Stefan Hlatky and Philip BoothThis chapter consists of four dialogues. This page contains Dialogue 2.
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Dialogue 1: Existence, activity and the original cause
The philosophical education of children
Philip: We mentioned earlier that children lose interest in these philosophical questions if they are given illogical answers to their questions. Can you say more about that?
Stefan: The philosophical education of children nowadays starts with their being told that the Earth is moving in empty space - which means in 'nothing'. This is the view that science incorrectly comes to, and it corresponds to the spontaneous view of children, which is based, as science is, on sense-impression and fails to take into account our immediate subjective relation to the whole creation. It's a view that doesn't make sense philosophically, if you take our immediate subjective relation to the whole creation into account. It only frightens children. But science is only interested in the problem of how creation is made, whereas philosophically the main question is why the creator made creation.
The mystical 'I'
And then comes the next word that makes children confused: the word 'I'. They get confused when they understand that grown-ups interpret this grammatical word 'I' as human identity. What is 'I'? Grammatically, we have to have this 'I' - or other personal pronouns such as 'we', 'she', 'he', 'you'. We need them in language for practical purposes. But then we take the word out of its grammatical context in language and use it to make an identity out of it.
P: ...so that 'I' becomes more than a practical way of referring to oneself?
S: Yes. When children first use the word 'I', it's quite straightforward and practical. It's simply an alternative to the proper name for themselves, which they've already learnt. So sometimes, for example, when a child knocks on the door, and the people inside ask, 'Who's there?', the child will reply 'It's me!' - because the child doesn't distinguish between its proper name and this new identity, 'I' or 'me'. It's just practical. Children see that everybody calls themselves 'I' or 'me', so they use that too. At first they connect it to their surface appearance, in the same way that they connect the name of another person to the surface appearance of that other person. But then after a while, the child comes to understand something quite different by this 'I'. What do you think that is? - it arises from communication with grown-ups.
P: You mean grown-ups start to use 'I' to refer to something other than the surface appearance, such as when they say, for example, 'So-and-so doesn't know me' - by which they mean 'so-and-so doesn't know what kind of person I am'? A young child would never say that.
S: Yes, 'I' becomes something mystical. And it takes children a long time to get the idea that grown-ups are referring to something invisible. And so later children come up with the question 'Who am I?', which shows they have accepted this identity 'I' as different from their physical appearance and that they think of themselves as invisible. 'My own parents don't know me!' It's a terrible discovery for children - at least in the beginning, before they learn to utilize and enjoy this anonymity. Then they think - and they can enjoy the thought - that each person is free to define themselves. The negative side of that is that they have to do this defining of themselves, otherwise they think they will remain unknown, which is what everyone's basic anxiety is. Underlying it is a feeling of loneliness, a sense of alienation, an unsatisfied need for relation, for love. They suffer more and more from the sense of anonymity. 'My own species doesn't know me. Some people just care about me, but nobody knows me' - that's what people think.
So what do children eventually come to understand grown-ups to mean by this identity 'I'?
P: Do they see it somehow as the essence of the person?
S: But what is that essence?
P: They don't know.
S: That's right, because it's interpreted differently for everybody.
P: ...whereas you define 'I' as the same for everybody: as a part of God's Being with the ability to experience?
S: Yes. But as it is traditionally used, 'I' is never defined in a common way, but only personally, as something unique and individual, which is interpreted as different. It's something mystical. It's like time: nobody knows exactly what it is, but everybody talks about it. But how do children interpret the grown-ups' talk about the 'I'?
P: I don't understand what you're getting at.
S: They interpret it as 'free will'. They think: 'Nobody knows me, so I have to tell everybody and show everybody what I am capable of and what I want, in order to be known.'
P: Oh, I see.
S: And the 'personality', when each person nurtures and develops it individually, that is, differently, is a consequence of this anonymity interpreted as free will that is taught to everybody in childhood. Hasn't it been discussed in every age whether every individual in the human species has free will: whether they are 'undetermined', or, like objects and the other species, which get lumped together, 'determined' - without any regard being paid to the difference between biological necessity and mechanical necessity? [See this Dialogue, 'The need of consciousness: undivided love', p. 68, for further discussion of this point.] In Christianity, it began with Paul's mention of predestination. [In his Epistle to the Romans 8:28-30.] It was most strongly defended by Augustine, and later by Calvin at the time of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. It was the big difference, for example, between Protestants and Catholics.
P: Didn't Calvin think individuals had free will and yet were predestined - a sort of double bind?
S: Yes, that is right. The idea of free will 'as the best thing humans know' arises because nobody can enjoy meeting, nobody can love, a living power, an authority, whose background they don't know and who is therefore a foreigner to them. If we don't know in what way the person we are meeting is an authority, if we don't know their capacities, their will, their purpose, their aim, we can't enjoy meeting them. Because that is so, there is a spontaneous global agreement that we have a common natural need to defend ourselves, individually and collectively, against our own species - in the same unreasonable, power-based way that we defend ourselves against other dangerous species.
Similarly, because of the lack of any agreement that we are like, that we belong basically to the same Nature, we are forced to use human language to express only our unlikeness and to verbally manipulate others. That's why every society is required to have a police force to restrict the power of its unreasonable members and an army to defend it against unreasonable neighbours. Theology transfers the same irrational idea of an absolutely free will, combined with the idea of absolute power, to the idea of God, because they don't declare God's background: his purpose and aim, his will with creation. They can't question God's free will, as they question humans' free will, by restricting it with moral rules. They say that God's purpose with creation is love. But love is relation between likes and has nothing to do with power. Therefore they have to say that God has created humans as his likes. But because God's creation starting from the non-created whole cannot be compared with the possibilities for creating that humans have, they can't say in what way God and humans are 'like'.
P: What is your view of so-called 'free will', then?
S: I see the will as arising from the need for activity. Consciousness - which I interpret as the ability to experience, prior to all knowledge - is our basic quality. The need for activity - the need to understand and to act - arises from what we experience, that is, from our knowledge of biological and mechanical necessities. So the will is always dependent on what we experience. It is therefore senseless to talk of a will that is independent of experience. The will is never 'free' in itself: it always has preconditions and consequences. However, humans have human language that covers, gives a name to, everything we can remember, and this enables us to discuss the whole of causality. This everything-covering language*, however, also gives us the possibility of having a purely language-based, theoretical experience of reality that is independent of our practical experience of reality.
P: What do you mean by 'purely language-based'?
S: I mean based on language used only to express people's 'own reality', that is, their ideas about the future, and their own history, that is, their own rememberable past. This gets joined to other people's 'own realities', that is, other people's different ideas about the future, and to other people's histories, that is, other people's different rememberable pasts. Language used in this way creates a purely theoretical experience of reality, based on our ideas about reality and not on reality itself. We are then free to choose this purely language-based, theoretical experience of an absent reality in place of our practical experience of the ever-present reality. So unless we agree about the natural purpose of human language - which, in my view, is to understand the original cause and meaning of the ever-present creation...
P: Do you mean that God gives us the need of an everything-covering language and the possibility of constructing such a language in order that we should be able to reflect on our experience of creation and come to an understanding of him?
S: Yes, as the original cause behind whole Nature's activity. So unless we agree about the natural purpose of human language, human beings will work with two experiences of reality. One is this purely theoretical one, based on our formal impression of creation and on language used in this way, and originated by human beings. The other is the practical experience of an active reality, originated and determined, via biological and mechanical necessities, by reality itself, as the purposeful, active creator and, as such, the originator of the truth. And this practical experience is common to us all - which is why it is the basis of 'common sense'*. It is also actually the basis of modern science, since modern science doesn't accept any theory unless it is relative to our common experience of all the unavoidable biological and mechanical necessities.
Human will and Nature's will
We have a basic choice as to which of these experiences of reality to make primary: the immediate experience of Nature's own biological and mechanical information, or the purely language-based information that comes from human beings. What we choose determines which reality we love: our own, or the common reality. If we choose our own reality, we live by our own will and creativity in cooperation or conflict with the will and creativity of other people. If we choose the experience of the common reality, we live by the will and creativity of the common reality, to which we adapt our own will and creativity. The choice - between people's own will and the will of the common reality - is absolutely free. But whichever of these two we choose to make primary determines absolutely our own will, what we want to do, that is, our thinking and our activity. In neither case do we have a 'free' will.
