A JOURNEY IN BEING1
Anil Mitra, Copyright © September 6, 2019—October 13, 2019
A JOURNEY IN BEING
The overview entries are also hyperlinks to the main text.
To know and live well in the immediate and ultimate worlds is a human endeavor that has appeal for many individuals and has a recognized status in most societies. To search beyond the immediate is a spiritual and pragmatic or materially useful value.
To search beyond is not to ignore the immediate. The search must begin in and emphasize the immediate.
The general limits of the transsecular are (i) dogma, (ii) limited imagination, (iii) though it has emotional and allegorical meaning, its literal content is rarely confirmed and often contradictory and absurd.
The main limit of the secular is its appeal to science for (i) science is confirmed for at most the empirical world and projection to the entire universe at best speculative, and (ii) the foundational objects of science are posits (hypothetical) and not known to be real.
Together, the secular and transsecular limiting in the extreme of modern views of the world. There may be worlds beyond science and ways of knowing such worlds. Because science is empirically dogmatic (a good requirement when the aim is detailed prediction in the empirical region), to attempt to search beyond is almost automatically rejected in secular thought because of the absurdity of the common transsecular (religious) views.
In this division, (i) except in headings, bold font indicates a definition (ii) Courier New font indicates colloquial use of a defined term.
A definition is a specification of a concept.
Definitions are indicated by bold font (headings and some obvious non-definitions may also be bold).
When not explicitly stated, that the concept refers to an existent is trivial.
That there is Being follows from experience whether real or illusory.
With sufficient abstraction (i.e., filtering out of distortable detail from a concept), Being is a being. The beings of our common experience are pragmatic beings, i.e. as-if beings for some purposes.
Being4 will serve as perfect foundation for understanding and knowledge of the universe. It is able to do because it is real, neutral, and inclusive.
That is, (i) Being is given, not hypothetical; (ii) it is not a special kind such as substance5, entity, process, or interaction—it is not a kind at all; and (iii) all that there is falls under Being.
That it is not a kind is often regarded as trivializing ‘Being’—as implying that it is not a concept at all. However, what ought to be said is that Being is not a real kind. To know anything, a concept is essential (even if there are rigid designators, we cannot know the existent by designation alone). The concept of Being does distinguish between the existing and the non existing. For example—do the concepts (i) Sherlock Holmes (a hypothetical man who lived at 210 Baker Street, London etc.) (ii) a square circle have existents (‘objects’). The answer is ‘no’ in both cases, respectively contingently and necessarily and we therefore say that they are non existent (this, by the way, is a resolution of the problem of negative existentials—it simply points out that to claim non existence it is not necessary to presuppose existence and it does not require regarding existence as a higher order concept). Thus Being is a concept and what we find in this work is that it is far from trivial.
To have power is to affect a being.
The hypothetical being that has no power does not exist.
Power is a necessary and sufficient measure of Being.
That is, Being is the measure of Being.
As Being is unconditionally inclusive to say it is the measure is not to exclude special measures.
Is not reason a measure of Being? Yes, but reason is a part of Being.
1.2 The universe and the void
Extension is the greatest true generalization of the concept of spacetime.
It is intended in the definition of the universe above that ‘all Being’ shall mean ‘all Being over all extension’.
There is precisely one universe.
That is, the void contains no beings.
Existence of the void violates no principle of logic and is consistent with science and common experience6.
The universe, the void, wholes, and parts are beings. Cosmoses and individuals are at least pragmatic beings.
1.3 Law, possibility, and the greatest possibility
The most general laws apply to all entities of a known kind. For example, the general laws of physics apply with appropriate accuracy and to the best of our knowledge to all physical entities in our empirical cosmos.
The kind of possibility is defined by the kind of constraint.
Possibility pertains, for example, to beings that may exist and states of affairs that may obtain.
Possibility pertains to concepts. When the possibility is realized, the existent may stand for the concept. Otherwise, the explicit concept is essential—including but not limited to something that has obtained or obtains somewhere else.
Possibility is relative to what is known which may be—and almost invariably is—in error and limited in extent (e.g., to the empirical universe). It is possible that it will rain tomorrow presumes that there will be a tomorrow and that the conditions necessary for rain will not have been suspended.
Relative to all Being (the universe), the possible and the real are identical—i.e. the possible is what obtains in some region or the whole.
The impossible is that which is not possible.
If a state of affairs obtains nowhere or when in the universe, it is impossible.
Relative to the universe, the impossible and the unreal are identical.
