Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Change and Resistance

Being and Nothing

Why does anything exist? Existence cannot have been caused because the cause would have had to exist. Perhaps things exist by chance. Either something or nothing exists. If something exists, then something exists. If nothing exists, then something could begin to exist without a cause, in a singularity or quantum fluctuation. Thus, perhaps, existence is more likely than non-existence. Time is a function of change which requires existence, therefore time cannot have preceded existence. The moment of change from nothing to something would be the first moment of time. Alternatively, beginningless time could be infinite or circular.


If nothing changed, then nothing would happen but, if everything changed all the time, then nothing would exist from moment to moment. Temporal existence comprises more or less dynamic levels of interaction between change and resistance to it. Change occurs only because it is resisted. We expend energy to move matter but matter is energy so change (energy) is more fundamental than inertia (matter). 

(i) The least dynamic level comprises inanimate objects which change only by external influence, including imperceptible erosion, and which resist motion (change of position) when stationary or change of direction when in motion. However, even stationary objects exist on a moving planet and all macroscopic objects are composed of moving particles characterized by energy, not by solidity, so the relative immutability of inanimate objects is merely apparent.

(ii) On the microscopic level, energised complex molecules changed randomly until some became self-replicating, thus change-resisting.

(iii) Single cells replicated more effectively by combining, thus initiating the more dynamic level of multi-cellular organisms.

(iv) Organisms resist change by preserving self and propagating species. They maintain their form not by inertia but by continually changing the matter of which they are composed. Thus, they resist change by change like running the Red Queen’s race or standing still by walking up a down escalator.

(v) Individuals fittest to survive in a given environment change their species by living longer and breeding more, thus bequeathing pro-survival characteristics to more members of succeeding generations.

(vi) Animals preserve self and propagate species by pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain, thus initiating the more dynamic level of consciousness. Conscious beings move neither passively nor automatically but purposively.

(vii) One species preserved itself by changing its environment with hands and brain but thus also changed itself because thinking about the environment changed brains, thus initiating the more dynamic level of human consciousness.

(viii) Mankind changed parts of its environment into artificial extensions of hands and brain, the means of production, thus producing a storable surplus dividing society into producers and controllers of wealth. Leisure for a minority released artistic and scientific creativity. Ruling class interests and ideas resist further changes to the relations of production.

(ix) Changing the means of production caused further social changes and therefore also resistance to them.

(x) Industrial production of abundant wealth potentially transforms society by liberating the creative potential of every individual.

(xi) Human minds preserve self psychologically by defending favoured group- and self-images but meditation changes consciousness by ending mental identifications.

(xii) The most dynamic level, individual and social freedom, will still require maintenance of a material and cultural environment.
Beyond Levels

Change occurs because change and resistance are unequally balanced. Their equal balance entails a paradoxical synthesis of timelessness with dynamism. Something changeless but ever-new is either a logical contradiction, which cannot exist, or a transcendent reality apprehended in mystical experience:

“The Spirit, without moving, is swifter than the mind…Standing still, he overtakes those who run…He moves, and he moves not.” (1)

“Spirit” entails matter-spirit dualism but unitive mystical experience is often interpreted monistically:

“Who sees all beings in his own Self, and his own Self in all beings, loses all fear.
“When a sage sees this great Unity and his Self has become all beings, what delusion and what sorrow can ever be near him?” (1)

“He” personifies the transcendent but Hindu philosophy includes impersonalism. Impersonalist monism is materialism but dialectical (not mechanical) materialism incorporates natural (not supernatural) transcendence. In spiral (not linear) development, higher levels transcend lower, e. g., consciousness transcends unconscious life which transcends inanimate matter.

“Mysticism” (not mystification) may be supra- (not sub-) rational. Thus, we perceive several temporal, interactive levels of being and might apprehend an atemporal, transcendent level.

Isa Upanishad in The Upanishads (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1984), trans. Juan Mascaro, p. 49.


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