Immanence and transcendence again (Part 2): The ideas and nature

If God wants to create something, then He can do it, which means that His will is the cause of existence! And according to Grimes, the cause is an idea. This idea makes existence. [Pierre Grimes: Wisdom Literature in the Platonic Tradition. Lecture 20: Grades of Reality. Opening Mind Academy, 1995.] For instance, a man and a woman have the idea to enter into a relationship: they have an idea of a relationship, so their relationship exists. And “what holds them together” is the final cause. [ibid.] However, here idea is thought in the modern sense. For Plato, idea has a completely different meaning, it actually refers to the nature of all things, it is Perfect Being. As such, it is not only an ontological question (how the things in our perceptual world are manifested out of the idea), but also an epistemological, and thus tightly tied together with knowledge. In the Cratylus, Plato writes:

“ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ γνῶσιν εἶναι φάναι εἰκός, ὦ Κρατύλε, εἰ μεταπίπτει πάντα χρήματα καὶ μηδὲν μένει. εἰ μὲν γὰρ αὐτὸ τοῦτο, ἡ γνῶσις, τοῦ γνῶσις εἶναι μὴ μεταπίπτει, μένοι τε ἂν ἀεὶ ἡ γνῶσις καὶ εἴη γνῶσις. εἰ δὲ καὶ αὐτὸ τὸ εἶδος μεταπίπτει τῆς γνώσεως, ἅμα τ’ ἂν μεταπίπτοι εἰς ἄλλο εἶδος γνώσεως καὶ οὐκ ἂν εἴη γνῶσις: εἰ δὲ ἀεὶ μεταπίπτει, ἀεὶ οὐκ ἂν εἴη γνῶσις, καὶ ἐκ τούτου τοῦ λόγου οὔτε τὸ γνωσόμενον οὔτε τὸ γνωσθησόμενον ἂν εἴη. εἰ δὲ ἔστι μὲν ἀεὶ τὸ γιγνῶσκον, ἔστι δὲ τὸ γιγνωσκόμενον, ἔστι δὲ τὸ καλόν, ἔστι δὲ τὸ ἀγαθόν, ἔστι δὲ ἓν ἕκαστον τῶν ὄντων, οὔ μοι φαίνεται ταῦτα ὅμοια ὄντα, ἃ νῦν ἡμεῖς λέγομεν, ῥοῇ οὐδὲν οὐδὲ φορᾷ.”

Plato: Cratylus, 440a-c.

So knowledge requires that it is always accessible, it is unchangeable and as such, something which is true cannot be dependent on change. So how do we get knowledge? By realizing the nature of something. And what is the true nature of a thing? The idea! So the idea can never be object of change, but it is always there and always accessible, because if it changed, it would not be intelligible anymore, and thus could not be any knowledge. So we recognize something as it is, because Being never changes, it is always there, and this gives us the guarantee that we can recognize things at all.

“ὁ δὴ πᾶς οὐρανὸς —ἢ κόσμος ἢ καὶ ἄλλο ὅτι ποτὲ ὀνομαζόμενος μάλιστ’ ἂν δέχοιτο, τοῦθ’ ἡμῖν ὠνομάσθω—σκεπτέον δ’ οὖν περὶ αὐτοῦ πρῶτον, ὅπερ ὑπόκειται περὶ παντὸς ἐν ἀρχῇ δεῖν σκοπεῖν, πότερον ἦν ἀεί, γενέσεως ἀρχὴν ἔχων οὐδεμίαν, ἢ γέγονεν, ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς τινος ἀρξάμενος. γέγονεν: ὁρατὸς γὰρ ἁπτός τέ ἐστιν καὶ σῶμα ἔχων, πάντα δὲ τὰ τοιαῦτα αἰσθητά, τὰ δ’ αἰσθητά, δόξῃ περιληπτὰ μετ’ αἰσθήσεως, γιγνόμενα καὶ γεννητὰ ἐφάνη. τῷ δ’ αὖ γενομένῳ φαμὲν ὑπ’ αἰτίου τινὸς ἀνάγκην εἶναι γενέσθαι.”

Plato: Timaeus, 28b-c.

