There is light. Light enables vision of a world in flux and in perceiving the world we desire to know it, to move towards absolute knowledge of it. Yet whence that light and where does that world exist – are we in it or is it in us? What is the method for knowing it? How do we bring into play the full range of our capacities? As a materialist or as an ‘idealist’? As one who holds that objective reality or matter is primary or as one who holds that consciousness or ‘mind’ takes precedence? What is the difference between ‘X is idealistic’ and that X is philosophically committed thus? Can we not use the lesson in that distinction to overcome a crippling impediment to the development of our knowledge, thereby enhancing both our ability to know the world and the potential for greater harmony in our lives in relating with it?
Only when the manifold terms have been driven to the point of contradiction do they become active and lively towards one another, receiving in contradiction the negativity which is the indwelling pulsation of self-movement and spontaneous activity. …when the difference of reality is taken into account, it develops from difference into opposition, and from this into contradiction, so that in the end the sum total of all realities simply becomes absolute contradiction within itself.
G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, Trans., A.V.Miller, Humanities Press, New York, 1976, p. 442
Abstract identity (a=a; and negatively, a cannot be simultaneously equal and unequal to a) is likewise inapplicable in organic nature. The plant, the animal, every cell is at every moment of its life identical with itself and yet becoming distinct from itself, by absorption and excretion of substances, by respiration, by cell formation and death of cells, by the process of circulation taking place, in short, by a sum of incessant molecular changes which make up life and the sum-total of whose results is evident to our eyes in the phases of life – embryonic life, youth, sexual maturity, process of reproduction, old age, death. The further physiology develops, the more important for it become (sic) these incessant, infinitely small changes, and hence the more important for it also the consideration of difference within identity, and the old abstract standpoint of formal identity, that an organic being is to be treated as something simply identical with itself, as something constant, becomes out of date. Nevertheless, the mode of thought based thereon, together with its categories, persists. But even in inorganic nature identity as such is in reality non-existent. Every body is continually exposed to mechanical, physical, and chemical influences, which are always changing it and modifying its identity. Abstract identity, with its opposition to difference, is in place only in mathematics – an abstract science which is concerned with creations of thought, even though they are reflections of reality – and even there it is continually being sublated. Hegel, Enzyklopädie, I, p. 235. The fact that identity contains difference within itself is expressed in every sentence, where the predicate is necessarily different from the subject; the lily is a plant, the rose is red. where, either in the subject or in the predicate there is something that is not covered by the predicate or the subject. Hegel, p. 231. That from the outset identity with itself requires difference from everything else as its complement, is self-evident.
Continual change, i.e., sublation of abstract identity with itself, is also found in so-called inorganic nature. Geology is its history. On the surface, mechanical changes (denudation, frost), chemical changes (weathering); internally, mechanical changes (pressure), heat (volcanic), chemical (water, acids, binding substances); on a large scale – upheavals, earthquakes, etc. The slate of today is fundamentally different from the ooze from which it is formed, the chalk from the loose microscopic shells that compose it, even more so limestone, which indeed according to some is of purely organic origin, and sandstone from the loose sea sand, which again is derived from disintegrated granite, etc., not to speak of coal.
The law of identity in the old metaphysical sense is the fundamental law of the old outlook: a = a. Each thing is equal to itself. Everything was permanent, the solar system, stars, organisms. This law has been refuted by natural science bit by bit in each separate case, but theoretically it still prevails and is still put forward by the supporters of the old in opposition to the new: a thing cannot simultaneously be itself and something else. And yet the fact that true, concrete identity includes difference, change, has recently been shown in detail by natural science (see above).