P: And again, is your personifying of reality here - as you personified Nature earlier - because you see God as behind creation?
S: Yes, I see God's consciousness of the non-created reality, with his need to be understood and loved, as an understandable background to creation.
P: So this choice comes down to a choice between relating to Nature's creativity, God's will, or seeking to impose human creativity, human will, either our own or other people's?
S: Yes. Either we are conscious of and believe in a creator, whose purpose in creation we understand, agree about and consciously adapt to. Or, unconscious of, but alongside, the natural meaning of creation, we use language to create and realize innumerable meanings of our own on the basis of an illusorily free, creative, human will, in cooperation with the illusorily free, creative wills of other human beings. In this latter case, either we seek to impose our own will on others, or we have to adapt to their will.
P: But let us assume that we can agree about God's overall purpose in the way you suggest, is there still not room for disagreement about what would be in accordance with God's will in any particular instance?
S: There would be no room for disagreement, but there would still be a permanent necessity for agreements. This is because bodies in creation are definitively unlike - not even two leaves on the same tree are identical - and bodily needs are the same for the different bodies only in principle. So the way of satisfying bodily needs is definitively different for each species, and within the same species can be different over time and between individual members of the species. But all needs come continuously to individuals, and the satisfaction of all needs takes place in the common surroundings. So animals, too, have to agree. But everything-covering language makes it possible for humans to agree in a specifically human way in any particular instance about all the problems of the life that we have in common. This can work satisfactorily, however, only if we fundamentally agree about God's need and purpose for our common life in creation. Unless there is this agreement, we have a situation in which different wills that are not permanently conscious of a common background but are conscious only of different, personal backgrounds, are confronted by each other. All they can do then is either, like animals, fight or reach a compromise about their differences, without having any fundamental agreement, or act together on the basis of different communities of interest, that is, with some temporary or partial, but not fundamental, agreement.
P: Could you say more about how this relates to the historical debate about predestination?
S: The problem of predestination, in its religious meaning, originates in a blind, authoritarian belief in God that takes no account of God's experience of his reality - that is, his experience of the Being. In my view, God's experience of his reality is the origin of God's will. The traditions talk of a God who has an absolutely undetermined will. They say nothing about his need to be active based on his experience of his own existence.
Predestination is the idea that this God has decided everything from the beginning. In this view, all behaviour is determined by God. But if one takes this view, humans are left without responsibility. So the question arose as to whether the will and behaviour of human beings could be an exception. This religious question was increasingly treated as a political and psychological question after modern science was established. It became a question simply of how freedom applied to the relationships among human beings and to the relationships between human beings and the universe, without any reference to God. Human beings were no longer seen as determined by religious rules and as responsible for those rules and for carrying out God's will. Their will came to be seen as undetermined, free, or as determined only by the common biological, bodily needs and the mechanical laws that science was beginning to formulate in its exact, mathematical language.
After Wöhler's discovery of the unity of Nature in 1828, the discussion took on a new form.
P: You mean when Wöhler demonstrated that inorganic matter could give rise to organic matter, so that Nature could no longer be regarded as divided into the two?
S: Yes. Thereafter in education the categorical distinction between physical determination by powers or forces, and biological determination by needs gradually stopped being made. Through the new education, people's view of the whole of Nature became the same as that borrowed from Democritus by modern science at its inception: Nature functions mechanically without any meaning, that is, without any reason, purpose or aim previously determining it.
P: So instead of drawing the conclusion from Wöhler that Nature was all-living, they drew the conclusion that it was all-dead, all-mechanical?
S: Yes. And from that the spontaneous conclusion was drawn that the meaning, the purpose of the apparently free human ego, the mystical 'I', is to give meaning to basically meaningless, 'animal' life. From a practical point of view, this meant developing every possible technology in order to try and make Nature function according to the human ego's 'free' will.
P: Was predestination also discussed in traditions other than Christianity?
S: Yes, in every tradition. It was discussed without people ever being able to solve the problem. But no tradition could escape the problem, since it relates to the problem of responsibility, that is, ethics. Since humans are free to create their own meanings, and can't live without meaning, ethics is inescapable. We can't escape the question of the meaning - that is, the need and purpose - of human behaviour.
P: You mean that, in order to get by in life, we have to be able to make sense of other people's behaviour?
S: Yes. And we have to discuss what meanings should guide our own behaviour, and agree about them publicly, so that people will feel responsible for them and follow them.
The lack of agreement on the question of predestination - that is, whether humans have free will and therefore responsibility - has lasted and is still current. The reason for this, I think, is that no tradition clearly distinguishes, as I do, the ability to experience as an ability in itself.
P: Why does making that distinction solve the ethical problem?
The problem of identity
S: Because it solves the theoretical problem of identity.
P: Okay, but how then does solving the theoretical problem of identity solve the ethical problem?
S: Well, let me discuss the problem of identity first. The problem of identity is confused by the fact that every tradition talks about human identity as imperfect, changeable and developable. They do this either in relation to a perfect being - such as the non-created, absolute God of theology, whose moral rules we should follow; or they do it in relation to a changeable, developable reality - as in pantheism or, as it is called nowadays, New Age - by developing knowledge of causality in creation, so as to be able to develop creativity as an end in itself, that is, so as to change and improve that imperfect reality, without any notion of what the end-state would or should be.
P: But if you want to change and improve something, you have to have some purpose, some goal in mind, don't you? It can't be just as 'an end in itself'?
S: Yes. But those goals are arrived at through our considering details of reality to be imperfect. So we change details of reality, without taking other details into account or without taking the meaning of the whole creation into account. The ideas 'perfect', 'imperfect' and 'developable' are understandable only in relation to a purposeful meaning. As no tradition talks clearly about creation having a purposeful meaning, we can only try to understand creation mechanically, that is, with regard only to how it is constructed. If our interest is only in the changeable details of reality, we can never have an idea about reality itself having an identity. The same is true of human beings: if our interest is only in their changing and developing, then we can never have an idea of human identity either.
P: How so? Do you mean that then we don't regard humans as recognizably the same, or reality either?
S: Yes. 'Identity' comes from the Latin idem, 'the same'. The identity of something is what is the same about it, what is unchangeable about it.
P: So to talk of a 'changing identity' is a contradiction in terms?
S: Yes. This applies to theology. The theological idea of an absolute God is not understandable at all, because theology doesn't say anything rational about what God's nature is, that means, what God's identity is. They talk about God as being an almighty creator, but 'almighty' means 'arbitrary', 'not bound by any meaning'. The term 'arbitrary' contradicts the idea of 'identity', which is about remaining the same in some sense.
I interpret the ability to experience as every living being's, as well as God's, basic, never-changing identity, which is always recognizable as the same. In the case of God, what remains the same about him, in my view, is not only the quality of consciousness - the ability to experience - but also his experience of the whole non-created Being and his meaning with creation.
P: And in the case of humans, what remains the same about us, apart from the ability to experience, is that we are original parts of that original, non-created Being?
P: Okay, so now how does your view of God's identity and our identity solve the ethical problem?
S: Because it gives an understanding of the meaning of the whole creation and thereby an understanding of the creator on the basis of the same need that every conscious being, including God, has: to be understood as like, and thereby to be loved in an undivided way, that is, without any reservations. And because we meet each other face to face in creation through our created bodies, we need this understanding of God's similar need in order to be able to relate meaningfully to each other as participants in the same creation, and to experience undisturbed love for each other and the whole creation.
In my view, we are joined together, we are parts in the original non-created, conscious reality - the Being - in a way that is not satisfying for us, because we don't experience each other there, and satisfaction for conscious beings starts through meeting other conscious beings as likes, because they are conscious of the same reality. This satisfaction is the experience of love. And the lack of this experience when we meet other human beings gives rise to the problem of ethics, because we don't know how to behave towards human beings who only want to know and agree about their so-called 'own reality', their own meanings, and who deny a priori the existence of any responsibility for a common meaning given by common Nature.
P: Do you mean that understanding someone as like - and therefore knowing how to behave towards them - is the precondition established by Nature for both love and ethics?
