actuality implies choice & limitation. But as all order is contingent, lots of things always remain possible. Whitehead never speaks of God as the "Creator of the Universe" (too suggestive of the total dependence of the world). The "ideal harmony" is only realized as an abstract virtually, and God is the actual entity bringing this beauty into actuality, turning potential harmony into actual esthetic value.

Taking into account everything given in the field of existence of all actual events, God's highest purpose for each is for it to contribute to the realization of the purpose of the whole, namely the unity of harmony in diversity.

God does not decide, but lures, i.e. makes beauty more likely. There is no efficient causality at work here, but a teleological pull inviting creative advance. Given the circumstances, a tender pressure is present to achieve the highest possible harmony. God is the necessary condition, but not the sufficient condition for events. Classical omnipotence & omniscience are thus eliminated. God knows all actual events as actual and all possible (future) events as possible. He does not know all future events as actual. This is a category mistake. He cannot hamper creativity. Giving metaphysical complements to God is relinquished.

God's purpose for each and every event, given all conditions determining it, is that it may contribute to the realization of the purpose of the whole universe, the harmony in diversity. God is the unique abstract actual entity making it possible for the multiplicity of events to end up in harmony. This aspect of God is permanent, eternal and not linked to time & space. It is a permanent property of reality, resulting in a uni-verse. Call this aspect of Deity "Godhead".


(c) The Consequent Nature of God.

"Love neither rules, nor is it unmoved ; also it is a little oblivious as to morals. It does not look to the future, for it finds its own reward in the immediate present."
Whitehead, A.N. : PR, §§ 520 - 521.

God's consequent nature is God's concrete, super-conscious presence in the universe, actually being near all possible events and valorizing them to bring out harmony and the purpose of the whole. God, with infinite care, is a tenderness loosing nothing that can and wants to  be saved. Hence, God's experience of the world changes. It always grows and can never be given as a whole. God is loyal and will never forsake any event.


The two natures of God are not two parts or elements, but two ways of dealing with the world. Primordially, God is always offering possibilities and realizing unity and order, and this in all possible worlds. Consequentially, God takes the self-creation of all actual events in this concrete universe into account, considering what they realize of what is made possible. These two ways, initiating & responding, permanent & alternating are God's bi-polar, pan-en-theist approaches of the actual world.

 9  Towards a Synthesis.

The Tao, both transcendent & immanent, is the one reality, the Real encompassing both the world of pure potency and the realm of actual entities. In an absolute sense, the Tao is the ultimate truth or most profound, implicate nature of all phenomena, but non-differentiated, nameless and empty of fixed substantial essence. In a relative sense, the Tao is the relative truth or explicate nature of these same phenomena, differentiated, named and interdependent with all other phenomena. Just like the Nun (the undifferentiated ocean) and Atum (the principle of unity & differentiation), the absolute Tao and the One are pre-existent, potential, virtual. They are the aspect of the Real harboring all possibilities and the principle of limitations bringing out, albeit still in potentia, their forms of definiteness.

Caught by the limitations of classical formal logic, emptiness (ultimate truth) and interdependent arising (conventional truth), i.e., on the one hand, the Tao, the One, the Two & the Three, and on the other hand, the Ten Thousand Things, seem disjunctive. Indeed, conceptual thought is unable to cognize both in conjunction. The ultimate experience of the Tao exceeds all possible conceptual categories and so only direct spiritual experience is the only final arbiter. Even if we succeed to come near to a conceptual realization of emptiness, we fail to grasp is exhaustively. The conceptual mind may relinquish classical formal logic and embrace non-classical approaches (seeing emptiness in terms of symmetry transformations & interdependent arisings as symmetry breaks), and understand the totality of the Real as a movement of totality (holomovement), no conceptual approach will satisfy and silence the mind. Only the direct apprehension of the nature of mind, its "Clear light" ("rigpa") realizes such a feat. But, this is the way of silence, ending all possible conceptualization.