Abstract identity, like all metaphysical categories, suffices for everyday use, where small dimensions or brief periods of time are in question; the limits within which it is usable differ in almost every case and are determined by the nature of the object; for a planetary system, where in ordinary astronomical calculation the ellipse can be taken as the basic form for practical purposes without error, they are much wider than for an insect that completes its metamorphosis in a few weeks. (Give other examples, e.g., alteration of species, which is reckoned in periods of thousands of years.) For natural science in its comprehensive role, however, even in each single branch, abstract identity is totally inadequate, and although on the whole it has now been abolished in practice, theoretically it still dominates people’s minds, and most natural scientists imagine that identity and difference are irreconcilable opposites, instead of one-sided poles which represent the truth only in their reciprocal action, in the inclusion of difference within identity.
Friedrich Engels, Dialectics of Nature, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1976, 214-216
Part four/to be continued…
The destructibility of the atom, its inexhaustibility, the mutability of all forms of matter and of its motion, have always been the stronghold of dialectical materialism. All boundaries in nature are conditional, relative, movable, and express the gradual approximation of our mind towards knowledge of matter. But this does not in any way prove that nature, matter itself, is a symbol, a conventional sign, i.e., the product of our mind. The electron is to the atom as a full stop in this book is to the size of a building 200 feet long, 100 feet broad, and 50 feet high (Lodge); it moves with a velocity as high as 270,000 kilometres per second; its mass is a function of its velocity; it makes 500 trillion revolutions in a second – all this is much more complicated than the old mechanics; but it is, nevertheless, movement of matter in space and time. Human reason has discovered many amazing things in nature and will discover still more, and will thereby increase its power over nature. But this does not mean that nature is the creation of our mind or of abstract mind, i.e., of Ward’s God, Bogdanov’s “substitution”, etc.
V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, 1908, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, p. 262
Part Five/To be continued…
…it is one of the fundamental prejudices of logic as hitherto understood and of ordinary thinking, that contradiction is not so characteristically essential and immanent a determination as identity; but in fact, if it were a question of grading the two determinations and they had to be kept separate, then contradiction would have to be taken as the profounder determination and more characteristic of essence. For as against contradiction, identity is merely the determination of the simple immediate, of dead being; but contradiction is the root of all movement and vitality; it is only in so far as something has a contradiction within it that it moves, has an urge and activity.
G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, Trans., A.V.Miller, Humanities Press, New York, 1976, 439
Part one/to be continued…
…dialectical materialism insists on the approximate, relative character of every scientific theory of the structure of matter and its properties; it insists on the absence of absolute boundaries in nature, on the transformation of moving matter from one state into another, that from our point of view is apparently irreconcilable with it, and so forth. However bizarre from the standpoint of “common sense” the transformation of imponderable ether into ponderable matter and vice versa may appear, however “strange” may seem the absence of any other kind of mass in the electron save electromagnetic mass, however extraordinary may be the fact that the mechanical laws of motion are confined only to a single sphere of natural phenomena and are subordinated to the more profound laws of electromagnetic phenomena, and so forth – all this is but another corroboration of dialectical materialism. …The electron is as inexhaustible as the atom, nature is infinite but it infinitely exists. And it is this sole categorical, this sole unconditional recognition of nature’s existence outside the mind and perception of man that distinguishes dialectical materialism from relativist agnosticism and idealism.
V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, 1908, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, pp. 242-43
Part three/to be continued…
I’m sorry I haven’t replied to you earlier. I wanted to sit with your question. And I could sit with it a great deal longer.
Mysticism for me is the deepest feeling for and orientation to the whole, yet sensitivity to the parts that comprise it (in each part is the whole), to the relationship between whole and parts, to their infinite complexity and unceasing motion – and that awareness is essentially ineffable, yet intuitively understood.
If you remove ‘feeling’, ‘the ineffable’ and ‘intuition’ from this statement you have the description of a relationship that bears comparison with the first words of Lenin’s ‘On the Question of Dialectics’ – ‘The splitting of a single whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts…is the essence (one of the ‘essentials,’ one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristics or features) or dialectics. That is precisely how Hegel, too, puts the matter (Aristotle in his Metaphysics continually grapples with it and combats Heraclitus and Heraclitean ideas).’