S: Yes, if you mean by 'understanding as like' the insight that we have the same need - because then we know how to relate to each other, which is what the problem of ethics is.[This is the end of Footnote 3 in Post 3]
S: By 'never-changing', I mean that it is independent of the different consequences of that ability: it is independent of what a particular living being experiences from moment to moment. The ability to experience is subjectively experienced by every living being as consciousness. From an objective viewpoint - that is, when it is seen from the outside - consciousness is called 'life'. To be alive means to be conscious, and to be conscious means to have the ability to experience: to experience one's own body, through one's nervous system, to experience the needs of that body, to experience the abilities the body has to satisfy those needs, and to experience an impression of the surrounding reality, through the body's senses. Being conscious then means, secondarily, to be able to act purposefully according to the bodily needs and to what one experiences in one's surroundings.
P: How does this relate to the question of free will?
S: I have to develop this further and give the whole picture for that to be clear, so let me continue. Our created body gives to our ability to experience the possibility of action. Action needs thinking: we must think in order to understand and control causality in our surroundings. Thinking needs memory: we need to be able to relate our present experience to our earlier experiences. Through language we can communicate our experience of the present reality, our memories, our histories, our evaluations* - the values we connect with things and activities - and our practical conclusions about how to control different causalities. Simply to experience, simply to be conscious of the present reality - without our mind being on memories and without our experiencing any need for activity - is every living being's basic ability. It is the undisturbed enjoyment of being. Using language properly, this undisturbed enjoyment should, in my view, be called 'love'. It is the basic state or identity - we can also say the basic need - of every conscious being or life. Because it is the basic state, it can be disturbed only temporarily. But this state of undisturbed enjoyment, this state of love, can't be given or received. It can only start to be disturbed or stop being disturbed. Within this undisturbed experience of being, there may be a need at any moment for different, purposeful activities, but these don't have to interfere with this identity, this basic experience of love of existence, love of being.
P: You say 'every living being'. Does that include animals?
S: Yes. But for animals, the need for different activities and the need to control causality are given solely by Nature, through bodily needs and through physical conditions in their surroundings. We have the same biological needs as animals, and our need for activity and for controlling causality is also conditioned by biological needs and physical conditions in our surroundings. The only difference is that human beings have a language that covers everything - which means that we can discuss activities and causality in the whole surrounding reality without reference to our biological needs. If there is no traditional agreement about the natural purpose of human language - which in my view, as I have said, is to understand the original cause and meaning of creation - then we don't experience our need to control causality as given for a purpose by Nature.
P: That purpose being to meet our existential needs?
S: Yes. But if we don't interpret it this way, then the need to control causality - that is, the seeking of knowledge - is interpreted either as a forbidden possibility [see, for example, in the Bible, Genesis 2:17: 'But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die'] ; or it is interpreted as a free and arbitrary need to develop knowledge, as an end in itself, as the need to create meanings and to develop the technical power required to realize those meanings, and thereby 'change' reality and 'create' our 'own' reality - which is how pantheistic development-theories and the modern science-based idea of developing knowledge are interpreted.
P: Doesn't this extend to the efforts people make nowadays to 'make themselves', to create their own unique 'personality'?
Our absolute identity and our 'relative identity'
S: Yes. The problem is that we don't distinguish in general language nowadays between our absolute identity and our relative identity.
P: ...using the term 'relative identity' loosely for the moment, in view of what we said about identity being unchanging?
S: Yes. Our absolute, common, unchangeable identity is our ability to experience - that is, our everyday, common awareness of our own body, which allows us, through the senses, to experience the whole, ever-present, common creation. Nature is meaningful, in this view, and forces us to relate meaningfully to its meaning. If Nature is not interpreted as meaningful, then our relative identity in relation to humans becomes actual. We have to create and communicate our own meanings, which we then try to realize. This relative, personal, developable identity is our differently, individually developed abilities to evaluate, think, remember, control, change. These are abilities that we need to develop in order to create technical things - which is all we can create, since we can't create or control life from its origin. But human creativity then becomes based solely on the physical laws, and not on a common, undivided regard for whole Nature, that is, for Nature's original cause and meaning.
Our absolute identity is the same for all of us. It is common. Our own relative identity we can contrast with the relative identity of other human beings, because it is different for each person. And such contrasting is always competitive.
P: So when we consider ourselves to be our relative identity, we don't see ourselves as conscious participants in a meaningful creation?
S: That's right, and we forget that we have an immediate connection to a created, living body and its existential needs. We only think about our own technical creativity, rather than relating to life's creativity. And this gives us the illusory feeling that we are free and independent of biology, that we are dependent only on physical causality, which we use for our own purposes, without any conscious regard for life's creativity.
P: But we can't forget our own body and its existential needs.
S: No, of course not. But we don't see them then as meaningfully enjoyable. We start to see them as a burden, as something 'animal'. It is impossible for us not to relate to them, but we see them as getting in the way of our completely identifying with our own creativity.
The feeling of being free of the whole reality, the feeling of not belonging inseparably to the whole reality, is obviously a dream, just a theory. But it is unfortunately a fundamental theory of human identity that has been discussed in every age. There has never been any agreement about it though, because it's impossible to agree about something that doesn't exist in reality.
In my view, all that is free is the theoretical question of what we prefer. We can prefer to continue the tradition of discussing the theory of free human nature. The consequence of this theory is that we feel ourselves to be outsiders, we feel we don't belong to reality. From this position it seems logical, instead of relating to reality's meaning, to put our efforts into trying to control the whole causality through our own power, in order to create a better life. And that is to fall in love with, become obsessed by our own power, and to adore, envy or hate the power of others. Or we can start to use language in consciousness of the fact that we belong absolutely to the whole. And that is undivided love. We then discuss and try to agree about the creator's meaning or purpose with the whole creation, seeking in this philosophical way to understand both the creator and creation. That is the basic choice: power versus love; time, memory and history versus presence in the ever-present reality; identification with thinking on the basis of the human ego's historical view of an existent past and a not-existent future, versus identifying ourselves as conscious parts of God and relating to each other in consciousness of God's and every living being's basic need and in consciousness of the purposeful, understandable meaning that God, as the non-created, original reality, has with creation.
S: No. But throughout history, theology's discussions about God's free will have been bedevilled by confusion about the nature of love. And human free will has been vainly discussed in the same way. I say that God is not free, but is bound by the same things that every living being is primarily bound by: his experience of his Being and the need for love. The difference is that the creator, considered as the conscious whole behind creation, disposes, rules over the non-created, unchangeable, original reality as his existence. That is God's experience. So God knows everything about himself, including that we are parts of him, so he does not have the need to understand and thereby to love - that is, he has no problem with understanding and loving. And because the Being is unchangeable, and doesn't therefore need to be maintained, God has no existential, no survival needs. So the only need that God has is the need that every conscious being has: to be understood as like, which we experience as the need for love. And this will remain a mystical, unsolvable problem for us as long as we are identified with our 'outsider', surface view of creation - which, via Nature, is purposefully based on absolute unlikeness - and with the idea of a free human ability to create more and more unlikeness, without any regard for the meaning of the impression that we have of absolute, surface unlikeness.
Animals' undivided love of life
P: What about animals' need for love?
S: In my view, animals can't but love creation. They are not conscious of the origin and the end of life, so they can't experience the feeling of anxiety in relation to life that is characteristic of humans. Humans can't avoid the question of the origin and the end of life. It comes to every child through language: they are told about it. And if the traditions can't offer children a logical solution at the time that children hear about life and death, children can't continue to love life as they did before. To solve the question about life and death, we need everything-covering language. Animals don't have this, because they are not the highest species and so can't be interested in the whole causality, that is, in the question of the original cause of the whole creation. We on the other hand are the highest species, and so we can't avoid being interested in the whole causality.
P: Do you mean that if there were a higher species than us - from another planet, for example - we would not be interested in the original cause?
S: That's right. Our interest would temporarily stop at that higher species. We would want to learn about them, about what makes them a higher species.
P: Yes, I think that's true. It could also explain why there is so much interest in extraterrestrial life: we no longer have much interest in the original cause.
P: So coming back to animals: they can't suffer anxiety in the way we do if we fail to understand the original cause?
S: That's right. Because they are not the highest species and therefore don't have our language, animals can't communicate their memory of reality. They can only think on the basis of their needs and on the basis of their present surroundings. So they can't think in a purely memory-based, theoretical way. That means they can't have a purely memory-based, theoretical or historical experience either of reality or of causality. They can't have an experience of time, for example.