So everything which exists in the perceptional world has come into existence, it is not eternal. And things which are sensible are apprehensible by opinion with the aid of sensation. Furthermore, everything which comes into existence must have a reason or a cause. I have identified before that the first cause is God. We have also made clear that immanence and transcendence must exist, because those things which come into existence become immanent, while God is unchangeable (though dynamical) and everlasting and as such transcendent. But what can we say about the ideas, where do they reside?

To be able to answer this question, once again we should take a look on how other philosophies define ideas or its equivalent form. The Daodejing writes on the Dao in Chapter 14: “Ceaseless in its action, it yet cannot be named, and then it again returns and becomes nothing. This is called the Form of the Formless, and the Semblance of the Invisible; this is called the Fleeting and Indeterminable.” [transl. Legge]. In Chapter 21, it is written: “The grandest forms of active force, From Tao come, their only source. […] The forms of things all in it crouch; Eluding touch, eluding sight, There are their semblances, all right.” [ibid.; orthography slightly modified.] Chapter 25 tells us that the source, thus the Dao (God) Himself is formless and unchangeable: “There was something undefined and complete, coming into existence before Heaven and Earth. How still it was and formless, standing alone, and undergoing no change, reaching everywhere and in no danger (of being exhausted)! It may be regarded as the Mother of all things.” [ibid.] Chapter 51 writes: “All things are produced by the Dao, and nourished by its outflowing operation. They receive their forms according to the nature of each, and are completed according to the circumstances of their condition.” [ibid.; orthography slightly modified.] So according to the Daodejing, a thing receives its form, but the form is according to the nature of each. So we have a slight but astonishing parallel to Platonism: each thing has its own form, so there is more than one form, and the form as of the Daodejing is of the nature of each, Plato says the form is the nature, so we might say that the form is the nature as it defines the limits of the nature of the thing in its manifestation, tough the manifestation in a Platonic sense is not nature, not Being. The Daodejing teaches that God is the Creator of the forms.

Zhuangzi talks in Chapter 5 of outward forms, so same as in the Daodejing, the form is something immanent: “Thus it is that virtue should prevail and outward form be forgotten. But mankind forgets not that which is to be forgotten, forgetting that which is not to be forgotten.” [transl. Giles, 1889.] But for Zhuangzi, form has a completely different meaning, as we are talking of an outward form here, not of nature. And nature finds an interesting notion in Chapter 6: “Nature is no other than a man’s parents. If she bid me die quickly, and I demur, then I am an unfilial son. She can do me no wrong. Dao gives me this form, this toil in manhood, this repose in old age, this rest in death. And surely that which is such a kind arbiter of my life is the best arbiter of my death.” [ibid.; orthography slightly modified.] It is right here, when Giles comments that nature stands here for Yin and Yang. However, nature for Zhuangzi is dynamic, and thus not unchangeable. And in Chapter 8, he defines: “Therefore every addition to or deviation from nature belongs not to the ultimate perfection of all.” [ibid.] Thus, we can say that nature is perfection, and what a surprise this also goes to Plato, though for Plato, that which is truth is unchangeable as otherwise it would not be knowable. So we find a few things in which both books agree with Plato and with which they contradict. They contradict in where they can be found. For the Daodejing and for Zhuangzi, each thing receives its form from the Dao, nature is immanent and perfect if being untouched. So it seems that in Daoism, each thing consists of matter and form – matter has to receive its form which depicts its nature and through this the thing becomes the thing, so the form forms everything in accordance to its nature. This becomes very interesting if being compared to Aristotle, as Aristotle knows two kinds of change: (1) accidental change, and (2) substantial change.

“Aristotle famously contends that every physical object is a compound of matter and form. This doctrine has been dubbed “hylomorphism”, a portmanteau of the Greek words for matter (hulê) and form (eidos or morphê). […] Matter and form are required to account for this second kind of change, if it is to conform to Aristotle’s general conceptual analysis of change. In any change, he contends, there must be three things: (1) something which underlies and persists through the change; (2) a “lack”, which is one of a pair of opposites, the other of which is (3) a form acquired during the course of the change (Physics i 7, 190a13–191a22).”

Thomas Ainsworth: Form vs. Matter. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2020.