My comparison is appropriate, because mystical philosophy, as Marx acknowledged (particularly its Germanic current culminating in the philosophy of the ‘German Proclus’, Hegel), is the philosophical core, stood by Marx on its feet, of dialectical materialism.
Lenin went on: ‘the correctness of this aspect of the content of dialectics must be tested by the history of science.’ This can be simply demonstrated – if you hold a rock in your hand, you hold a unity. While it looks utterly still – in its composition, in its parts, it is in unceasing motion. The contradictory motion of those infinitely divisible parts is the very thing which results in the apparently stable unity you hold in your hand (I am reminded of Plotinus’ profound and profoundly poetic position regarding his One – that it is the greatest activity in the greatest stillness).
And the interaction of this rock, this material composition, with the greater, infinite material whole will one day result in the passing of the form and contents of that stone into other material structures.
Thus everything passes, and only matter (objective reality) driven by the (theoretical) absolute of change remains.
While capitalist ideologues treat mysticism like pornography as they secretly study and draw from it, claiming, as true patriarchs, that their appropriations are the result of the most rigorous conceptual ‘reason’, materialists should be proud of their philosophical heritage and continue to mine it for more philosophical gems.
‘Intuition’ is one such. I believe it is a form of reasoning far more holistic and connected to our ‘emotions’/our ‘feelings’, our ‘sense of self’ than is the reason of language and concept. The latter, while its benefits and the achievements made with it are obvious, comparative to intuition (which is always functioning in the background), is plodding.
An example: suppose you were to walk around a corner while another did the same thing walking towards you. You bump into each other. Your eyes meet. Without doubt you would both have an instantaneous wealth of thoughts and feelings so rich and complex that thinking linguistically in and of that moment would not only be an impediment, it would be an impossibility.
Yet the thoughts and feelings you both have in those few seconds will be formative, evidence of a type of reason which I think is central to our sense of self.
When the monotheist prays to God – ‘God, give me guidance’, they are calling on that other form of reason which requires emotional ‘stillness’ to be heard and listened to. They speak of ‘stillness’ and ‘listening’ at such times.
It is a flux of reason that draws on their life’s experience, on their spiritual connection to the world, on all that comprises them.
‘Spirituality’ – a concept I rejected for many years – for me is the feeling for and knowledge of profound material connectedness.
Intuitive reason is like ‘another’ to that of our usual, linguistically conditioned self.
There is certainly nothing of the patriarch to it, yet if you fail to listen to that ‘voice’, you do so at your peril. You will be like the man in the toothpaste aisle at the supermarket – reading all the labels, unable to choose, looking for an impetus and answer only in words, his linguistic ‘self’ disconnected from that other, deeper, more holistic, intuitive ‘self’.
In this unity of self (both linguistic and intuitive) and the world is to be found the unity of both mystic and materialist – it is one, unwilled yet profoundly dialectical, profoundly ‘poetic’ world.
When I am presented with any problem, I first try to intuit a way forward or a solution, then I apply my ability to reason linguistically. And although the results are usually different (my intuition seems consistent with necessity – which supports my understanding of intuition), I play those two results against each other to arrive at my answer.
These are a few of my thoughts on the subject of mysticism.
What are some of your thoughts on the subject?
Washington; AP, with Liam Mannix, ‘Humanity stares into black hole abyss’, The Sydney Morning Herald 12.04.19
‘…The black hole is about 6 billion times the mass of our sun and is in a galaxy called M87. Its “event horizon” – the precipice, or point of no return where light and matter get sucked inexorably into the hole – is as big as our entire solar system.
Myth says a black hole would rip a person apart, but scientists said that because of the particular forces exerted by an object as big as the one in M87, someone could fall into it and not be torn to pieces. But the person would never be heard from or seen again.’
Chang’e-4 made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon at 10:26 Thursday morning, marking a breakthrough in human exploration of the universe, according to a statement the China National Space Administration (CNSA) sent to the Global Times on Thursday.
