Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Form, Mind and Essence

In the time of pralaya, or the night-time of the world, between two of its incarnations, all was quiet and the great trinity of deity - Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma * (* Footnote: Brahma is not the same as Brahman. The latter is a word for speaking of all three in unity, the former to indicate the third or creative aspect only.) - were taking a well-earned rest. At the approach of day Brahma woke up and, seeing Vishnu, touched him and said, "Who are you?" Vishnu replied, "I am the Lord of the world" But Brahma said, "That cannot be, for I am that." Then the two fell to quarrelling. While the dispute was going on there suddenly appeared a great pillar of light going upward and downward beyond their sight. The story says that Vishnu and Brahma stopped quarrelling, to wonder what this was. Brahma then flew upwards for a thousand years, trying to find the top of it, and Vishnu dived downwards for a thousand years, trying to find the bottom of it, but both of them returned baffled, and acknowledged that they had found something which they could not understand, and which was therefore greater than them. Then Shiva appeared from the pillar of light, told them that he was the Lord of the world - which they readily acknowledged - and ordered them to set to work upon a new world period of day. Brahma was told to attend to the form side of creation and Vishnu to the life entering the forms, but it was Shiva who brought them together and who said that he would be with them throughout the coming day, maintaining the harmony between them.

The point of the story is that the fundamental aspect of creation, which is the Cosmic essence (Shiva), which unites minds (creative principle- Brahma) and forms (manifestations- Vishnu) is more fundamental than either of them, and represents as it were the one deity in which both the others are contained. We have to think of the relational law or essence as the category of being in which mind and form are subordinate classes. There are therefore three categories namely; the ‘form’, ‘mind’ and the ‘essence’.

This is similar to the construction of a word in any language. The combination of letters of the alphabet that form the words are the forms (manifestation), the meaning of the words is the mind (the mind is that which gives a combination of letters a meaning) and the syntax or ordering or sequence of letters is the essence based on which the word is generated.

In western philosophy, it was St. Thomas Aquinas who articulated this categorization.

The quarrel between Brahma and Vishnu is a clear Aristotelian disposition. According to Aristotle; “form gives being, and matter receives it.” Nothing exists apart from its specific determination through the agency of an active principle which is the causality of a form. This form unites itself to what is able to receive it (and so some kind of passive principle is indicated). Matter and form, in joining together to constitute an essence (or what is an essence) constitute a specific kind of being or thing, a specific kind of substance. A “this” instead of “that,” comes into existence. Substance is essence, the “what it is” of a given thing.

But according to Aquinas; in metaphysical terms, act of existence is to be sharply distinguished from essence or, more specifically and properly; it is to be sharply distinguished from a finite essence which refers to the essence of a contingent thing (as this exists as a union of form and common matter). Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 54, a. 3. Understanding a finite essence does not necessarily include understanding its being or existence. Concrete or real being or existence cannot be caused or derived from a nature or essence (with respect to the being of contingent things) even if, admittedly, one can say that natures and essences exist in a qualified sense as hypothetical entities which have been discovered or postulated and which can be employed by minds as explanatory conjugates.....(Essence in Aquinas and Lonergan - by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB)

This is reflected in a grander scale in current studies of sub-quantum physics and in Morphic fields of plant biology. This can be understood by looking at how basic vacuum energy at the sub-atomic level, being a vast informational field,(essence) give rise to substance such as atoms, molecules and DNA (finite essences) and through a coded informational execution the DNA forms organs and the human being (a manifesting form).

This fundamental cosmic essence is what we are in reality.

Love to you all.

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