Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Thought on Unity, part 2 of 3

Part 1 was basically about the idea of looking at the world in terms of zero to positive infinity, as opposed to negative infinity to positive infinity. Fairly straightforward, and we have the understanding of science to back it up.

This is about seeing the world in all its variety as part of a continuous whole.

For me, it all began with a book by Jane Harper, The Universe Within Us. I've written about it before, but it's still a great book filled with great insights. In the beginning of this book, Jane pointed out a quote from the Master that talks about levels of creation.

"When we consider the mineral, we find that it exists and is possessed of the power of affinity or combination. The vegetable possesses the qualities of the mineral plus the augmentative virtue or power of growth. It is, therefore, evident that the vegetable kingdom is superior to the mineral. The animal kingdom in turn possesses the qualities of the mineral and vegetable plus the five senses of perception whereof the kingdoms below it are lacking. Likewise, the power of memory inherent in the animal does not exist in the lower kingdoms.

Just as the animal is more noble than the vegetable and mineral, so man is superior to the animal. The animal is bereft of ideality -- that is to say, it is a captive of the world of nature and not in touch with that which lies within and beyond nature; it is without spiritual susceptibilities, deprived of the attractions of consciousness, unconscious of the world of God and incapable of deviating from the law of nature."

It goes on, of course, but this is enough to make the point. Needless to say, there are many other areas in which the Master describes reality in this manner.

What is interesting is how this differs from a common scientific view, which is not all that scientific any more, just common. This common view tends to see the world in terms of a giant pie. You take one giant slice and call it "minerals". You can take another giant slice and call it "vegetables". A third humongous slice would be "animals". We could then take the animal slice and further cut it up and name those smaller slices "insects", "vertebrates", mammals", and further slice them to become "felines", "canines", "hominids", and so on. The slice of the pie would get smaller and smaller as you continue to recognize more and more distinct species, or types.

This, however, does not accord with either reality or 'Abdu'l-Baha's statement.

You can rearrange these pie slices into concentric circles so that the mineral  kingdom is in the centre, surrounded by the vegetable kingdom, and then the animals, and so forth, but that still shows a hard and fast delineation between all the levels, which does not accord with reality.

In the end, no matter how we configure it, if there are sharp barriers between the minerals and the plants, or the plants and the animals, or even the animals and the humans, then it does not accord with reality.

I like to think of this as the Platypus-effect. Is the platypus a mammal, since it has mammary glands and nurses its young? But it lays eggs, therefore it can't be a mammal.

Well, you know what? Nature does not adjust itself to our definitions, for our convenience. We, instead, need to adjust our definitions to reflect reality.

And so Jane adjusted the concentric circles to do just that: She made them a continuous spiral.

If we consider the centre as the mineral kingdom, which shows the power of unity, then we can move outwards towards the vegetable kingdom, which demonstrates the power of growth. Of course, we all know that crystals show the power of growth, too, in a sense, so perhaps they are further around the curve, but not quite at the range where we might call them a vegetable.

Then there are those plants that show some animalistic qualities, such as the Venus flytrap, so perhaps they are somewhere closer to animals than minerals.

And while this is not a perfect model and does break down fairly quickly, it does teach us something. For one, it shows the essential unity and fluidity of creation. It also implies that there are things within the mineral kingdom, for a spiral never ends in the centre. It just gets too small for us to see. So perhaps within the mineral kingdom we can include the sub-atomic realm, which is made up of electrons, protons, neturons, quarks, and so forth, which are not really minerals in the strictest of definitions.

It also implies that we can move outwards in a never-ending path.

Perhaps from the animal kingdom it moves outwards towards the human realm, and from there into the spiritual realms. We can only get a glimpse of it right now, for the vast majority of it is just around the corner, or around the bend.

Or perhaps I've gone around the bend.

Either way, I like to think of creation in this way now. From zero to infinity. From the very basic particles of creation spiraling outwards towards God. No matter how I think of it, it is a path that I can continue to tread for the rest of time, moving ever-onwards, upwards, or outwards.

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