For Aristotle, form is explicitly not a perfection in the Platonic sense, nothing which resides beyond us, thus he rejects the theory of ideas. While “in an accidental change, the underlying thing is the substance which acquires a new accidental property” [ibid.], a substantial change “involve the coming to be or passing away of a substance” [ibid.] In an accidental change, something changes its state which is not necessary for that a thing is not a thing anymore. If we paint a chair, it has undergone an accidental change, but is still a chair. In a substantial change, we have an actual transformation. This should be enough as an excursus to show that the Asian concept is more compatible with Aristotle. Yet, with Plato this is more difficult. As Qin Tianning points out:

Different from Plato, Lao-Tzu proposed that virtue was obtained by continuous introspection instead of education, because human beings were kind-hearted and virtuous from birth. And everyone would keep his good essence unless he was influenced by someone evil. In his opinion, the best virtue is like water in that it ever do anything on purpose or struggle for something, and flowing conforming to nature to those places where need it, water becomes the most essential factor in nature. So if people want to be virtuous, they don’t have to do anything intentionally but follow their heart and introspect themselves.

Qin Tianning: Comparison of Lao-Tzu and Plato on Their Philosophies. Henan Normal University.

The Picatrix I,3 writes that “For the soul has this form [i.e. round shape] inasmuch as it is the first thing left to itself; for the first thing, in which there is no corruption whatsoever, has a perfect form, and the perfect form is the circle.” [Pseudo-Maǧriti: „Picatrix“ – Das Ziel des Weisen von Pseudo-Maǧrīṭī. Translated into German from Arabic by Hellmut Ritter and Martin Plessner. London: The Warburg Institute/ University of London, 1962, p. 12 – English translation mine]. So as pointed out many times before, the soul is divinely, because it is in constant connection with God. God is reason and reason is unfolded through the soul. So the soul is perfection of course, when at birth, and it is up to us to corrupt our soul and disconnect with God or if we corrupt our soul whether we clean our soul and restore the connection or not. So unlike Daoism, where virtue is absorbed, in Platonism, virtue is subject of education, and through realizing our right and wrong behavior, we can heal our soul from its defilements, as stated in the Gorgias.

We recognize the ideas through the soul, they are not immanent. And so it is correct when Picatrix I, 4 writes:

[N]ot every matter absorbs every random effect. This is a principle on which there is agreement in their (the philosophers’) records. Now, if disposition and readiness for acceptance are necessarily present, then admission must necessarily occur; and when reception necessarily occurs, there is union and the appearance of the desired effect, for union is being imprinted to receive form, so that hyle and form become one.

Pseudo-Maǧriti, 1962, p. 22 – English translation mine.

And what a surprise, this goes hand in hand with the Asian view. Form can only manifest according to its nature, so already a form is a limit, in that it determines the thing. It makes the thing become the thing! And same as the Neo-Platonists, the Picatrix tries to bring Plato and Aristotle in uniformity. They believe that both do not necessarily contradict each other. In Picatrix I,6 Plato’s ideas are taken up:

Know: If it were possible for a man to find fire in its paradeigmatic form, free from all accidents and conditions and everything that attaches itself to it once it associates with its sisters (the other elements), he would find that it doesn’t burn at all. Because this is (only) its particular effect, in which the accidents and states and the spatial position are also involved. Because the fire is not found in our actual place and only accidentally. When it leaves the body and the wood, it returns to its original nature (‘unṣur) and its place above the air. But its simple, universal effect is so sublime that it cannot be described, nor comprehended in words, nor uttered by tongue; for it is a sublime, mighty power, transcending all simplicity and quality. And so it is with the other elements. And it is the same with man, and this man is it with whom the covenant was made in primeval eternity, and the ‘composite man’ depends on him. […] But if he recognizes this and treads the path of deliberate action, through which he rises to the lights of the first beginning, which representing the intrinsic and substantial principle of him (as a human being) that constitutes his beginning, he is more perfect in humanity than the others according to the extent to which he succeeds in freeing himself. But all this happens through the fact that he practices virtue as well as he can.

Pseudo-Maǧriti, 1962, p. 48 – English translation mine.