The probe sent back images at 11:40 am, about one hour after landing in the Von Karman Crater of the South Pole-Aitken Basin, said the administration, unveiling the moon’s far side for the first time in lunar exploration history.
The far side of the moon refers to the hemisphere that never faces the Earth and cannot be seen directly from the Earth.
The lunar lander touched down and sent signals from the moon’s far side to the Earth for the first time, launching “a new chapter in human exploration of the moon,” according to the administration’s statement.
The probe’s lander and rover successfully separated on Thursday night, Xinhua reported. The first photo of the Yutu II rover landing on the far side of the moon was snapped by a camera attached to the lander and sent to Earth via the Queqiao satellite.
The name Yutu II was picked for the rover of Chang’e-4 from 42,945 online suggestions from all over the world including Light, Walking Man and Elf, CNSA announced on Thursday night.
The rover looks like its predecessor Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, China’s first lunar rover launched in 2013.
But the newer rover has adaptable parts and an adjustable payload configuration to deal with the more complex terrain on the far side of the moon, the Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday.
Hashtags related to Chang’e-4’s moon landing had been viewed more than 100 million times as of press time on Thursday evening.
Internet users almost universally welcomed the landing.
“Chang’e flying to the moon is a myth and we are realizing the myth,” Sina Weibo user Zanjia posted.
“Congratulations to China’s Chang’e-4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the Moon. This is a first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment!” tweeted NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
Rocks on the moon’s far side are comparatively more ancient than those on the front, Pang Zhihao, a Beijing-based aerospace expert, told the Global Times on Thursday.
Chang’e-4 will help humanity learn the origin and evolution of the moon and help with low-frequency radio astronomical observations, Pang said. Those observations may well lead to some major astronomical discoveries, he noted.
It was not easy for Chang’e-4 to land in the heavily cratered, mountainous South Pole-Aitken Basin, he said.
The basin was created by the impact of a meteor and is one of the largest known impact craters in the solar system. It is about 2,500 kilometres in diameter and 13 kilometres deep, according to Xinhua.
Unlike the Chang’e-3 probe landing on the Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, on a parabolic trajectory, the Chang’e-4 probe made a vertical descent at the Von Karman Crater, said the CNSA.
“The Von Karman Crater is believed to have great scientific research potential. The region is also comparatively flat, making it safer for Chang’e-4 to land there,” Pang said.
A vertical landing helped Chang’e-4 avoid hitting rocks on the far side. As Chang’e-4 cannot directly communicate with the Earth, the probe relays communication – with a 1-minute delay – through the satellite Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge, said CNSA.
Such a time difference creates the conditions for a “blind landing,” meaning the probe must land on its own, using information installed in advance.
To ensure a safe landing, Chang’e-4 was equipped with an autonomous diagnosis system to detect and resolve problems for itself.
The probe can also work at night to record the temperature of the far side, another improvement on Chang’e-3, Pang said.
More than 100 spacecraft and probes have been launched onto the moon since the 1950s, but none soft-landed on the moon’s far side, Zou Yongliao, deputy director of the National Space Science Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said at a press conference in November 2018.
Chang’e-4 is carrying eight payloads including a low frequency radio spectrometer from Germany and detectors from Sweden.
Instruments will conduct low-frequency radio astronomy observations, research the structure of the moon’s surface and study neutron radiation on the moon’s far side.
CNSA said that with data provided by the Chang’e-4 probe, they would like to jointly explore the universe in cooperation with foreign space agencies, research institutes and space enthusiasts.
The Chang’e-4 landing moves China a step closer to the establishment of a moon base. The lunar exploration project was initiated in 2004 as China’s first step into deep-space exploration.
The Chang’e-1 to Chang’e-5 lunar probes constitute the first of three phases from unmanned lunar exploration through manned moon landings to the establishment of a moon base.
The construction of the moon base will be controlled by artificially intelligent robots and occasionally managed by human beings after astronauts are sent to the moon, China News Service reported in March, citing Zhao Xiaojin, Party chief of the China Academy of Space Technology at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.