P: But surely they have an experience of intervals between things happening?
S: Yes, but that is not the same thing as having the idea of time, that is, past and future. They can't become identified with the past and future. And animals can't have an experience of their memory-based reality that is separate from their actual experience of the ever-present, common, whole reality. We can - when we think about or talk about history.
P: And that allows animals to live in what you call 'undivided love'?
S: Yes. If no difference is made by language between a living being's own reality and the common whole reality, then undivided love is experienced. The feeling of oneness, the feeling of belonging absolutely, indivisibly to the whole, is then self-evident. So animals live with unlimited consciousness and undivided love for life - because the feeling of belonging absolutely together within the whole can never be questioned without human language.
P: So you argue that animals live with undivided love simply on the basis of this conclusion?
S: Yes. And also we don't find any sign that animals experience themselves as separate from the surrounding reality.
P: What about when they are suffering? Do they still love life then?
S: They still love life then in the same undivided way.
P: Even at the very moment of suffering?
S: They have to learn to avoid suffering in the same practical way that they learn to satisfy their needs. They don't hate life or reality because of their suffering, because they can't associate the cause of their suffering to the whole creation, the whole Nature. They can't have the language-based idea of the whole creation to make the association to. Nor can they have the language-based idea of death, and nor, therefore, the idea of suicide as a way of ending both suffering and life.
S: ...gives animals the impression and the feeling of a living whole. And that gives this feeling of undivided love, the same feeling for the whole as for their own existence. This feeling becomes broken for humans when we learn language without a satisfactory theory of the original cause as the whole - because language forces us to give a name to everything in reality that we can separate out, and so to experience everything as separate, as connected to the sound-combinations that we call 'words'. Without a satisfactory theory of the original cause, we can't bring these separate words together into a whole again theoretically, that is, through word-combinations, so that we can understand the original whole - the absolute belonging together - and the meaning of its activity, its creation. [See the definition of the use of language in Appendix A.] Failure to do this leads to the idea that we can change creation. And that idea forces us to act as separate parts and separate creators and to develop our creativity. In this identity, the idea that we 'belong together', with other creators, gives a completely different feeling. Then we are dependent on other human beings - those who want to change reality in the same way that we want to change reality - in a hierarchy, in which there are superiors and inferiors, but no one is like. And we are confronted with other groups who may wish to change reality in a different way. Then we have either to defend our view or cut ourselves off from the other groups. And so there will always be anxiety associated with the feeling of 'belonging together' in such cases. There will always be a feeling of alienation if we want to change reality, alienation from both reality and each other. If you love something, you don't want to change it.
P: What do you mean by the phrase 'unlimited consciousness' that you used in relation to animals a moment ago?
S: In creation every participant's ability to experience is basically unlimited...
P: 'Unlimited' in what sense?
S: You don't know where the beginning and the end of creation are. Our experience - whether we look inside objects or inside ourselves, or whether we look outside ourselves - is that we don't reach an ultimate, indestructible limit, any permanent part or building-block of creation. So in relation to creation, we don't know where its beginning or end is - either in the direction of the whole, or in the direction of the details and the participants.
P: I see. But we still ask the question.
S: Yes, but generally only the technical question 'how', not the philosophical question 'why'. And science asks the question only in relation to the whole manifold: when and how did the visible whole begin, and whether and how it will end. They think it started with the Big Bang, but they don't know if it will continue to spread in empty space without a limit, or if it will end in a big crunch.
P: But science looks for the end of creation in the direction of the details of creation too, surely?
S: Yes, but only in order to try and answer the question about the whole manifold. It only needs to know about the smallest details in order, it hopes, to be able to work backwards to how the whole manifold began.
P: Okay, but then isn't science interested in the origin of life, too, the origin of consciousness - in your terms, the origin of the parts?
S: Before Wöhler's famous discovery in 1828, only the rationalist philosophers were interested in it, but not scientists. Since Wöhler, scientists have been interested in it, but without seeing any basic difference between life and mechanical activities. They can't avoid the question of the origin of life because of biology, but they are interested in it only in a general and mechanical way, that is, they are only interested in the mechanical origin of life in general.
The general population is interested in the question of the origin and end of their own particular life - that is, in the start and end of one part, seen as a person. Mainly this comes down to the question of whether life continues after death, and if it does, how. And for each person, any interest in the whole is generally restricted to the question of how to exploit it for the realization of their own purposes. The bigger question of the origin and the end of the whole is delegated by the general public to science - just as before modern science it was delegated to monks, initiates, wise men or churches.
P: So are you saying then that generally each person is barely conscious of the whole, but is conscious of only a small area of creation as it relates to their own creative activities?
S: Yes. That means that they identify with the ego and their thinking - the interest in mechanical causality - and that consciousness is regarded basically as the ability to create, not as the ability to experience.
P: So how do you see this question of 'unlimited consciousness'? Does it mean that we are not conscious of any limit within creation - at least when we are born?
S: Again, it is a question of identification. Through learning language we become conscious of and are reminded of, in a typically human way, all limits and all the differences between things, because we are forced, through expressing the names of all the things, to pay special attention to them. Animals - and children, too, in the beginning - experience and remember limits and differences. But without language animals can't understand, experience and remember their knowledge of limits and differences in a theoretical or intellectual way, just for the purposes of communication. So animals can neither limit, nor develop, through language their actual knowledge and memory - that is, their earlier experiences - of the whole reality. That is, they can't limit their consciousness, what they are conscious of, through identification with memory- or language-based experiences of a past reality. This identification is possible for humans, and it creates the typically human anxiety in the face of an unknown future seen as dependent on original, arbitrary human creativity.
If the tradition of language doesn't give information about the original cause and meaning of creation, so that every child can understand it, or if it gives irrational information by not making a clear distinction, which every child can understand, between the creativity of the original creator and the creativity of humans, then it becomes impossible for humans to relate meaningfully to creation.
P: How does that follow?
S: If there is no agreement about the original cause and meaning of creation, there will be definite disagreement about it and, in practice, no consciousness of it. If that is so, identification with human creativity - which means having regard for human creativity alone - is inevitable. Then there will be an unavoidable problem with the need for undivided love and the need for predilection*. This will arise from Nature - because we can't avoid living together, and living together actualises either ethics or moral rules. It won't be possible to resolve the conflict between human beings' dual responsibility: towards Nature's creativity and towards the creativity of other human beings, which is linked to the common need to organize society. It won't be possible to solve the problem of whether to be guided by ethics - that is, undivided love for the whole reality, which represents the truth - or by moral rules. If there is not ethics, then moral rules are needed in order to avoid the use of power in deciding between human beings' conflicting wills - because, when there is confusion about the truth, these will be guided solely by personal interest based on personal predilection.
And because nobody can have the idea of starting a new creation alongside the established creation, all that humans can imagine applying their creativity to is to altering and changing the established creation, from the point of view of our surface relationship to it. The more we learn to change, the more we become convinced of our power to change. In the end, this creates the idea that we can perhaps change creation from the bottom, or at least from the start of its biological creativity on the Earth's surface, from the so-called start of life.
P: So we can get ideas like having our bodies frozen when we die, to be brought to life again after the further advancement of science, as happens in the United States? Or there is the present interest in gene manipulation?
S: Yes. The more we teach children to identify with - which means to limit themselves to - human creativity, by producing more and more ideas about how to change life, how to make life better, the more difficulties we create for everybody in recognizing the original creation, God's creation, with life on Earth; and also the more difficulties we create in talking about our responsibility for our choice as to whether to adapt with all our intelligence to Nature's creativity, or whether to adapt primarily to all human creativity - seeing it as superior - and only secondarily to Nature's 'inferior' creativity.
P: So Nature's creativity just gets buried beneath human creativity, in the same way that the concrete jungles that humans have created have ousted Nature in many major cities?
S: Yes. The negative consequences of this identification, of this limiting of identity, accumulate...
P: ...in the clashes of 'unlike', 'superior' and 'inferior' 'creative wills' and in harm to the environment?
S: Yes. But all that gets discussed is who or what is responsible for the negative consequences of human creativity. There is never any discussion of the general disagreement about the cause and meaning of the original creation.
P: But isn't it logical, within that framework, that people should blame each other? They see everything as being down to human beings.