Despite the fact reason must try to move to the outer frontiers of possibilities offered by concepts, and so must not leap into mystification and paradox before doing its utmost most to first achieve conceptual clarity, distinctness and argumentative excellence, one can never replace such endeavors with the datum of direct experience. As mystical experience, bathing in the ecstatic, moves beyond the conceptual, no scholasticism is able to catch it. The direct experience of the Tao remains hidden for discursive thought, even in its most abstract, metaphysical countenance, given way to the ultimate stretch of intellectualism.

Three fundamental thoughts persist :

1. all phenomena lack inherent existence, i.e. are process-like instead of substance-like. Realizing this truth is apprehending the ultimate nature of all phenomena ;
2. simultaneously all phenomena are other-powered, i.e. depend on something other than themselves. Even the absolute Tao is not a "substance of substances", but a phenomenon depending on conditions. The Way follows Nature ;
3. all dependent phenomena rise out of emptiness, i.e. are definite actualizations of an indefinite potential.

(a) Rationality & Experience of Emptiness :

"Ontological 'essentialism' is dangerous because as soon as we take up such an attitude, we are doomed to lose our natural flexibility of mind and consequently lose sight of the absolute 'undifferentiation' which is the real source and basis of all existent things."
Izutsu, T. : Op.cit., 1983, p.359.

Dharmic spirituality (in its Buddhist & Taoist variants) and Process Theology both reject substantialism and emphasize change.

On the most fundamental, implicate or ultimate level, phenomena are devoid of self-subsisting, inherently existing essence, but considered as "empty", i.e. lacking static, thing-like, self-powered own-nature. Emptiness itself is also "empty", implying the concept of emptiness has to be eliminated too. Emptiness can be approached by way of concepts or by way of experience. The right meditation first eliminates concepts by way of concepts (the rational method), allowing this clearing to bring in the light of the nature of mind. Wrong meditation eliminates concepts and then stops, producing the passive void of nihilism.

• In a strict rational, conceptual path (as in Critical Mâdhyamaka), emptiness is nothing "in itself", but merely points to an absence, a lack or a non-affirming negation. Here, emptiness is introduced to eliminate concepts by means of concepts, stopping the grasping, deluded, samsaric mind to bring about the luminous, enlightened mind. Insofar as emptiness is conceptualized without this intent to realize the nirvanic, shining mind, emptiness becomes an obscuration to the mind, making it addicted to the medicine, producing the disease of nihilism, equating emptiness with sheer nothingness, zero or naught. This is missing the point. The rational view precludes direct experience.

• In the experiential view of the Tantras, Dzogchen yogis and Wayfarers, emptiness refers to having no fixations at all, allowing the basic nature of mind to spontaneously appear, i.e. extinguishing the stirring mind without extinguishing the shining mind. The shining mind, nature of mind, Clear Light of mind, original spirit or Buddha-nature point to a non-conceptual, nondual cognition, the experience or apprehension of emptiness as a limitless field of all possibilities out of which all objects emerge. This idea, of all conventional dependent arisings emerging out of emptiness (as the golden lion out of gold) is the pivotal contribution of Chinese Buddhism, in particular Hua-yen & T'ien-tai. The rational view does not preclude direct experience, but facilitates it ...

Both in Buddhism, Taoism and Process Theology, emptiness is more than mere absence of inherent existence. While classical logic can do not more than identify emptiness with the non-affirming negation, these systems posit a limitless field or energy of possibilities, virtuality & potentialities. Emptiness appears as the absolute absoluteness of a virtual realm of all possibilities. The latter is an endless ocean of non-differentiated energy giving rise to all actual, conventional events.

(b) Dependent Arising :

"The very driving force by which a thing is born, grows up, flourishes, and then goes back to its own origin - this existential force which everything possesses as its own 'nature' - is in reality nothing other than the Way as it actualizes itself in a limited way in everything."
Izutsu, T. : Op.cit., 1983, p.403.

On the implicate, ultimate level, phenomena are empty of inherent existence, existing as Actus purus in a state of sheer potency. Buddhahood is the direct experience or ecstatic apprehension of this level of reality, known as the ultimate aspect of every (conventional) phenomenon (the ultimate therefore exists conventionally, not "split off" from the actual world).

