THE LIVING AND THE DIVINE
Part1: Between Experiences and the Transcendental
Chapter 2: The Quest for Certainty in Philosophy
2.2 Cosmology as Example
The subject of the origin of living beings and the relationship of animate or organic matter to
inanimate or inorganic matter can be discussed on the basis of two differing assumptions: One can assume
that 'higher' forms developed from 'lower' ones or one can say that something higher cannot come from
something lower, unless it can be assumed that something equivalent to that which is termed higher can
be thought of as somehow already present in the lower forms. The latter supposition does not allow for
any kind of progression in life or for greater ability to adapt to a desired goal or for the total perfecting
of some life function, unless such increase is balanced out in some way by a minus or loss of a positive feature,
the price to be paid for progress and improvement. Accordingly, 'progress', which always entails increase or
improvement, a raising to something higher, would be reduced to a 'transformation'.
An equilibrium is sought, where the overall equation retains a constancy. It should be noted that this
does not present the difficulties for thought that are inherent in the notion of something higher coming
from something lesser.
According to this reasoning, everything that causes the development of something higher or more effective was
supposedly present potentially at an earlier stage, in the lower form. The 'higher' is the 'lower' in a different
form. Everything was always present, seen in terms of the total expression of that which is life. Thus, there
would be no development 'from the amoeba to humanity'; rather everything that it could or would become would be
inherently present in the 'Ur' form of life. The highest form of life was already there in a different format as
soon as there was life. There was no protozoon at the starting point of a chain of development, but rather a form
of life that cannot be compared to any later living organism, one that already had the tendencies that now manifest
themselves in the reproduction of like forms; only it must have been activated to bring into being new forms and
forms that branch off from the generating form.
Let us imagine creative forces, forces of life that bring forms into being as active, instead of being limited,
as now, to mere reproduction. We will then see in the development of life in the first stages of history, a growth
and transformation of the organic form similar to the development we can see in the growth and transformation of a
single organism, from the embryonic stage to an established end-form. The original life-form would have brought
about the later, more clearly determined forms, which then merely reproduced themselves, possibly by forms dividing
or by some other method. The far greater wealth of things present and inheritable in the mother organism may have
allowed for greater differentiation between generations and even within units of one generation than we can see in
our current epoch in the universal history of life.
This particular position allows us to clarify another philosophical problem, that of representing in a concrete way
the Idea, the 'Ur' image in the Platonic sense. The difficult question, 'where' Ideas are to be located, led Plato,
as we know, to offer the somewhat questionable answer, 'nowhere', 'in a supersensory location'. In the context of the
position under discussion, this question relates to the penultimate stage of the quest for the origin of things and can
be answered with 'within the self-forming world matter itself'. We can then imagine the 'idea of a lion' as a specific
living creature, having the initial, not yet rigidly determined features we know to-day; a shape still seeking, as it
were, to define itself within world matter, yet already possessing the created life functions that constitute a lion.
'The' lion designates a specific stage in the process of forming and transforming living matter in the world and is,
literally, the location of this Idea. The idea of a single creature, understood in this way, transmutes into a next stage;
it also differs from the 'version' that enters our field of experience. It is thus not just a doubling of the creature in
essence, which is the, half justified, accusation that Aristotle brought against Plato. Plato might have brought this
version into his simile of an original and a shadow, had he not set the immateriality of his Ideas in the forefront of
his conception and if he had asked how Ideas enter the material world and connect with the specimens on earth.
We now need to take a further step. When we consider the question of the relationship of the organic world to inorganic
matter and things animate arising from things inanimate, two thoughts present themselves, both seemingly equally valid,
yet incompatible: one, the notion that we cannot assume an unbridgeable division between animate and inanimate things;
that would mean that it would somehow be possible for animate things to come from inanimate things; two, the notion that
the division between that which we term organic and that which we term inorganic is so profound that no bridging is possible.
There seems to be only one way of thinking as a possible response, namely that that which we to-day term inorganic, out of
which we cannot expect anything living to arise is, indeed, a form of matter that did not exist in its present state at the
time of the Creation of the world. Animate matter did not emerge from inanimate matter; rather, inanimate matter resulted in
some way from animate matter, 'falling away' from it, as it were. This is a development of the principle that we cannot
conceive of something higher coming from something lower. That which we term inorganic is a waste-product of life, burnt
out slack. It cannot be conceived of as allowing for the development of life, but it is comprised in the environment of life,
a humus, sustenance and locus of the processing and conditions for life. It is not possible to think of the separation of organic
and inorganic world matter as a duality that has always existed. Rather, the formation, the formation of organisms must be
conceived of as extended to cosmic parameters, a creation, in its way, of life in which animate and inanimate matter, life and
its environment were not yet differentiated.
This train of thought leads us to a striking explanation of the concept of life adapting or being adapted to its 'element',
its environment. The reason why living matter is so exactly adapted to its surroundings is that such adaptation is the result
of a form of being in which that to which life was to adapt in fact belonged to the organism and was bound together with that
which later emerged as adapted, a single unit of life. With this concept of the organism that goes beyond the inorganic, we
join a thought expressed by Kant, one that every biologist researching the origins of life must have come close to, something
Kant called 'the adventure of reason'. According to this, one ought to imagine the earth as a large animal, from whose lap were
raised living forms until it finally 'stiffens in its unfruitfulness' (Kant: Kritik der teleologischen Urteilskraft).
But the notion is actually much older. It is a train of thought that underlies the Biblical account of Creation. The phrases
'let the earth bring forth', 'let the waters bring forth' do not only allow but oblige us to understand that it was not the
inorganic conglomerates, 'earth', 'waters', that could have been meant as giving birth to living forms; rather, that 'the earth'
and 'the waters' must have been seen as living, undifferentiated, living matter, instinct with world substances and world conditions.
Inorganic substances can only appear as a residuum of something emptied of life, a mighty remainder'; something out of which amorphous
life had emerged and acquired form. Division, 'havdala' is the main process in the Creation. First, aggregates are separated, then
living aggregates are separated from their embryos and only then, once the life forms were separate from their envelope was an
environment brought about. As the biologist Haldane said, one needs to add the environment in the analysis of every living organism.
We have presented all of this by way of example to explain the process of cognition of trans-empirical reality. Cognition here
is understood in the only fruitful sense of acquiring an image of reality beyond experience with the help of the imagination. While
we are aware that we may, in the future, replace or modify the above perspective, it will not be the strange, unusual character of what
we see, as compared with the world of experience, that we will want to correct. Rather, we shall be replacing or modifying one wholly
unfamiliar aspect of trans-empirical existence and setting in its place one that may be just as unfamiliar. In the meantime, we shall
let the opposition to the position presented above take its course. It stems from a rejection of the role of fantasy. Yet this cannot
be eliminated. Fantasy is given to us first and foremost to orientate us in the reality of the world; only in second place, by way of
'ersatz', does it serve us in Art. We shall try to show later that such orientation takes up the power of the imagination to the full.