S: Yes, it is. But fundamentally I think this situation has arisen because the age-old disagreement about the original cause and meaning was changed - in the light of the new science and at the beginning of our modern identification with human creativity - to an agreement that there is originally nothing: there is neither a cause of, nor any meaning to, creation; there is just disorder or chaos. I think this must be how this has come about, since without such an agreement this modern identification with human creativity - which has replaced the age-old pantheistic identification with human creativity based on so-called inner or transcendental light - could never have occurred. This agreement about nothing or about a mystical, mechanical cause without a meaning - 'mystical' since a mechanical cause, that is, a cause without a meaning, is not a cause - is based on our impression of an unlimited whole, what we interpret as 'empty space', behind our visible impression of the original creation, which we see as if from the outside when we see the surfaces of separate parts. We have a free philosophical choice as to whether to interpret this absolute interaction as a meaningful, and therefore understandable, order, or as meaningless, interacting 'matter' that we can use for our creativity.
'Unlimited consciousness' is given by creation: we experience creation as a limited manifold against a background of unlimited space that offers no visible resistance. And 'no resistance' means 'no limit', because it is resistance - resistance for our eyes made by light, and resistance for our skin made by the mechanical impression of bodies and objects - that gives us the impression that something is existent. If we are to think, we have to limit our consciousness to, 'concentrate' our attention on, something existent. So if we don't, based on philosophical considerations, concentrate our consciousness on the existent, non-created whole - which means in fact extending it rather than limiting it - then creation limits our consciousness through the manifold, that is, through the many visible objects in creation. Then we have to choose which part of the manifold to take as a temporary starting-point for our thinking, that is, for our understanding of causality. This can go on ad infinitum, as science demonstrates and even claims. This is pluralism*: many original causes. [See Chapter 3, 'The organic view of unity', for an extended discussion of this point.]
P: Which is why specialization is necessary in science education, to study the endless number of starting-points for thinking?
S: Yes. The only way to understand the whole causality is from the point of view of the original cause, which is the single cause of the whole creation. If we have the hypothesis of the existent whole - rather than the hypothesis of not-existent empty space - it's not a problem whether reality is limited or not. We don't then think of reality as the separated-out manifold. The separated-out, cooperating manifold is just creation, behind which the original indivisible reality, as a conscious whole, exists as the permanent start of creation. The parts of the indivisible existent reality can't create, they can only interact with creation - when joined to a created body.
So if we have this hypothesis, the question of identity is solved. Both the whole and the parts have the same identity, the ability to experience - which is the precondition for the experience of being and for the experience of relationship.
The philosophical problem then becomes purely practical: to enjoy life together in a permanent consciousness of the creator's need and purpose in giving out creation.
P: But, going back to this question of 'unlimited consciousness', are you saying that it represents a problem for us that we have to solve?
S: Yes. It makes us ask the question about the origin of the whole creation.
P: So would you then say that you deal with this problem by saying that, if we limit our consciousness by extending it to the whole - the whole, non-created Being of God, which includes our being and the whole creation - the problem is solved? But to limit it to anything less than the non-created whole is unsatisfactory?
S: Yes, because to limit consciousness to the whole is to limit it to the original cause, and that is the only way we can understand the whole of causality, that is, the indivisible oneness or singularity of causality. Of course, we can't experience the whole itself. We would need to be outside it to be able to do that. The purpose of creation is to free us from the absence of experience - except perhaps of ourselves and of an immediate feeling of a resistant, surrounding reality - that we probably have in the Being, and to replace it with distance: the experience of 'empty space'. Distance is a precondition for awareness of something that is outside us. But in the original situation, in the Being, God has an immediate relation, without distance, to us, the parts, similar to our immediate relation, without distance, to the cells that belong to our own body. We can't have the same immediate relation to the whole Being as God has, just as one of our cells can't have the same immediate relation to our body that we have. As parts in the Being, we can only experience God's existence as resistance. Creation frees us from this.
P: You mean it stops enclosing us, so that we have distance? Creation creates seeming distance between God and us, and this seeming distance frees us to have interaction?
S: I wouldn't say it stops enclosing us. We can't leave our original situation as a part in the whole, in the Being. Creation offers us an illusory alternative. Through creation God gives us an illusory, indirect perspective, both on the whole and on the parts.
S: No, I am not. The relationship to our own body and to other bodies and objects in creation is an illusion, not the relation to God or the relation to the conscious parts behind creation. But we don't usually make a distinction between the non-created conscious part and the created body.
P: You mean that we tend to think of relationship in terms of relationship to the body of another person?
S: Yes... even though we generally experience a loss of relationship when someone dies, in spite of the fact that their body remains. That should remind us that our relationship is not to their body, but to the conscious being through the body.
P: I just want to be clear what you mean, Stefan: you are not saying that in your view creation itself is illusory?
S: No. Creation itself is not illusory. It is real activity. The illusion is that creation is shown to us as if it were existent, and not as pure activity. But it is shown as temporarily existent. We can understand, therefore, that this aspect of creation is illusory. Consciousness of being, the feeling that we exist, the ability to experience, is not illusory, but it doesn't belong to creation except temporarily when it connects to a created body there. Therefore, we can think of it as present in the three different so-called states of consciousness: everyday awareness, dreams and deep sleep.
P: How is your view similar to or different from certain modern ideas about the universe being a living organism?
S: There are quite a number of theories of that kind, and nowadays a lot of them can be found on the Internet. The difference is that I take the whole conscious Being behind creation, rather than the whole creation itself, to be a living organism. But, as I've said, the Being isn't comparable with the living organisms we experience in creation, which have a heart, a stomach, limbs, and so on, because it's not constructed, it's not created. That means it's unchangeable, and so it doesn't have to be maintained. In my view, the whole Being - the whole and its parts - is conscious, and therefore, because it is conscious and existent, we must interpret it as a living body, a living whole. By that I mean that it is not the kind of whole that is the sum of its parts, which is what a mechanical object is. As I have said, it is a whole in which there is a constant, distanceless relation between the whole and its parts, similar to the organisms we experience in creation, which also demonstrate the ability to experience and a constant, distanceless relation between the whole and the parts of that whole. The whole creation is just a technical expression of the whole Being's, of God's, creative activity. It only seems to be living, that is, acting from itself, because God, with the power of the whole non-created Being, is behind it, expressing it all the time. And, of course, what is confusing is that we, as parts of the Being, are also expressing activity within creation, as participants there.
P: But you are not saying, on the other hand, that creation is dead?
S: No, because God expresses creation. But I don't say either that creation is living. Creation in itself is activity, and activity in itself can be neither dead nor alive. Generally, we consider that causes can be either 'dead' or 'alive'. But in my view, a cause cannot be 'dead', nor strictly is it 'alive'. 'Alive' is a less precise word for 'conscious'. We use 'alive' in relation to bodies on the Earth's surface that manifest an ability to experience and to act by themselves, in contrast to objects, which we call 'dead' - by which we mean to say that they have no quality or property at all, that is, they don't have the ability to act by themselves. Yet we know that they, too, are active by themselves - out of numerous created qualities or properties. That is chemistry and mechanics. So we have to think that consciousness is also behind their activity. So in my view a cause is 'conscious', that is, it must have the ability to express purposeful activity by itself.
P: So when in creation there is activity that seems not to be caused directly by a conscious being - for example, a landslide, an earthquake, the wind, waves, things that would generally be considered accidental - you would say in fact that God is the conscious being behind them?
S: That's right. God's consciousness is behind all activity, so God's consciousness is behind all these phenomena.
P: And where do the original conscious parts of the Being fit into creation?
S: They come into God's activity at a certain point - when the necessary bodies have been created. This point or limit is what we experience on Earth when we meet the biological system that is built up on the Earth's surface by innumerable species, as a closed, living order managed by needs. This system culminates in the human species. This living order managed by needs is a continuation of the need-driven, but seemingly needless - that is, seemingly meaningless - mechanical order of the whole creation, which is generally interpreted as being ruled by physical powers rather than by a need.
P: Are the powers generally interpreted as physical powers because generally people don't see the need and purpose behind them?
S: Yes. In my view, the whole of creation is ruled basically by the need of consciousness, which is the need for understanding and love. All human activities, too, are ruled basically by the same need.
P: Even if we can be confused about this?