But if a limited knower knows of no occurrence, it does not follow that the state of affairs is impossible.
More specifically, the impossible of a given kind is that which is not possible in terms of the constraints of that kind.
Necessity is that which for which to not obtain is impossible.
That is, necessity is that which must obtain.
For each kind of possibility there is a corresponding kind of necessity.
Logical possibility is that for which violation of the constraints implies non realization in all worlds (or situations).
That is, for a concept to be logically possible, its internal structure must satisfy the requirements of (deductive or necessary) logic. But the definition of logical possibility entails an enhancement of the concept of logic—the constraint must also be consistent with given and necessary fact. The enhancement may be recognized as what is currently called ‘argument’. If concepts are extended to include percepts then logic and argument are identical.
Since logical possibility is concerned with constraints on the structure of concepts, it could also be called conceptual possibility.
The realization of conceptual or logical possibility is neither internally nor empirically inconsistent.
Conceptual or logical possibility is a class of kinds defined by kinds of logic (e.g. the propositional and predicate calculi).
The logically impossible cannot and does not obtain.
Real possibility is a class of kinds in which the constraints are defined by notions of realism.
Real possibility includes sentient and natural possibility—defined below. Other examples of possibility are human, animal, and cosmological. The dimensions of Being are a source of kinds of possibility.
Real possibility presumes logical or conceptual possibility.
Real possibility is at least as restrictive as logical possibility.
Since the logically impossible does not obtain there is no possibility less restrictive than the logical.
The constraints of logical possibility are necessary (are satisfied for all worlds and situations).
The greatest possibility is logical possibility.
Sentient possibility is that which may be achieved by sentients (i.e. sentient existents) including their actions and designs.
Natural possibility is that which is allowed by the laws or sciences of nature (especially those of the empirical cosmos).
Natural possibility presumes logical possibility, which is usually understood to have been built in to the structure of the laws.
1.4 The fundamental principle of metaphysics
The fundamental principle of metaphysics says that universe is the greatest7 possible.
It is important that ‘greatest’ does not mean ‘best’; ‘greatest’ is not a term that indicates value. That is, the universe is the greatest possible in the greatest meaningful or consistent sense of possibility. It means that given a possible being, the being exists. Thus, it is implied that the universe contains worlds that approach perfection.
Demonstration—If there is a conceived existent that is possible (in the greatest sense8) but does not emerge from the void, that would be a law of the void. Since the void has no laws, all such existents or beings must emerge from the void.
Heuristic understanding of the principle—if the universe has a cause, it cannot be an other being for there is no other. The alternative to material cause is modal—i.e., of possibility an necessity. If the cause is positive or effective, it cannot be mere possibility for that allows that the universe might not be eternally non-manifest. Hence the cause must be necessity. Now, since necessity presumes no particular possible state, e.g. our empirical cosmos, it implies the manifestation of all possibility—i.e., it implies the fundamental principle.
A second heuristic—it is easy to imagine what the next laws of theoretical physics might be like but difficult to know what they will be. What about the laws after the next… and the ultimate laws? That would seem impossible. However, the greatest conceptual boundary of the laws is obvious—it is the fundamental principle.
The greatest sense of possibility was seen to be conceptual or logical possibility which was extended in meaning to include given and necessary fact. That is—
The demonstrated fundamental principle is consistent (i) internally—i.e. harbors no contradiction (or other violation of logical principle) and (ii) externally—it is consistent with valid experience and valid knowledge of scientific theory and fact.
That is, the fundamental principle conforms to ‘logic’ in which the meaning of logic is extended to include given and necessary fact. But since the greatest possibility cannot be less than logical possibility, the fundamental principle and logic are one (this logic must be logic in its greatest and final sense).
We almost certainly do not know the form of this logic for we do not know that the atomic, predicate, and modal forms of propositions exhaust the forms.
Relative to the universe—and to this just emergent knowledge, the fundamental principle—the possible and the real are identical to each other and to the greatest or the logically or conceptually possible.
Since the natural laws of our cosmos are not known to extend beyond the empirical cosmos, the principle is also consistent with our science9.
1.5 Introduction to consequences of the fundamental principle
1.6 Necessity as the cause of the universe
This resolves what has been called the fundamental question of metaphysics—Why is there something rather than nothing? Note that ‘there may be something’ or ‘something is probable’ would not be resolutions; rather the resolution must be that ‘something is necessary’. What is found is that ‘both something and nothing are necessary—in phases’ (and we are of course in a manifest phase).
