Part 1

Part 2
 § ch3
 § ch4, 4.1
 § ch4, 4.2
 § ch4, 4.3
 § ch4, 4.4
 § ch4, 4.5
 § ch4, 4.6

Part 3
Part 2: The New Biocentric Image of the World
Chapter 4: On the Origins of Life

4.5  Plato and Aristotle

At this point, there arises once more the question of the relationship between what we have said and the content of Plato's Ideas. Let us stress again the feature that clearly shows the difference. Plato was concerned with a prototype image, having no substance, outside of space and time, in some Nowhere. What we envision, at least in the penultimate ontological sphere, is a real field structure or form tension in living 'Ur' matter, existing in time and space. It is possible that the Platonic concept merely expresses an analogous situation and that natural philosophy had no other way of specifying it . This makes it vulnerable and, as it stands, difficult to uphold. In any case, Plato very rarely restricted his characterization of object species as Ideas to something living.

One understands the difference between something ideal, repeatedly claimed to be real and the reality of a biological state which does not come up against the philosophical problems of Idealism. Even the imagination of reason cannot envision something where space, time and matter are missing. Plato projects a reflection into the cosmic domain, an empirical image stripped of its basic empirical attributes, space, time etc., on the assumption that thought can, nay must be extra-sensory. From our point of view, the imagination can legitimately complete and extend a fragment of experience while maintaining the characteristics of envisioning that alone can convey reality. Thought can set up the envisioning of things that are not apprehended by the senses, but not something that completes an extra-sensory experience. Plato is describing something metaphysical, in the sense that it lies beyond the functioning world. We place it in natural philosophy, i.e., within the functioning world. In short, that which Plato saw as the Idea of a living being is here an embryonic biological field structure in matter, bound to the sum total of real energies of organic life. We see these at work in the structuring of form and in the capacity of the living being to perpetuate; that is, we see it in its supra-individual context. As we have suggested, we are not so much dealing with Ideas as with their realization. We are not entering into a discussion of the Ideas as such or of their import, nor do we draw conclusions about Idealism.

Seemingly allied is an understanding of another interpretation of what we have been examining in the light of the Aristotelian modification of Plato's Ideas, the notion of the potentiality of form which, as is well known, operates within things. Indeed, our line of thought might at one point seem fairly close to Aristotle's theory, had that thinker - who, in spite of his criticism and modification of Plato's view shows, in that which he left standing, that he was working with Plato's concept - not laid so much stress on the impossibility of isolating the whole; the differentiation between individual unit and species, which necessarily exists at the beginning of every development, did not enter into his considerations.

To deny separate existence to a whole, distinct from things singly, fails to take into account the decisive example of a whole that does appear distinctly as such, namely the establishment of a species. That which figures at the starting point of a species cannot be as individual in the later sense of that word, even though it is a single being. The totality here is not found 'within' a single being, but 'as' a single being. The genuine, i.e., the later developed individual always posits a species and the species in turn posits the individual. Logically, the only answer to this recurrent dilemma is a coinciding point, a single being with features of a plurality, of a species, a being that equates to a factual plurality. Each of the major types of living beings thus has its cosmic entity, not identical with, but equal to the infinite number of individual beings related to it; its cosmic size has the order of magnitude of all existing members.

The 'form field' of man or of humanity, which is the same thing, stands at the beginning of all living human existence because the cosmic form field in 'Ur' matter holds the force of life. This is not the life energy of the eons of individual existences that have factually come into being; it corresponds to the capacity of the cosmic human potential to individuate and to its initial realisation in those eons. As we have seen, only the 'Ur' being can individuate because it alone is organically equipped to bring about individualization - not the individual who is a later descendant. It is not, in fact, the being that splits, that individuates, but the power that brought about the being and its splitting. Humanity is thus there from the beginning and for ever as a cosmic total magnitude.

Let us clarify what this means in terms of the mind's representation (1)

Note (1) We do not here set out to present original thoughts, but rather to take hold of a notion that has always been known, broaden it, detail it, clarify it, in short make accessible to the mind something that everyone knows from superficial, watered down, shorthand versions of concepts. We need to envision, to perceive and explore with the help of the imagination, certain normally understandable but fleeting notions whenever we wish to become aware of the reality of something that normally lies in the shadow of the most remote backdrop of life. Such envisioning and the sense of its reality are make it possible to reintegrate anew something that is known.

Reality presents the human species - there are other species - as a pounding waterfall of billions of bodies throughout countless generations and world epochs; that pounding, pulsating might, seen from a cosmic perspective, is cohesive. We find ourselves in its midst, an atom in a cosmic greatness, comparable in terms of magnitude to every inorganic world phenomenon. This greatness is life intense, a kind of homogeneous unit of reality when seen 'from the outside', when seen as a 'happening', a process 'in' the cosmos. We do not need to decide what kind of homogeneous unit it is, but we must point out that images such as 'the stream of life' or 'a wave of individuals that pulsates through generations' are not the usual poetic metaphors. That is because language has 'only' images as the closest available descriptions of something that exists; they are not metaphors on a different level, such as we use when we say that we 'grasp' an intellectual process. The immeasurable wealth of living beings, seen together as a kind of cosmos does not 'appear to be' a unit, a homogeneous empirical mass of human beings; it really is so. That homogeneity, that unit character is manifest in the features of its individuals and in the manifold conditions that are superimposed and that create the reality of the existence and the structure of those individuals.

If we seek to have a picture of objective reality, we can - indeed we must - take the external manifestations of life in everything living to be a totality fact of life of astronomical magnitude. We need to see that monstrous totality assemblage and call it the life of the world. We are, at the same time, aware that, as has already been explained, the unity of life has a kernel, a power to create forms, a clearly unifying factor'; it also has a 'halo', an 'outer edge', a looser kind of unity, the individuation, the epigenetic creation, the constant swarming of life of individuals from the kernel. Nonetheless, even taking into account this living, brought forth and swarming from the centre to a region of individuation, the idea of unity, its conception and functioning must be based on the special nature of cosmic conditions and not on any preconceived notion of unity.

If the mainstream of life is constantly being atomized into millions of single beings and if we understand that stream as having the power to form, the image clearly shows us that we have a magnitude of life of astronomical proportions, even where we consider that creative force alone. All plants, every kind of animal, the whole human species in all its individual forms plus everything that will in fact come into being and has potential life, everything that lives now, has ever or will ever live in every era of the world depends on one, ultimate, real unit of life dynamic, to which must be ascribed the creation of form and limitless duration.

If we were to try to envisage this world entity, we would be obliged to enlist the imagination in order to envision something that images the total assemblage of countless results and manifestations of energy brought about by that power. We could not, physically, endure being exposed to the sensation that that would imply and in comparison with which the most powerful, earthly natural impression and the most poetic flight of fantasy would pale to zero, even were that fantasy to be closer to objective reality than our normal perspective. The normal perspective grants us a charitable distance from reality and shows us only the likes of ourselves, only the multitude of existing small splinters broken off from the actual power.