THE LIVING AND THE DIVINE
Part 2: The New Biocentric Image of the World
Chapter 4: On the Origins of Life
4.1 Life and Consciousness, Time in Terms of Animate and Inanimate [Matter]
Humanity, seen as the totality of all human beings, those who once lived, who now exist and who
will come into being in the foreseeable future, constitute a single, biological reality. Not only are
they one, biologically connected by descent, not only is the biological organisation of birth and
reproduction a sign of a supra-individual reality, the individual itself is manifestly the product of
a supra-individual organisation of life. The entire, huge species of man is, in a sense, a single real
being, not in the sense of a Platonic Idea, but in the sense of the endless, swarm of generations
perpetuating itself throughout the ages.
Behind that many-faceted swarm, as behind every species, there stands a living being, the generic
individual unit that cannot yet have manifested the biological organization that is conditioned by life
continuing in its individualized form. It must have been the matrix organisation from which features
developed. That organism, which must be thought of as both material and living, may have been a separate
organism or it may have existed in an as yet undifferentiated connectedness to species of other kinds of
being. That organism is the 'Ur' human being, or rather, it is 'Ur' humanity. There, 'that which is
living in the world' found specific form.
Living matter is essentially anticipatory. Since, as we phrase it to-day, it strives to attain a goal, that
goal which it strives to attain must, in some way, already be real while it is taking form in matter or while
it forms matter. What do we mean when we say that the aim - to have a complete, functioning organism, as well
as the consciousness made possible by that organism - is real? Consciousness is not present before the organism
that bears it. We can, perhaps, understand from here that life is, deep down, interwoven with time. Life is a
process of unfolding in time. That which is yet to come, the phase of development towards which something is
directed must, in some sense, already be there, so that the development can make its way towards it. But
how can something future already be present? If we are looking at inanimate matter, then that which takes
place in the future follows from that which has taken place in the past. If we look at our conscious state,
we see that we are able to modify an existing thing into a future thing. We have anticipated the future in
our mind. Our mind enables us to have a view of the future, in part built on things past; but in part able
to bring about something that was not there before. The mental image of something in the future is there
before that something is formed. But, if that mind that conceives the future and guides the process of forming
is not yet there, how can the future something be there?
There is no avoiding the fact that we must go back to questioning the problem of time itself and ask: Is
it adequate to see the problematic phenomenon of time in terms of the notion taken from the inanimate procedure?
In terms, that is, of some objective, cosmic earlier, now and later? And how are we to explain living things,
where the future is present in the past and where that which is earlier presupposes that which will come later;
in some sense, that which is later needs to precede that which comes earlier, since that which is is earlier is
affected by that which will come later? Whether we call all this 'prospective potential' or 'striving towards a
goal' or 'entelechy', the fact remains that living processes move outwards from inside, from the self and move
'towards a goal'. However, if that whic is earlier presupposes that which will come later then, here at least,
time is reversed: that which comes later determines that which comes earlier. So the future has to be there first.
Everything living must begin with the future.
There is more. If living is, in some special way, bound up with the duration of the future, perhaps the
phenomenon of time is, in some special way, bound up with life processes; such that, from one point of view,
time is conditioned by life, which experiences time or even equates to it. Kant thought time was an attribute
of consciousness. Bergson likewise thought that one could not speak of the inanimate world as existing 'in time'
in the same sense that one could say this about consciousness or about things living. Heidegger, too, sought to
make a close connection between time, consciousness and that which is living, where the latter is closer to coincidence
than are time and physical happenings.
The question arises, though we shall do no more than mention it here, whether time, even apart from its
measurability, is something different in the inanimate and the animate worlds, different qua time. The 'now',
the quite extraordinary isolation of one single world moment from all others may, according to this view, be
divided from the 'not-now' moments in ways that are different in animate phenomena from animate ones. A cosmic,
objective 'now' is significantly more difficult to handle than a 'now' that is experienced, according to a philosophical
point of view. Modern physics likewise encounters problems determining time in the universe. The table standing
before me has no 'now', not only because it cannot experience a 'now', but also because, seen from its status,
it is not set in a present that distinguishes itself from a past and a future. Connected with this fact is the fact
that, seen from its status, it is also not set in a 'here', implicit in every 'now'. It is part of world matter,
a unit not only in space but in time; which means that, for world matter, the past has the same meaning as the present
and the future. Matter, according to this view, exists more in space than in time.
For matter, change and movement must exclude the context of a section cut out from the total of movement in the
world, so essential to the experience of time for living beings. where such a section constitutes a 'here'. If
I say: that boat is 'now' passing that bush on the river bank, the ' now is being experienced; it is bound up with
a section of the total of movement in the world that includes boat and bush. If I consider that total with my mind,
I find that the phase during which boat and bush are closest together is not differentiated from every other phase
by a 'now' ( unless, that is, the experiencing observer is made the starting point that determines the 'world moment').