So here we see the triangle truth – knowledge – virtue. If we gain knowledge, we will be able to understand the truths, but to gain knowledge, we have to become virtuous. So it is of theoretical and practical importance. Knowledge is nothing, if not being brought to practice. As such, we will never see the things itself, the paradigms, they are transcendental, same as God. As these paradigms (forms) are the actual nature of the things, they are the true Being, the unchangeable truths, and as such object of knowledge, even though we cannot know the thing Itself as a sensible, we have knowledge through recognition. We recognize a chair as chair, because it shares the idea of a chair, despite its accidentals. The Idea of the chair is everlasting, unchangeable, and therefore true knowledge. But despite that, we use to corrupt our soul, so we mix truths with lies and we do not see anymore what is truth and what is lie. So we need to purify ourselves and try to acquire virtue.

In accordance with Asian philosophy, every matter receives its form by the Creator, so form determines nature and the thing Itself is then determined for what it is for. If matter receives the form of a human-being, it will always be a human-being as long as it is together with its form and serve the purposes of a human-being: human-beings are servants for God. But it seems that transcendence itself has different layers, because the forms are created by God, so God existed first.

Since the question of the ideal human-being arose above, I want to give a very small excursus, since I answered this question in an essay before. The ideal-human being is the Va girl, an adult unmarried woman of the Va. She unites the Homeric warrior, Confucian piety, and the Stoic ideal that virtue is the only good, though she realized that virtue is an expression of the Good, so Va girls are very pious people. As pointed out before the Good is God and all goodness goes back to God. In making a unity with heart and mind, the heart representing compassion and gentleness, and the mind representing virtue, they make a wholesome harmony.

“The unity of heart and mind is true xin, and if just one manages to attain true xin, then it is the Va girl. As I pointed out in 2014 in my book Mein Weg zum Buddhismus – Formen, Lehre und Umsetzung, we have to differentiate between the physical heart and the social heart. Indeed, in Va language rhawm is a very important term which indicates a lot of care […]. Rhawm means heart and as we can see, all kind of feelings, all kind of social attributes, can be referred to the heart. Of course, only the good is true xin, and of course, we can go as far and say that regret is a way of expressing the good, because it is the correction of one’s mistake, and of course, correcting one’s mistake is good. […] The reason why I take the Va girl as ideal is neither her ethnicity nor her appearance. This means, I do not take the Va girl as ideal, because of her skin color, eyes, hairs or dress, but because of her values. In other words, every girl can be the Va girl. And even further, these values are not limited to girlhood, because as I pointed out so many times, gender is just constructed in the mind. This means that also every man can be the Va girl. Or more precisely: Every human-being can be the Va girl!”

Timo Schmitz: “The Va girl ideal” (bonkrih vax) – The model of human-beings (11 October 2022). In: A Divinely Way to Philosophy, Vol. 2. Trier & Vachendorf: Graf Berthold Verlag, 2022.

Next, we should take a look at African philosophy, and of course, at first we should look at Placide Tempels. While he is regarded very critical in Africa today, he went through a lot of hardships, because he stated things which are obvious to us today, but which were not regarded obvious in Europe at his times. For instance, he wrote: “To declare on a priori grounds that primitive peoples have no ideas on the nature of beings, that they have no ontology and that they are completely lacking in logic, is simply to turn one’s back on reality.” [Placide Tempels: Bantu Philosophy. Paris: Présence Africaine, 1959, p. 16] Of course, we know today that Africans are human-beings as all other human-beings, and it is even wrong to call them ‘primitive’. But the fact that Tempels did not follow the narrative of colonialism that Africans would be unintellectual savages brought him a lot of trouble:

“Placide Tempels (1906-1977), a Franciscan missionary from Belgium, first published his book The Bantu Philosophy in French in 1945 in Elisabethville in the Belgian Congo (cf. Tempels 1945c, 2001). Unlike the French philosopher Lévy-Bruhl (1951, 1960), Tempels shows that the Bantu have developed an imagined system of the world and that this system is based on certain fundamental principles. […] It was customary to regard the African as primitive and therefore to deny him a proper, critical philosophy. For Lévy-Bruhl (1951, 1960), the pre-logical, even mystical, contradictory mentality is characteristic of a primitive society. It is contrasted with civilized society: the mentality in this is characterized by a logical, consistent and therefore scientific quality. […] There have also been cases where there has been ascribed a philosophy, an unconscious, spontaneous, popular philosophy, a philosophy of philosophical aspects or vocabulary or ideas closely related to religious beliefs to Africans. Philosophy served as a synonym for thought in the indefinite sense of the word – this made it possible a priori to apply it to any kind of thought, in this case African. […] A look at Tempels’ literary activities makes it clear that he made an unmistakably great intellectual progress, which made his Bantu philosophy possible in the first place. […] Overall, Tempels 1944/1945 is a completely different one [than he was before]: He now denounces the abuse of colonization. He becomes the defender of Bantu culture and fights for its recognition. Finally, in 1945, he seems convinced that Africans have a philosophy because they are human. Out of this conviction he developed his Bantu philosophy, which he tries to discuss for the purpose of catechesis. […] He was not allowed to receive guests at will during his stay in Belgium (1946-1949) – a prohibition which was not strictly enforced, as the thorough scrutiny of a visitor’s intention was considered too cumbersome. Apparently Tempels suffered a lot because of the Bantu philosophy, as he informed P. Schebesta, a missionary from Steyl, in 1948. The extensive correspondence about it nevertheless encouraged him to spread some of his ideas further (cf. Smet 1977a: 108).