On the explicate, conventional level, phenomena are interdependent & interconnected, constantly changing & creative, i.e. ongoingly entering the self-becoming of other actual entities. On this level, phenomena appear as if they exist from their own side, independent from subjects or other objects. This mistaken appearance does not hinder their validity as conventional, functional occurrences. Although illusionary, they do allow the mind to logically & functionally distinguish them and know them as valid in conventional terms.

These two aspects of reality as a whole, namely the ultimate, abstract reality of emptiness and the conventional, concrete reality do not exist as two realities, but as two simultaneous sides of every single event. There is no Platonic split in being, for the division does not refer to two ontic realities (one Supreme and another not), but to one ontic reality (the selfsame, unique, singular reality) simultaneously harboring two polarities, the one concrete, the other potential. The one reality is therefore bipolar.

"The final facts are, all alike, actual entities ; and these actual entities are drops of experience, complex and interdependent."
Whitehead, A.N. : PR, § 28.

(c) The One :

"... most of the Taoist texts depict the One as residing within the body in the form of the three Primordial Breaths - namely the Three-One (san-i) or Three Originals (san-yüan). These are the deities that must be 'preserved' or maintained within the body by the means of meditative thought."
Robinet, I., Op.cit., 1993, p.123.

The One is not an ontological entity above and beyond all possible entities (as in Plotinus), but a principle of definiteness bringing, in potentia, limitations to the limitless creativity of the absolute Tao of limitless creativity. Without the One, the infinite would remain infinite and no possibility would be able to receive the potential form of being an identity (A = A). This potential form is of course not yet actual form, for the One is merely a non-differentiated, abstract principle of unity and harmony. The eternal objects (Heaven and Earth) add a principle of differentiation, allowing, in potentia, the limitations under unity advanced by the One to differentiate into multiplicities. With both potential unity (harmony) and differentiation, the actual world can manifest as a series of actual events constantly lured into contributing to the manifest unity & esthetic value of the universe.

"The One is present in everything as its ontological ground. It acts in everything as its ontological energy. It develops its activity in everything in accordance with the latter's particular ontological structure (...) If it were not for this activity of the One, nothing in the world would keep its existence as it should."
Izutsu, T. : Op.cit., 1983, p.402.

Insofar as the One, as Author of the World, is merely a principle of unity, It is an impersonal, eternal super force, energy or power establishing potential identities within the limitless. But as all actual entities exist by the grace of this principle, the One, as the Architect of the World, is also a super-consciousness or super-mind in which all entities endure and last forever. The One is thus simultaneously the eternal principle of unity (Godhead) and the everlasting, all-encompassing conscious actual entity who is near all events (God). As Godhead, the One is impersonal and unconscious, but as God, the One is personal and conscious, aware of every event as it has happened yesterday, as it happens now and as it possibly may happen tomorrow.

"When the One is attained, all problems are solved."
Chao Pi Ch'en, in Luk, Ch. : Op.cit., 1973, p.5.

Given the self-becoming of all entities, playing together in the alleatoric symphony of the actual world, God cannot know every event that actually will happen. Insofar as God does not know the actual future beforehand, the world influences God, co-determines the Divine Comedy, making God no longer the impassible, solipsist Caesar above & beyond the world, but the vulnerable fellow-sufferer with everlasting patience, one who cares without succumbing to this suffering !

(d) Towards a Synthetic Ontological Scheme :

"... the formless spontaneously produces form and the immaterial produces substance."
Liu I-Ming : The Inner Teachings of Taoism, in : Cleary, Th. : Op.cit., p.97.

Reality, the Tao, is more than just the temporal actual world of concrete actual entities. It is the unity of the concrete (the Ten Thousand Things) and the abstract (the absolute Tao, the One, the Two, the Three), of actuality & potentiality.