The 'objective world moment' is reduced to a constellation, as e.g. one in which both boat and bush are closest
to one another. It does not have a 'now; it 'stands' or 'continues' in an undifferentiated manner in the sequence
of constellations. That mode of changing is unthinkable as applying to a time-conscious living being, although
it can be conceptually described. That is time for the inanimate, external world. The 'now' is brought about by
synthesising the time of living beings and assigning it to the changing mode of a 'now-less' continuum. These
considerations may be analysed in various ways. We have stated them only to point to the difference between the
problem of time for living beings and its consideration for inanimate objects.
Is the past 'unreal'? Is the future 'unreal'? Is the present alone real, also for inanimate objects? If so,
then the world would have to come into being from nothing at every moment. If, however, past and future are real
in some sense, then time represents and is something else for the experiencing consciousness - for which only 'now'
is real in terms of pure experience, while past and future clearly carry signs of unreality - than it is for the
material, inanimate objects, whose external reality is instantly recognised by consciousness. We consider Kant's
solution to be somewhat hasty; it shows an awareness of the difficulty encountered when applying time to something
non-conscious. That is why Kant presents it as a mode of perception of the 'inner sense'. And that is surely an over
What, then, about living beings? As we can see, it is essential to a living being that its future, that which
it will become, is already there in some form. 'Something reverts to its original state' is a formula describing
a living happening, that is it would be, if we could find an original state corresponding to the actually attained
end state of a given development. If we are to understand the end state as being the original state, we need to view
it as a reality in a state of potentiality, as the functioning of a potential energy. Living has, on occasion, been
likened to a spring that needs to return to its untensed state. The essential feature of the structure of living matter
seems to be that it 'stores up time', that it is organised 'from the other end of time', from the direction of the future.
If life is an urge/drive it must, like every other urge, be directed towards something; that something may not be
present at the moment, but it must objectively exist before the urge for it can come about. There can be no urge
unless it has a factual objective.
Being alive means 'making use' of' the circumstance that the reality to be experienced in the future is already
there; which means that that which is yet to come must, in some given way, have determined that which is now present
or was there in the past. We need to posit a kind of timeless interactivity, or rather an inter-determining,
analogous to the interactivity that operates between the spatial parts of the world and makes them into one unit,
if we seek to understand the world as one whole, where the forming of every one of its parts is effected by every
other part. Thus, the present and the past were formed by something still outstanding as far as the experiencing
consciousness is concerned; perhaps also, even as far as an 'objective' dimension of time is concerned, - although
it is already present in another, equally objective order. We might venture the following formulation: the ultimate,
general phenomenality of gravitation that binds together all matter in space terms, also explains the living being
in terms of time. However, the only way we can understand the essence of life is by an analogy to an 'objective',
materialised consciousness, a means of reacting to experience caused by something yet to come. That is what we
call an urge for something. An urge is created by a loss situated in the past and consists of a tendency to
attain that something once again, a tendency directed towards the future.
This is characteristic of a living urge (as distinct from the 'drive' of inanimate forces such as those of
magnetic, chemical or gravitational kind). In other words, the difference between the urge of a living being and
the 'potential energy' of inanimate, material constellations, is that the situation(witnessed by a living observer)
at every moment of potential energy can be clearly and totally understood in terms of what has gone before. In the
urge of a living being, the happening of an organism, we are speaking, causally, of two occurrences in a coordinated
material, differing in time; such that, that which is present in one is still future for the other and such that the
present situation in one process appears as a causal factor of the second process. That is a description of the
simple process of 'striving towards a goal' that is understandable immediately if we link it to the image of a
constellation that impacts on consciousness in the present and has significance for the physical body in the future;
for instance, if I 'now' see the place to which I shall be going. However, as we have indicated, one cannot find the
direct connection to a conscious agent for the complex phenomenon of life in the empirical domain.
We must now consider that, on principle, the possibility of the origin of life, even the stage of the origin
of living forms, is not to be sought in the field of energy apprehended by the senses, since all experience
already posits that origin. The origin of living forms is a cosmic process and can thus only be apprehended by
a construct of the mind, with the help of the power of imagination, that 'sense' of the mind, under the direction
of experience. 'Experience' in the general sense, cannot therefore decide such questions as mechanistics-vitalism.
On the one hand, life processes cannot adequately be described in terms of physics and chemistry; on the other,
we cannot diagnose any agent of a different kind. In fact, the question breaks the limits of empirical experience
and leads to the domain of reality as a whole, that is, the domain of the cosmos ( as we have used that term).
We recall here, as already stated earlier, that living substance should be understood as a cosmic condition.
It should not be seen as originating in inorganic matter. On the contrary, the latter may be understood as
'residual', the substance left once structure and forms emerged and concentrated from what was originally wholly
living matter. Living forms must have emerged from that living, formless, original world substance, a process during
which the variants of life sleeping in that matrix and life's potential of ideas pressed forth into differentiation.
At this point we need to consider the ever present notion of an inherent connection between that which we call
'life' and that which we call 'consciousness'. Truem we might infer the absence of direct evidence of consciousness
when we observe things living 'from the outside', since the structured organization of matter is always an intermediary.
Evidently, that situation does not allow us to infer consciousness in every form of life. There must, therefore, be some
'blind life' without consciousness, such as plant life or the lowest animal life. But, essentially, consciousness is
a condition that can only be ascertained 'from inside', never from outside.