Balimbanga Malibabo: Die Bantu-Philosophie von Tempels aus afrikanischer Perspektive. Afrikanistik Online, 2006. (translation mine)

This long citation should show clearly, why it is very important to treasure Tempels’ philosophy, despite the problems which were later addressed: of course, it is a very European view, and he talks of the ‘primitive’ people, but as the description shows, he was a child of his time, being educated in times of colonialism, and later he himself became a defendant of human rights for Africans. He supported the local people and turned against colonialism, because he realized that all human-beings are equal, and Africans are also human-beings, a fact which many in the 1940s still rejected. So his thoughts were quite progressive! This historical excursus is important, because I think it is problematic when we only see the words of Tempels through our lenses today, without acknowledging the historical background. So despite the many criticism for his ethnophilosophy, I think that his method is an important contribution to philosophy, especially in promoting African philosophy.

In the following, I want to sum up major passages from his book Bantu Philosophy which gravely entangle our question. These passages are:

“What has been called magic, animism, ancestor-worship, or dynamism – in short, all the customs of the Bantu – depend upon a single principle, knowledge of the Inmost Nature of beings, that is to say, upon their Ontological Principle. For is it not by means of this philosophical term that we must express their knowledge of being, of the existence of things? […] Let us try above all to understand Bantu philosophy, to know what their beliefs are and what is their rational interpretation of the nature of visible and invisible things. These views may be held to be sound or erroneous: in either case we should admit that their ideas on the nature of the universe are essentially metaphysical knowledge, which constitutes them an ontology. […] I believe that we should most faithfully render the Bantu thought in European language by saying that Bantu speak, act, live as if, for them, beings were forces. Force is not for them an adventitious, accidental reality. Force is even more than a necessary attribute of beings: Force is the nature of being, force is being, being is force. When we think in terms of the concept ‘being’, they use the concept ‘force’. Where we see concrete beings, they see concrete forces. When we say that ‘beings’ are differentiated by their essence or nature, Bantu say that ‘forces’ differ in their essence or nature. […] In the category of visible beings the Bantu distinguish that which is perceived by the senses and the ‘thing in itself’. By the ‘thing in itself’ they indicate its individual inner nature, or, more precisely, the force of the thing. They are expressing themselves in figurative language when they say ‘in every thing there is another thing; in every man a little man’. […] Their allegory merely brings into relief the distinction they make between the contingent, the visible phenomenon of being or of force, and the intrinsic visible nature of that force.”

Tempels, 1959: 23-25, 35-37.

There are much more passages answering question on nature, but these are enough to understand Tempels in contrast to the systems which were introduced above. Being for the Bantu people in Congo is connected to force, so as more force something inherits as more being it has. As force is not an accidental reality, we can equal force with essence and as such with the nature itself. So instead of forms or ideas, nature is force, or better: life is force. However, forces differ and therefore, force is not force, it is not a primitive concept, but a complex one. When the Bantu speak of a thing in itself, then they actually imagine a thing within a thing which is the inner nature, so nature is always within the thing, it is the thing within the thing which expresses nature. So in every man is a little man who is the actual man.