Synthetic Ontological Scheme

REALITY

the
REAL

all
events
temporal concrete actual
entities
the Ten Thousand Things dependent
arisings

valid but mistaken
abstract actual
entity
super-mind
non-temporal

Eternal
Present
potential differentiation Heaven & Earth emptiness

valid and
unmistaken
potential wholeness The One
non-dual
formless matrix of All
absolute
TAO

Reality is the unity of the actual world and the realm of all abstract possibilities. The former is spatiotemporal, the latter abides, as Actus Purus, in the "fourth time" of the Eternal Present. This realm of virtuality itself is organized in degrees of determination :

1. the non-differentiated absolute in its absoluteness (the ultimate nature of all phenomena beyond conceptualization), the absolute Tao or limitless & formless creativity is the "matrix" or "receptacle" of all possibilities itself, boundless ongoing symmetry-transformations. This absolute Tao, the "Dharmakâya" of Buddhahood, is the fundamental absolute reality, the Mystery of Mysteries ;

"Ultimate nonbeing, it contains ultimate being ; ultimate emptiness, it contains ultimate fulfillment."
Liu I-Ming : The Inner Teachings of Taoism, in : Cleary, Th. : Op.cit., p.80.

2. this Mystery of Mysteries is also the Gateway of Myriad Wonders, or the One (Wu-Chi), bringing these formless possibilities under the principle of unity & order of harmony in potentia, allowing formlessness to become potential form, accommodating potential wholeness (impling unity-under-variety). Here we find the Sambhogakâya of Buddhahood, the absolute Tao bridging formlessness and actuality, linked with great compassion and great benevolence ;
3. the One determines Heaven & Earth, i.e. differentiation in potential. Yang and Yin interact (the Three) and manifest as actual entities, the Ten Thousand things, the Nirmânakâya of Buddhahood, the body of manifestation (Tai Chi). This body first becomes actual as a singular super-mind, the conserving Architect of the world, encompassing the temporal world of actual entities. This super-mind (God) is the One (Godhead) insofar as it with all actual events. It is the One conscious of the actual world, luring it towards the greatest possible unity & esthetic value.

This progression in degrees of determination of the absolute Tao is not temporal, but logical (abstract). The realm of potentiality and the realm of actuality, of ultimate & conventional reality are simultaneous, a condition only to be grasped by non-dual, non-conceptual ecstacy or enlightened wisdom-mind. These degrees represent three aspects of the absolute Tao, namely insofar as it is the absolute absoluteness of creativity (Mystery of Mysteries), the absolute principle of potential definiteness (the One) and the absolute principle of potential being or manifestation (Heaven & Earth).

Epilogue

To clear the possessive, deluded mind from substantial concepts is a necessary condition for Wayfaring and the realization of the wisdom-mind taught by the Buddhas and the Immortals. Then and only then can phenomena be apprehended as interdependent and no longer as substances, the mode of cognizing of deluded beings. To the enlightened, immortal mind, all is empty, and this ultimate truth is directly experienced in an ineffable, ecstatic way, apprehending it in terms of a nondual cognition beyond all possible affirmation & denial. To realize this luminous mind of "Clear Light", concepts have to be silenced and this can be done using various methods. The contemplative mind mostly does so by merely thoroughly silencing the mind, entering the vast space of its natural state, while the more intellectual mind eliminates fixed concepts by ultimate concepts, raising the Sword of Wisdom to cut through the correct object of negation : inherent existence. The most profound mind witnesses how both approaches combine : Calm Abiding and its meditative equipoise stimulates Insight Meditation and insight increases tranquility. Such minds quickly enter "nirvâna", attaining the immortal spirit or the indestructible, very subtle mind, the core of sentience.

Given the presence of intelligence in contemplation and the presence of contemplation in intelligence, one should not confront tranquility with insight or seek the latter without the former. But, although conceptual analysis is necessary, it is far from sufficient. Indeed, spiritual practice is the only way to realization, and conceptual elucidation is merely a way to prepare the mind with the correct view. Wrong views fix the mind, rendering it incapable to approach the ultimate truth. As a shield, such views blind one from suchness, things as they truly are. As an anchor, they stop progress, and so no harbor can be found. But playing with correct views without the direct experience of suchness addict the mind to the medicine, leading to nihilism, the view reality is not functional, operational and so not the mother of the concrete.