That is necessity may be seen as the cause of the universe.
Since necessity is not a being, this does not contradict the earlier assertion that the universe is neither caused nor created by another being.
It is neither a contradiction nor a special insight or truth to regard the universe as self caused or created—or caused by the void or any being.
1.7 Ultimate identity and Being of the universe and individuals
They are limitless in extension10, variety, peak and dissolution; it is eternal; it has arrays of cosmoses that are limitless in number and variety; and every cosmos is an atom and every atom a cosmos.
(For the contrary would violate the fundamental principle.)
There are paths to this ultimate from our experience of limited Being in this world.
While the process gives fresh meaning to the terms ‘God’ and ‘Brahman’ and is closer to the latter it is neither; this meaning is ultimate; the lesser meanings as in the religions are realized but insignificant in the universal context. For we are never outside that ultimate and the ultimate is never a final peak but is always peaking and dissolving—and we and the ultimate are always the peak in potential but never a final actual peak.
Those terms are in meaning to the peak than remote notion or the ultimate notion in which we merely participate11.
This is may be a source for the phrase—a Vedic Mahavakya or great saying in Sanskrit—“tat tvam asi” meaning “you are that”. To replace the phrase ‘you’ by ‘all existents’ would be closer to the ideal meaning sought.
Is there a best way to conceive and be in this peak identity being? That is—what are the best meanings of the terms ‘God’ and ‘Brahman’? We often think that such words have definite meaning even if we do not know it. But in fact, just as the real itself is forging toward and from peaks, we do the same in the realm of meaning. It is a search in a space of existents and concepts (and signs of concepts). The best meaning must be one that designates an existent. It must recognize the fundamental principle. Therefore, whatever the meaning, God-Brahman, is the greatest possible being and includes the merging of all lesser beings. For the individual, knowing God-Brahman may begin with—feeling part of universal process, seeing that process everywhere, knowing and feeling it to already be ultimate and yet being immediate.
However, in contradiction to any literal claim of the limited individual as the peak, this would seem to be metaphorical rather than literal and potential rather than achieved.
1.8 Paths to the ultimate
Though realization is given, there is an imperative12 to act in a way that is an improvement in effectiveness and enjoyment relative to a merely casual attitude.
There are ecstasy and pain on the way—the universe is not perfect in the common senses of perfection as the best or idyllic or absence of all suffering. Ecstasy and pain are neither to be sought nor avoided (excessively). Even where pain seems unnecessary and unavoidable—as in cancer or the pain of an infant—the good approach seeks calm anticipation of the ultimate.
Though not emphasized here, readers may choose to follow traditional ways to and ideas similar to this ideal.
Though there is value in received secular and transsecular ways they are overvalued in that they both underestimate the extension (‘size’, ‘duration’), variety, and significance of the universe. The received estimates are effectively infinitesimal.
So as to be brief and clear, the development so far has not entertained doubt.
Are we certain of the fundamental principle and its consequences? We have demonstrated the principle, shown it consistent with our knowledge—but we ought to doubt it from its magnitude; we ought to retain skepticism also because the demonstration was ontological13 rather than directly empirical in nature. This skepticism does not mean we should think ‘we are wrong’ but rather ‘truth is always emergent’. It is consistent with this attitude of skepticism that we regard the fundamental principle and its consequences as an existential principle of action14 or a fundamental postulate of Be-ing15.
This is an openness to living in an area between certainty and uncertainty—and demonstration and intuition17.
This openness is a desirable condition of our Being and true condition of our real nature.
This concludes the foundation.
2 The way
2.1 The aim
The central aim18 of the way is realization of the ultimate from and in the immediate.
2.2 The way—reason as the means of realization
Dimensions of Being21 are—will be—a way of describing the world for understanding and instrumental use. In summary, the dimensions are psyche, nature, society, and the universal.
Tradition22 is (here to be understood as) all that is rationally valid and symbolically valuable in all cultures and secular23 and transsecular24 worldviews through history up to the present moment. It includes ways25 of knowledge and life and catalysts26 of change.
Reason27 is the best developed and developing way to know and act in the world and universe.
To follow and develop reason will begin with immersion—and perhaps instruction—in tradition but in the end it is a living process without external foundation.
Reason and its in process foundation are immanent in the world, particularly in individuals and cultures. Reason is reflexive and involves the entire being of beings. Its purview includes action.
Reason and its foundation are not in prescriptions and formulas which are aids to memory and may be occasionally efficient substitutes for ever beginning again at the beginning.