Matilda [Matilda Leyser participated in parts of this Dialogue and Dialogue 3]: I want to be clearer about the difference between your view and these other views that say the universe is alive. In your view does something that is alive have to be conscious?
S: 'Life' and 'living' should be interpreted as 'conscious', because what we experience in the 'living' surroundings on the Earth is consciousness: the ability to experience and then act meaningfully in accordance with what is experienced. We talk about 'life' and 'consciousness' as different qualities because we don't think philosophically.
P: By which you mean that we don't allow our thinking to be spontaneously guided by the need to understand the original cause and meaning of creation?
S: Yes. Philosophical thinking requires human beings spontaneously to make a clear distinction between, on the one hand, understanding the meaning of an activity and, on the other, learning to control an activity, that is, learning to change and affect things by power in order to reform them, make them better, be a better creator, as we do with our own creations. Collectively it also requires there to be a publicly communicated agreement about this distinction at the start of typically human thinking, that is, when children learn to use human language. As we have said, the cause of creation can't be an unconscious object or nothing. It must be a conscious being - which gives the ancient idea of only one God and his likes, but not the idea of gods. So God's consciousness goes through the whole creation. We have to understand that there is absolute continuity: there is no boundary between 'life' on Earth, the Earth and the universe. It's not that God's and humans' creativity comes into it at a certain point. Creation is one system. It is not two: that is, one dead, without consciousness, and a second, on the Earth's surface, where consciousness starts. That creation is one system is what Wöhler discovered. This insight led some people, identified with Democritus' atoms, to say that the whole of life is chemistry, that is, basically mechanical activity, and others to say the opposite, that the whole universe is alive. This is this confusion between 'dead' and 'alive' and 'conscious' again.
P: Are you saying that the distinction between 'dead' and 'alive' is a meaningless one?
S: No. For practical reasons, the distinction has to be made between bodies that can move by themselves and other bodies or objects that don't have this ability. Even animals have to make this distinction. In human language, this division is made by describing a body or object as 'alive' or 'dead'. But it is wrong to talk of 'dead' objects. We use the word 'dead' originally in relation to a 'living' body that 'dies'. That is our experience of 'death'. But to apply the term 'dead' to natural objects that have never 'lived' doesn't make sense. And even objects actually express a function, an activity. We can say that they act by themselves. Chemistry acts by itself, in the same way as living bodies do. When a 'living' body is 'dead', then everything that 'living' body previously expressed disappears. But that is not what happens with natural objects. We can't kill natural objects; we can only break them down. And then they continue to express the same quality.
P: So copper remains copper, even if you break it into pieces?
S: Yes. What we experience as a boundary between chemistry and biology is the point at which the original, non-created conscious parts of the non-created Being start to interact with God's activity - creation - which itself starts from, originates in and also takes place within, the non-created whole, the whole non-created Being.
M: So it is misleading, for example, to call a table 'dead', because it has never been 'alive'? And when we are 'dead', our 'dead' body is still 'alive', as 'alive' as the table - that is, chemical processes continue to express activity in it?
S: Yes, but if it is misleading to call a table 'dead', then it is also misleading to call - as pantheists do - dead bodies 'alive'. Both confuse the interpretation of the word 'consciousness'. Certainly your body, when it dies, becomes part of the ongoing chemical activity. But the situation is that you then stop expressing your activity through this particular body that you had. Chemistry takes over then. But it is not you who express chemistry after your death, just as it is not you either who express chemistry in your body during your life. What we have to fully appreciate is that there is nothing that is non-conscious in creation, because God's consciousness - his ability to experience and to act according to what he experiences - is behind the whole creation. The parts of the original existence, on the other hand, can never be present in creation in the same total and original way as God, but only in a partial and relative way. And then they can adapt to God's purpose with creation or not.
The pantheists say 'the sun is living', 'the Earth is living', 'everything is living'. 'Living' is their basic category, and for them 'life' means 'activity'. They only believe in activity. For them there is nothing existent that expresses that activity. Activity is the cause of activity.
P: But some pantheists do talk about God, don't they?
S: Yes, but only about a resting, inactive and only conscious God, a so-called transcendent God, who is at the same time creator and participant in everything. That means God is outside his creation in a passive, impersonal way, and inside his creation, in a transcendental form, in an active, personal way. For them, even God is as abstract as activity. He is conscious, but he is not an existent being as such.
The pantheists talk about activity as life, because they see consciousness as relative to life. They don't see life as relative to existence, as I do. For them life is not a meaningful, actively ongoing consequence or result of what consciousness experiences. Instead, life is seen as the cause that develops consciousness. For them it is not life but consciousness that is changeable and that can grow and develop or regenerate - in relation to original, impersonal laws, that is, objective and subjective necessities.
I say that creation in itself is not 'living'. Like every activity in itself, it is technical. Except on the Earth's surface, where life becomes obvious*, creation is always active in the same way, as if it were purely technical.
P: Are you thinking of celestial bodies?
S: Yes, including the matter that constitutes our own celestial body, the Earth. But because creation as a whole, including biology on the Earth, is one purposeful order, we have to assume that there is a single consciousness with an original, non-created being behind it - which pantheists don't do. It's just that generally we don't connect the activity to God, because the connection to God's Being is not obvious in creation.
P: Why did you say, a moment ago, 'except on the Earth's surface'?
S: Because it is only on the Earth's surface that the parts of God's existence interact with God's creation, so their consciousness affects God's creation there. We aren't forced to think that God's consciousness is behind the whole creation, but, as I've said, we can't avoid thinking that not only objective and subjective necessities, but also an organizing consciousness must be behind the meaningful activities of the biologically organized bodies that are anchored to the Earth's interacting surface.
P: Is activity always a sign of 'life'?
S: Yes. Either of God's life or of that of the parts. That is why to have the words 'life' and 'consciousness' mean two things is confusing. They are the same thing. In the general view - that is, other than mine - if we interpret an activity as neither living nor conscious, then we call the thing that expresses that activity 'dead' and describe the activity as mechanical. If we interpret an activity as living, but not conscious, then we call it 'alive' - this relates to plants and animals. Only our own species do we interpret as both 'living' and 'conscious'. But in my view, with God behind the whole creation, there is the same consciousness behind everything in creation, so the distinction 'dead'/'alive' - a distinction we still have to make on a day-to-day basis for purely practical purposes - does not exist.
M: So is a table alive or dead?
S: Philosophically, it is neither. Through science we understand that a table is activity, and if you reflect philosophically, it is impossible to create anything other than activity. Being, existence, must exist behind all activities, behind the whole creation, because only Being can act.
M: Does everything that we call 'alive' have a bit of consciousness in it?
S: Not 'in it'. There is consciousness behind every activity, whether we call it 'alive' or 'dead'. What is behind plants? With plants we start to get the idea of consciousness. In chemistry we don't get the idea of consciousness, even though chemistry acts by itself. And the sun also acts by itself. But the activity of chemistry and the activity of the sun don't seem to us to change, so we don't generally think of there being consciousness behind them.
P: But because they are active, there must be consciousness behind them?
S: Yes. So we have to think that God's consciousness - and God's Being, God's existence - is behind them. But the big problem is that God, because he is the whole, can only be active within himself, in a three-dimensional way, as I suggested before. So as participants in creation we can't technically follow an activity which starts from the whole of God's Being, because we can only follow activities that emanate from created objects when these activities travel one-dimensionally, that is, linearly, or, like a wave on the surface of the water or a snake on the ground, two-dimensionally. Light, sound, and an earthquake are typical examples of three-dimensional movement. They go on in all directions. We can experience them because they start from objects, but we can control them only as one-dimensional movement - like a ray, for example, in the case of light.
P: So we can experience the three-dimensional activity of the whole as one- or two-dimensional within creation, but we can never experience the source of the activity because it is the whole. On the other hand, we can experience the sun and the stars, for example, that are the source of the three-dimensional movement of light. In other words, since God's activity, creation, is coming at us, as it were, from all sides, we can't say where it is coming from, although we conclude that it must be coming from some whole that we are in?
S: Yes. So we can't understand how God creates. Nor can we go through the reverse process of technically tracing an activity back to the whole - that is, we can't learn or reproduce how God creates. That's why, incidentally, it's wrong, in my view, to think that the experience of our senses - whether we turn our attention inward, or whether we develop technology so that we can see more in an outward direction - can lead us to the original cause, to a total explanation of creation, which is what we are all expecting from science. Both processes - tracing an activity from a whole or back to a whole - are possible only in relation to the created manifold, where we experience matter in all its different destroyable forms as the origin of activity.