This is indeed a very complex, manifold concept which differs a lot from our European thought, yet it also has similarities with European philosophy, e.g. it is something which Aristotle acknowledged as he says that substance is in the individual and as such he rejects Plato’s Theory of Forms. On 24 May 2022 I addressed this problem, making clear that though every object has a share with the idea, the object has no self-nature, because the share with the idea only makes the nature graspable, but is not the nature of the thing itself. Because if the chair had a self-nature, then the chair would already be perfect for itself and no share with the actual form would be needed. So the nature does not really lie inside that particular thing, since it only has a share of the idea, but the idea itself is not inside. And this is why Aristotle’s thought that the οὐσία can be found in the ὑποκείμενον is wrong. The reason for my rejection is simple: if the οὐσία can be found in the ὑποκείμενον, then the very ὑποκείμενον would be the perfect chair, meaning that no chair besides the one chair would be possible. And as soon as a second chair existed, there would be two essences independently, and therefore, the second chair could not be a chair, since each essence can exist only once. And if each essence only existed once, it would hardly be possible to recognize anything at all, since no thing could exist twice in this world. Not even a second human-being besides ourselves would be possible, as the human nature would be reserved for the one human-being.

Finally, I also want to take a Jŭngsanist view inside, as an example I take Jeungsando. Though it is an Asian thought, I did not explain them together with the Ancient Asian thoughts, because Jeungsando is a very contemporary religion, a new religious movement, going back to Ahn Ung-san in 1974, tracing his ideas back to Ko Pan-hye’s lineage of Kang Il-sun’s religion. Kang lived from 1871 to 1909. So we want to distinguish clearly the Ancient and modern views. In the Dojeon, it is written: “Dao is the world that can be opened through faith and open-heartedness. It seems to be doing nothing, yet it accomplishes everything, without shape or form. It may be conveyed through the mind, but cannot be given or taken; It may be experienced, but cannot be seen. Dao is itself the root of all life in heaven and earth, existing even before the beginning of heaven and earth.” [1,4,4], “The Ruling God in heaven, Jeh, governs li (理), the principle of formation and movement of the universe. In heaven, there is a throne from which the universe is governed. It cannot be sufficiently explained in words. It is said that Jeh is the one who governs the principle. Yet, we cannot see Jeh’s shape. It is truly difficult to properly comprehend Him.” [1,5,4-6], “When the teacher finally gave up, Hahk-bohng said, ‘From the word heaven I learned the nature of heaven. From the word earth I learned the nature of earth. What more is there to know? Please relax until it is time to go.’ In the end, the Sacred Father sent the teacher away.” [1,15,8] So the Dao itself is not active, it cannot do something differently as it is doing, so it is a passive Creator and bound to creating; though I disagree and think that the Creator is active, He is not forced to create anything if He does not want to. Anyways, God is the source of all life in heaven and earth and as such exists before the beginning of heaven and earth. Since I personally believe that reason is a divine attribute, I also agree that God governs li. Here, we can learn that li is more than mere intellectuality, and as li and reason are synonyms, reason is more than plain intellect, but the principle of formation and movement. This is evident, because our thoughts are always in movement and we can always put our thoughts on different topics, so our sphere of thoughts is dynamic and not bound to mechanical processing so that we have to have certain thoughts after another (like a chain) with necessity, but we are free to think of whatever we want. Next, I also agree that we cannot see God’s shape. Believers of Jeungsando seemingly see a connection between the nature of a thing and the word. Here, we might feel reminded of the Sefer Yetzira, where we discussed the option that language determines being. But we saw that the opposite is the case: because we see that something exists, we need a word for it. But the word does not equal the term, as the term is independently of a specific language and as such as a status (Abaelard!), we can grasp the form. Hegel thought that the idea is the adequate term, and therefore the objective truth or the truth as such. As a consequence it is clear that if anything has truth, it comes from its idea, for the idea is the only truly real thing [Hegel: Werke in 20 Bänden, Band 6. Frankfurt am Main, 1970, p. 462 ff. Cited after Dietrich Gondosch, Martha Helmle, Gregor Paul: Lehrbuch der Philosophie, Teil 1: Begriffe, Methoden, Disziplinen. Frankfurt am Main: Diesterweg, 1980, p.20 f.] – and to this Platonic-Hegelian thought I strongly agree. Taken this as ground, knowledge comes through the soul and as pointed out so many times before, our reality is subjective. This subjectivity is taught to us through different systems: education systems, laws, state reasons. But all these systems are created and inherit no intrinsic truth, except they contain Divine Law, but yet, the whole system as such is not divinely set, and therefore, not truth. Thus, the system as a whole exists only in our mind. Being, on the contrary, is the absolute idea, and thus truth as a whole. [Hegel, Band 6, 1970, p. 548 ff. Cited after Gondosch, Helmle & Paul, 1980, p. 22.] The ideal world therefore is nature in itself, yet we did not explain, how many realm it inherits, for the simple reason, that we cannot know. In Kabbalah, for instance, there are different spiritual worlds, and this concept most likely contains some truth. In Buddhism, there are three realms (kamadhatu, rupadhatu, arupadhatu) and this system most likely also contains some truths.