In both Wayfaring and the Buddhadharma, spiritual practice aims at the immortal & enlightened wisdom-mind. But while the Buddhas develop methods, by meditating on emptiness, to generate this mind, Wayfarers seek to "circulate the breaths" and feed the "elixir fields" to harmonize the polarities in ever-dynamic ways, bringing about immortality by the "king of logics", dependence & interdependence. Both approaches complement each other, for Wayfaring without emptiness is folly and emptiness without dependent arising lacks compassion. Hence, to integrate these spiritual practices in one spiritual exercise (in fact a series of such exercises) is the correct concentration sought after.

So both Buddhist wisdom and Taoist philosophy are cripple without spiritual practice. Clearing concepts to arrive at the correct view serves the purpose of the correct spiritual practice, combining meditation & Chi-circulation. Divorced from the latter, the intellectual pursuit is vain, unnecessary and dangerous. Vain because nothing lasting is achieved. Unnecessary because it is a mere waste of good time. Dangerous because by overabusing the medicine, emptiness becomes a poison. And with the sole medicine gone, how can one be healed ? The personal experience of non-conceptual wisdom is the sole defense against the ignorance of eternalism & nihilism. Philosophy without the actual practice of wisdom is a heap of dead bones, like trying to make a skeleton compete with a living whole.

The integration of Taoism & Confucianism (being a Confucian during the day and a Taoist at night) belongs to the intention to "cull yin to augment yang", never negating Earth to reach for Heaven. In Mâhayâna Buddhism, the "pâramitâs" are cultivated to accumulate merit in the light of generating Bodhicitta, so the realm of "samsâra" can be more quickly exited for the benefit of all sentient beings (for as Buddhas helping others becomes flawless). Moreover, the monastic way is preferred, thus separating the spiritual intent from the world (renunciation), making monks beg for their subsistence. In a general way, Indian spirituality reaches for Heaven by negating Earth, while in the Chinese mentality, the concrete is spiritualized and the subtle materialized. This is also reflected in the yogas & tantras ; Indians focus on the subtle channel near the spine (raising the Kundalinî-Śakti), while the Chinese make the Chi circulate, connecting back (yang) & front (yin) channels of the body. So by adding the Confucian intent of harmonizing the individual with society, the overall combination becomes more potent, turning spirituality, by transforming individuals, into a force to change society for the better.

• Confucianism : living in harmony with society ;
• Taoism : transforming the individual in harmony with nature ;
• Buddhism : realizing wisdom-mind.

Finally, by "preserving the One", experiencing the "God of process" next to meditation and Chi-circulation, prayer & mystic experience enter as the third pole of spiritual life. Then, the Tao can also be addressed as a benevolent super-consciousness, not merely as life-force "driven" by intent as an objective series of (generative, vital & spiritual) powers. The latter are impersonal, while a personal super-mind intimately knows me as a person, establishing an intersubjective dialogue affecting both parties involved. Such a practice must avoid the age-old tendency of the mind to equate Deity with the concept of a Supreme Being, i.e. avoid the reification or eternalization of God. The God of process is not a substance, nor does the One supersede the absolute absoluteness of the Tao, nor dominate the limitless field of creative possibilities. By keeping this "existential" view as the correct view on God, a new non-imperialist onto-theology is possible, and intelligent persons may once again with confidence pray : "Kyrie eleison !", "Lord, have mercy !"


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For the Bibliography on Ancient Egypt click here.
For the Bibliography on General Philosophy click here.

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© Wim van den Dungen, Antwerp - 2014
philo@sofiatopia.org l Acknowledgments l SiteMap l Bibliography

Mistakes are due to my own ignorance and not to the Buddhadharma.
May all who encounter the Dharma accumulate compassion & wisdom.
May sentient beings recognize their Buddha-nature and find true peace.

 

initiated : 25 III 2009 - last update : 24 IX 2014 - version n°2