P: So within creation we can technically follow an activity starting from a whole - like a 'whole' human body that initiates activity, such as, say, throwing a stone, or, say, a 'whole' billiard ball that hits another billiard ball. And we can trace an activity back to a whole - like a bird's song to a 'whole' bird, or the movement of a billiard ball to some 'whole', a person or object, that moved it?
S: Yes. And we can, for example, technically follow how we take a watch apart, and so be able technically to reconstruct it.
P: So is it because God is the whole behind Nature that we can't technically understand and technically construct Nature-made 'living' parts: we can't do with a flower what we can do with a watch?
S: Yes. And because the whole creation is basically one order, which has the same autonomous creator, God, behind it, we also can't construct Nature-made 'objects' - neither living bodies, nor parts of living bodies, nor objects, nor parts of chemistry - because we can't find or make the original cause that we would need as a start for such creativity.
With our senses we can neither perceive nor control anything that goes on in the original Being. This possibility is cut off for us, as a meaningful necessity, by the indirect impression we get of empty space. It is replaced by the distance that we experience in creation to each other, through our created bodies, and to the whole, as the creator, through the whole diversity. Consequently the whole diversity, along with our own bodies, is shown to our senses as relatively solid, liquid and gaseous, and as changeable between these states and ultimately destructible: that is, as existent and not-existent at the same time. So the identity, the real existence, of the original Being as a living relation between its whole and its parts is not a technical question, but a philosophical, purely theoretical one - that is, it is a question of belief. That doesn't mean that this belief is non-empirical, or that it requires the development of a special knowledge, some special form of enquiry - like science or meditation. So it doesn't require a blind belief in authorities. What we have to do is to recognize God and each other on the basis of our basic ability to experience and our common need to be understood as likes in our common relation to the same creation, with God as the only creator and us as participants on the same natural condition given by the need to be understood as like, which is the precondition for mutual love.
P: And not to identify ourselves and each other with unlikenesses?
S: Yes. But we should also stop wasting time trying to understand what perfect knowledge is unrelated to a purpose. This is what we traditionally do: we regard the possession of perfect knowledge as the perfect conditions for a creator.
P: As can be traced in Jewish, Christian and Islamic interpretations of Genesis?
S: Yes, and in the theories of Greek philosophers or in innumerable mystical pantheistic or mythological sources.
The purpose makes every activity understandable. It also simultaneously makes the cause of every activity understandable. We understand every species because we know the purposes behind their activities. And we know their purposes because we have, by Nature, to fulfil the same purposes.
Perfect knowledge without knowledge of its purpose, without knowing what it is perfect for, knowledge that is only believed or supposed to be perfect for everything, that is, for anything at all, can only frighten. As long as we have this idea and this aim of 'perfect knowledge' as the basic condition for a perfect creator, and as long as we see such 'perfect knowledge' as the aim of philosophy, the only result can be the typically human anxiety in relation to God, as well as in relation to our own species.
P: So going back to what we were saying about our inability to construct Nature-made objects: it is obvious that we couldn't make a piece of granite, for example?
S: That's right. We can only set up certain conditions so that Nature's creativity can operate.
M: But is a plant an activity, or is it conscious in its own right?
S: In my view, the plant has no consciousness. Your body has no consciousness. Your consciousness is behind your body, it rules your body, but your body is not conscious. Your body is activity, part of creation. All creation is activity that basically reflects God's consciousness and only relatively the consciousness of the parts.
M: What is the difference between a table, then, which we call 'dead', and a tree, which we regard as 'living'?
S: It is just a practical limit, which helps us in our practical behaviour. It helps us to know that we have to treat tables differently from plants and animals.
M: So there is no actual difference?
S: No. That is what Wöhler showed. It's the same, single system. But because of our practical need to know how to behave towards the different things, we draw this boundary, we make this division.
It's wrong, in my view, to think of consciousness as being in creation. God's consciousness is behind creation. And the conscious parts of God's existence - which are also behind creation, in the Being - come into creation in varying degrees of so-called incarnation - though 'incarnation' is a confusing term, because it suggests 'in' rather than 'behind'. So the consciousness of the parts becomes more and more apparent to us, in the biological activity on the Earth's surface. That is where we experience the objective expression of consciousness. But it is wrong, in my view, to think of consciousness as being in bodies or objects. Consciousness is not even in your own body.
God's activity and the activity of the conscious parts
P: What is the relationship in creation between the activity that originates with us, as conscious parts of God, and the activity that originates with God?
S: God's consciousness expresses the whole Nature and this whole ecology on the Earth. But the conscious parts interact with this ecology. The conscious parts create activity that interacts with the meaningful activity of God's creative consciousness, that is, interacts with God's original creation.
P: So we humans interact with God's activity?
S: Yes. We can interact in two ways. We can do it consciously, by which I mean being conscious of God's existence and his purpose in creation. In that case, we act in harmony with God's activity. Or we can do it unconsciously, that is, being unconscious of God's existence and purpose. In that case, we are confused and we disturb creation. We might say in that case that we interfere with creation, rather than interact with it.
P: But with regard to the original parts of God - in the original situation, in the Being - are you saying that in creation some of these parts become connected to human beings, others to animals, others to plants and so on?
S: No. Philosophically it's wrong to give different names to different objective expressions of the same quality, consciousness, that is, to call some of them plants, some animals, some humans and so on. The whole has the quality of consciousness. And the quality of consciousness is the same for God as for the parts of God's existence - it is the ability to experience, to take in. When it comes to 'giving out', to expressing, plants differ from animals, and animals differ from human beings. And human beings can differ from one another, because of the differing, individual, free interpretations humans can make of creation, which they communicate through speech and action. But the impression of reality, mediated by Nature, that we each have all the time as human beings is the same, independently of what we take in and of what we express through language. Our body informs us of our existential needs - light, heat, air, water, food, reproduction - and the possibility of satisfying them in the surrounding reality, and we are also informed of the need that consciousness has, that is, undivided, undisturbed love, the need to be understood by other human beings.
The need of consciousness: undivided love
P: How are we informed about the need that consciousness has?
S: In the same way that our consciousness is informed about our bodily needs: through desire. Consciousness is informed about its own need through our common desire for relationship. It is desire that binds our consciousness to all our needs. This bondage in itself is invisible, because what experiences the desire - consciousness - is invisible. But because the things that our consciousness is bound to by our bodily needs - food, water, air and so on - are obvious within the material, objective reality, bondage to our bodily needs, as conditions for the body's survival, is generally interpreted as operating mechanically, rather than biologically.
P: How do you mean?
S: Because mechanical force is inescapable and biological needs are inescapable, and because biological needs are generally interpreted as a biological force, we experience them in the same way that we experience mechanical necessities. We generally connect biological needs in our mind to the body, which we interpret as forcing us, physically, to eat and so on. We generally think of it as our body wanting food, rather than our consciousness wanting food. We don't trace things back to consciousness.
P: It should be clear that our body does not want food if we consider that a 'dead' body does not want food.
S: Yes, quite. The only way to escape our bodily needs is to die or commit suicide. But we can never escape the need for love, which for the original parts involves both the need for understanding and the need to be understood. But if we think that it is our body that wants food, then we feel forced by the body's needs. As I said earlier, we see our bodily needs as a burden, as forced upon us by Nature, because we are identified with our own creativity, which we want to force on Nature.
The other view - my view - would be to see our bodily needs as part of the enjoyable, created reality that we can never escape. There is only one reality: the original one with its activity, expressed as what we call Nature. We shouldn't try to escape it or to change it according to our own wants or wills. In other words, we shouldn't relate to it as meaningless, non-conscious, dead, as acting only mechanically.
P: So, going back to the need of consciousness itself...