As shown before, they even share some parallels. In a certain way, kamadhatu equals Assiya, and has six realms in itself. Like in Judaism, every of the six realms has certain aspects which are common to them, and while the sefirot distinguish between intellectual and emotive qualities in the immanent stage, Buddhism has several steps of development to enlightenment which fulfill the same steps. Therefore, reaching nirvana is like forming a unity, tasting ein sof. The word “tasting” here is a well-known Sufi term, by the way, but it explains the situation very well. While only kamadhatu represents the immanent world, rupadhatu and arupadhatu are spiritual worlds, comparable to the different spiritual worlds in Judaism. Therefore, rupadhatu and arupadhatu have spiritual qualities which can be found in the sefirot as well, as the sefirot are channeled through the realms and directly take God as source. According to the School of Lubavitch: “The Sefirot are ten modes or attributes through which G-d manifests Himself. The Sefirot are not G-d, but they are the medium through which specific qualities and attributes can be ascribed to Him. […]’” [Nissan Dovid Dubov: The Sefirot., no date., retrieved on 2 November 2019.] So transcendence seems to be manifold itself. God’s plan is manifested in this world and through reason, we get an access on the higher plane. In the same way, the idea seems to be part of the transcendent world, but ideas might have a beginning. Yet, they have to exist before anything manifested in this world and they cannot cease before immanence ceases. Thus, form is necessary for that matter can bring forth any actual existence, and every kind of existence is the result of God’s plan, insofar as it is good!

For Hegel man is primarily spirit and God is also spirit, man and God are connected with one another. Through this, God expresses himself internally in man and cannot have an external source. Man has an immediate knowledge of God through his inseparable unity through his consciousness of the spirit. Religion is the highest sphere of human consciousness and includes knowledge and cognition. [G.W.F. Hegel: Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion. Band 1: Einleitung. Der Begriff der Religion. Neu herausgegeben von Walter Jaeschke. Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1993, p. 79.] Thus, our knowledge is the result of a spiritual connection. Anyways, nothing true can be accounted through perception as perception only helps us to make assumptions, while true knowledge is only accessible through the reasonable part of our soul, so knowledge itself is already spiritual. And also our cosmos is linked to the spiritual, since our epistemological recognition is done through realizing the idea. As such, nature indeed, such as Asian and African philosophy showed through its discourses is forming a wholesome unity with God, and we ought to be brought in communion with Him. To put it in the words of Seventh-day Adventist co-founder Ellen White:

“Many are the ways in which God is seeking to make Himself known to us and bring us into communion with Him. Nature speaks to our senses without ceasing. The open heart will be impressed with the love and glory of God as revealed through the works of His hands. The listening ear can hear and understand the communications of God through the things of nature. The green fields, the lofty trees, the buds and flowers, the passing cloud, the falling rain, the babbling brook, the glories of the heavens, speak to our hearts, and invite us to become acquainted with Him who made them all. Our Saviour bound up His precious lessons with the things of nature. The trees, the birds, the flowers of the valleys, the hills, the lakes, and the beautiful heavens, as well as the incidents and surroundings of daily life, were all linked with the words of truth, that His lessons might thus be often recalled to mind, even amid the busy cares of man’s life of toil. God would have His children appreciate His works and delight in the simple, quiet beauty with which He has adorned our earthly home. He is a lover of the beautiful, and above all that is outwardly attractive He loves beauty of character; He would have us cultivate purity and simplicity, the quiet graces of the flowers.”

Ellen White: Steps to Christ, 1892, Chapter 10.

Timo Schmitz, 17 November 2022


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