While we cannot demonstrate the presence of consciousness in 'mere' life, we should note that where we fail to
find signs of consciousness familiar to us in our fellow human beings in the higher forms of animal life, what we
are looking for are signs of a highly advanced, clearly manifest consciousness. Introspection does not allows us to
trace even our own consciousness to the point where it emerges from life ( in a newborn child or even in a pre natal state).
We may have to assume that there exists, buried deep in preconscious existence, a kind of inner sight or inner sensation
that is to develop into consciousness later.
Since consciousness, even in its highest form is nothing other than awareness of our own animate body, we may
take it that every animate body has an appropriate inner sensation, or perhaps something even less than sensation,
a drive, still in a state of deep sleep. It differs from mechanistic 'striving' in that it is impelled from inside.
Indeed, life that has a hold on matter from inside, something within matter. When we consider inanimate, mechanically
moving matter, inner and outer cannot be differentiated. That inner drive or impulse is actually hardly more than
another term for the irreducible fact of life; it allows us to see the line that connects to consciousness. If we
assume that this drive is a general attribute of original living matter, we are bound to say that that drive must
have informed not only the dull, hard to imagine sexual drive of lower forms of life, but also every higher and the
highest forms of life that were ever to develop from that original condition. The cosmic procedure of differentiation
of every form of life to come into being must have begun at that undifferentiated level and arisen thence.
This means that the original delineation of every living being must have lain within that original matter as intensive
life or as 'ideas' of being alive; these must have been the ancestors of empirical forms of life and, even before that,
units of organic pre-formations that would achieve their differentiation and further individualization when the reproductive
cycle set in. These 'ideas' of life differ from Platonic Ideas in the first instance because the former have a location and
substance and are not spiritual entities in Nowhere. They exist materially in time and space. Whether there exists,
going on from here, a further ontological sphere in which Ideas as such may be contained, that is not under discussion
here. We are concerned here with ideas as the thousandfold potentials of developing life and its drives and our ability
to experience them. Ideas here are the innumerable conceptions that have taken shape, conditioned by matter and its
formations as well as by the other conceptions in the domain of forms in the empirical sphere of life. There are basic
regions here, such as air, water, earth and basic conceptions such as theft, power, defense, flight, mass impact etc.,
in endless variations and combinations. All of these conceptions are dormant in the material of cosmic life and are
impelled out. They know of no differentiation between life and consciousness. A living form and its consciousness
evidently originate in a unit of life intensity in such a way that consciousness is the fruit and the goal, but also
the instrument and the organ of life (1).
The fact that consciousness is to be seen both as instrument and organ, as a manifestation of life,
and that life is to be seen as a pre-state and manifestation of consciousness is a significant indication
of something that needs to be carefully analysed at some point; an epistemological and ontological condition,
namely the exchange and interchange of fundamental ways of describing reality, e.g., 'life', 'consciousness'.
This explains the inadequacy of metaphysical attempts at universal formulae based on one or on a small number of
basic principles, such as 'will', 'imagination', 'power', 'the ego', 'substance', etc., one of which is claimed
to be more fundamental than the rest. Na´ve philosophy makes innumerable shortsighted attempts at finding a
single colouring for a universal basis.
The essential feature of the condition of the interchangeability of something as fundamental as consciousness is
that just when it progresses radically along its own line, developing in accordance with the extreme demands made by
conscious being, it is also fulfilling, completely, its function as an organ of the other fundamental with which it
has this particular relationship, its function as organ of being alive. If these fundamentals conflict superficially
or contradict one another, their 'true', ontologically 'intended', non-conflicting relationship is revealed,
specifically and only if we ruthlessly follow the norm of each fundamental to its furthest, extreme contradiction.
There emerges a paradoxical principle of 'independent things bound to one another', that we can only just refer
to here; it can only be explained clearly in the context of the subject of fundamentals, an example of which is 'ways
of describing fundamentals'. Other examples of this order of relationship are 'knowledge', 'power' ('theory' and 'practice'
in pragmatic terms), 'being' and 'becoming', 'individual' and 'group', 'lust' and 'value', 'thinking' and 'being' etc.
That consciousness is of the nature of life and that life is of the nature of consciousness is made clear by the
fact that consciousness in the higher beings on the ladder of creatures fulfills the exact function that characterizes
life, namely the tendency to exert increasing power, to control matter and that consciousness and therefore life
intensity are greatest in the highest ranking being, man, because the structure of his organism is denied every
instrumental organ of power; life, like consciousness , as it were, corresponds to these organs of power, i.e.,
it takes their place.
It would seem that consciousness and the organization of the body are variant manifestations of the same
life intensity. In the case of the human being, consciousness 'remains' because, as life intensity, it was not
'used up' in the building of organs as instruments of power. It is a well known fact that the development of
consciousness decreases in proportion to the intensity of the organic process. Notwithstanding this relationship,
there are, of course, various absolutes of quantifiable life that correspond to the varying rungs on the ladder of
the reaches of life.