S: Yes, the need of consciousness itself is different in that it can't be satisfied by meeting reality only objectively - which is how we generally meet reality: as non-conscious objects ruled in a meaningless way by mechanical and biological necessities. The need of consciousness can't be satisfied by meeting reality only objectively because the need of consciousness itself is not a desire of the metabolism. It is not the desire to enjoy the satisfaction of the existential needs, but the desire to experience love through meeting another conscious being, another subject, in mutual understanding. Because the need of consciousness is not mechanical - that is, it requires not just a meeting between bodies - nor is it even biological - that is, it doesn't require an exchange of food that we need and that we can give to and take from each other - this particular need, the need of consciousness, can easily be considered mystical. It will be considered mystical if we don't make the clear distinction between biological causality, which operates through a desire, an attraction of the consciousness to something in the environment, and mechanical causality, which operates, in our objective experience of reality, through power. This is a distinction that we ought, philosophically, to make. As I have said, after Wöhler the distinction between biological and mechanical causality was eliminated. His finding was generally interpreted as evidence for there being no creator, no mystical God's finger behind life on Earth. It was seen as scientific proof of atheism. In fact, with the first so-called synthesis, he did no more than discover the natural conditions for Nature's creativity - similar to the way humans discover the natural conditions for agriculture. But thereafter matter, which was regarded as non-living, was generally interpreted as the cause of life. So since Wöhler we have tried to understand everything, including life, in terms of objective, that is, mechanical, causality.
P: Because with Wöhler biology came to be reduced to chemistry?
S: Yes - chemistry interpreted as mechanical causality, without consciousness behind it. Our experience of mechanical causality is a product of our distance-based, objective relation to creation. If this is interpreted as absence of bondage, it gives rise for humans to the feeling that they are free from reality, as well as to the idea that we have power to change reality. And as long as we dream about being free from reality and about our power to change reality, we can't be interested in the whole creation as a relationship to an unchangeable order made by a conscious creator, God. We become satisfied with a mechanical explanation - the Big Bang - without asking what the biological cause and meaning of this mechanical event is. At the same time, we can never be rid of our experience that we are alive and that there is life on the Earth, nor of our desire to understand life's meaning in the context of our unavoidable cooperation with everything.
In my view, we have to actualize the question whether the meaning of life is to change reality or to understand the creator's purpose in creating. And, as I've argued, unless we understand the creator's purpose, we can't understand either the creator or ourselves - because it is impossible to understand a conscious being who has neither a need nor a purpose behind its activities.
P: ...which applies to both God and us?
S: Yes. If we don't understand the creator's purpose, the word 'God' or 'creator' remains anonymous. It is just an empty word for a powerful, 'almighty', living Being - which tells you nothing. It is like the word 'I', as 'I' is generally interpreted. We can attach to it whatever meaning we want. In that case, we will remain confused about how to satisfy our need for love, both in relation to each other, whom we will see as arbitrary egos, and in relation to the whole of creation, which we will experience as basically changeable, rather than as a basically unchangeable order that is only changeable on its illusorily existent surface.
P: You are going a little too quickly for me here. Why do these consequences follow?
The necessity for agreement
S: A mechanical answer to the question of the cause of an activity can never satisfy us. We need also to know the meaning of an activity. That's why an authoritarian answer to the question of the original cause - that is, one that can't give a logically understandable answer as to the meaning of creation - is never a satisfactory answer. We can't love the whole of creation if its original cause is considered to be matter, that is, something non-conscious, non-living, an object. We can't love an object, because an object can't have experience and act by itself and be responsible for its activity - so there can't be mutual relation with it. [This is the theme of Dialogue 3]. Similarly, we can't have mutual relation with other humans, we can't love each other, as long as we want to be creative out of ourselves, rather than out of our common consciousness of reality. If we want to be creative out of ourselves, by ourselves - because we are not interested in understanding reality's meaning - we want to change reality. But we can't get rid of our responsibility, both to Nature and to humans, for our own creativity, for our 'independent' 'own reality'. Unless we can agree that we are all responsible for the two different uses of language predetermined by the choice that faces us - to interpret reality as God's meaningful creation, or as the product of human creativity - we remain anonymous to each other: we can't know, we can't understand another person until we know what the particular ideas behind their creativity are. When we do know one such idea, the anonymity stops, but only a certain sort of limited love can start if we agree with only that one idea and the way to realize it - 'limited' because it may be disturbed by all the person's other ideas that we don't know about. If we discover other ideas they have with which we disagree, then our love becomes divided.
P: You mean: we love them when they express the idea with which we agree, but not when they express the idea with which we disagree?
S: Yes. Or they may change their mind about the idea or ideas that we love them for, and then we can't love them any more.
P: If we don't agree with them at all, what then?
S: Then either we tolerate them or we fight against them. But we can't love them.
P: So, in your view, love can be permanent only if we experience reality basically as one conscious existence, and if we understand other people as inseparable parts of that invisible, conscious existence, who become temporarily engaged in a meaningful creation to which we all have to relate in a common agreement about its purpose?
S: Yes... by remembering that everybody is connected to creation, by the common need of consciousness - the need to be understood, the need to experience mutual relation - and by the common needs of their own body.
S: No. If you believe in the original cause in a logical way, then the whole creation is one. There can be only one truth, which we experience as one Nature. But we have to agree about it publicly, and continuously communicate it to the next generation.
P: Do you believe you have the truth?
S: No, I can't have it, because I can't prove it. I can only hold my hypothesis as a belief, which means theoretically. To 'have the truth' would mean to have knowledge-based, that is, sense-based, evidence for the truth. All I can do is present my belief in language and invite other people to check the consequences of this belief. They are welcome to criticize it. If they really criticize it and don't find any argument against it, then of course they will believe it too. The more they check it, that is, the more they try to criticize it while still not finding that they can refute it, the more they will become convinced of their belief - at least, that is my experience.
P: So love is the basic need for everybody, because love is the need of consciousness.
S: Yes. And consciousness is the basic quality that everyone has. This consciousness, this unlimited consciousness, gives us relation to the whole unlimited reality when we come into creation. Doesn't everybody experience their consciousness as unlimited as soon as they are born? And don't they spontaneously start to use their senses to acquire awareness and experience of this new reality, these new surroundings? They use their senses to take in the image of the universe, and they coordinate themselves with their bodily needs and with the circumstances on Earth. Isn't every person then aware of the whole creation experientially in the same way? Does a person lose their consciousness of the whole creation just because they are concentrating on drinking a cup of tea? No, I acquire it as a child, and then I have it and can remember it throughout my life - unless there is a catastrophe with my brain, so that I completely lose my memory.
P: But I suppose that when people get their own ideas about reality, they live in those ideas, and not in the ever-present reality?
S: Yes. But people don't have any clear ideas about 'reality', because generally nobody distinguishes between the ever-present reality on the one hand and the memory of reality or history on the other. People generally say that reality is both these put together. The memory of reality, or history, is a reality, of course, but it is particular to the person remembering it. It is different from the ever-present reality, which, as a whole, is common to us all.
'Freedom' from reality?
P: So in practice people can't leave the ever-present reality? They are always exposed to an impression of the whole?
S: Yes, but most of the time people are disturbed by it, because they prefer to live in their memory of reality and history. They have to set their consciousness of the ever-present reality aside all the time, because it creates anxiety for them.
P: Because they don't understand the original cause?
S: Yes. The only alternative then is try to overcome the anxiety by seeking to control reality. So they distance themselves from it, otherwise they can't achieve the idea of 'freedom', the feeling of being independent of reality, of not belonging to it, of being outside it. They become totally identified with this position, hoping that from it they can control the whole reality. Yet they know - everybody knows - that we all belong one hundred per cent to reality. There is no possible way of leaving reality. Everyone knows this. But you can't live according to the idea that you are independent, free, unless you set this knowledge aside.
P: You can't have the illusion of free will if you are conscious of the whole reality?
S: Nor can you have the illusion of free will if you remember that you are bound in a distanceless way to reality through your bondage to your own body.
P: But we say of people that they are 'out of touch with reality'.
S: But it's a wrong way of putting it. Such people try to isolate themselves from reality, but in fact they are in touch with reality all the time - even though they don't want to be.
P: But when we are with somebody who is like that, we feel they are less present, that they are 'absent', or 'absent-minded'.
S: Of course, long self-isolation, long-term living in the memory and in history brings such results. You can't make contact about the ever-present reality with such people unless you tell them your belief about the ever-present cause of their presence in creation and of the whole ever-present reality. But you still can't force any interest in the ever-present cause and the ever-present reality. Not even God can. That is the problem with any understanding that living beings have to do - whether it relates to understanding the activities of objects or the activities of other living beings: they have to do it by themselves.