However, it is critical and refreshing to occasionally begin at the beginning of ontological thought. And this ought perhaps to be undertaken at least once—given resources28—by every individual and every culture.
2.3 On path templates
The following everyday and universal templates are suggested guides to realization.
2.4 An everyday template
This template is adaptable to days of ‘normal’ and other kinds of activity.
This template is adaptable to a range of life stages and orientations, everyday life conditions, and special activities and explorations.
The everyday template in the complete version of A Journey in Being provides greater detail than below.
1. Rise early, dedicate, affirm; morning reflection.
2. Review the day, life, the path or way.
3. Realize: work and relationships, ideas and action, yoga-meditation in practice and in action, tasks and meals.
4. Exercise… and exploration of the world for experience and inspiration.
5. Evening rest, renewal, review, realization, network, community, tasks, preparation for the next day, sleep early.
2.5 A universal template
This template employs and covers the dimensions of Being. It is adaptable to a range of foci corresponding to different interests. Though they may do so, it is not intended that an individual should or shall undertake action in all dimensions and details.
The universal template in the complete version of A Journey in Being provides greater detail than below.
1. Being—Pure Being… an aim, Being as if timeless and without restriction to place in the present, sharing, community.
2. Ideas—relation, knowing… acting.
3. Becoming—nature as place of Being and catalyst to the real; with psyche.
4. Becoming—civilization and society (culture and its dimensions; instrumental and immersive politics and economics).
5. Becoming—artifact (technology, especially as enhancing Being in the universe).
6. Becoming—universal, unknown.
7. Being—universal… an aim.
This concludes the way.
1 This is one of two versions of A Journey in Being. It is the essential or short version. It is not intended to be complete with regard to development of the ideas. Many ideas from the history of thought are in the background and provide foundation but are here touched only tangentially or not at all. Except for the essential implications for action and realization, consequences are not explored. These and other developments will be found in http://www.horizons-2000.org/2020/a journey in being-complete.html.
It is essential to follow meanings as defined below—(i) for definiteness, (ii) because there is newness to some of the definitions, and (iii) to be able to understand the narrative.
It is also essential to see the collection of concepts as a system—i.e. as defined in relation to one another (and of course as intended to capture the real). It may require patience to see the whole and how it supersedes but incorporates what is valid in other views of the world.
From fairly representative reading I believe that the narrative has new—and significant—ideas and conclusions. However, I cannot be sure of that is true or to what extent true for one cannot have read everything and most certainly cannot have thought everything that has been thought. In fact, the fundamental conclusions of the narrative show that what has been thought here has been thought far better and over and over in the history of the universe—even if not in our world, even if not in our cosmos.
Therefore, I do not claim originality.
I have been writing on the present system for over fifteen years and on previous systems since 1985. Much of the content has appeared on the internet. There is a print publication of 2013 that has a rudimentary form of the present development—and so I do not regard or advertise this publication as new relative to what I have already written. It may be thought of as an evolving edition more so than a numbered edition.
In any case, I would like to see publication move away from individual possession of expression to some notion of continuous text in which past ideas are selectively, critically, and imaginatively woven in.
In this text, bold font indicates a definition and courier new font indicates a defined or formal term in colloquial use.
2 The use of ‘existence’ avoids reference to or attempt at foundation in special kinds—especially substances—whose existence may be in question; to avoid such reference at outset is to neither assert nor deny substance or foundation in substance. It will emerge that substance is not necessary to any ultimate foundation. It may be seen that attempt at substance foundation would be limiting.
I use the term ‘existent’ to maintain neutrality—to avoid specific reference to objects, entities, processes, properties and so on.
The concept of Being is associated with a number of problems that are taken up in the longer version of this essay—a journey in being-complete.html; of these the problems of triviality and negative existentials are discussed briefly below.
3 The meanings here, arrived at by trial and error, constitute a system of meaning that stand together as a whole. It is essential to the validity of the whole that all meanings be understood as defined.
It is not that other definitions, formal or informal, are ‘incorrect’ but that they are not tailored to the present development.
It is therefore crucial to follow the meanings specified here.
The present meanings will be found to empower a system of understanding that is ultimate in a number of directions, particularly depth and finality of foundation and breadth of inclusiveness of the entire universe (of course not in detail). It is also ultimate in showing the universe to be the greatest possible (in a sense to be explained).
4 Other concepts, especially the universe (all Being), the void (null Being), possibility, and necessity play a role. These concepts may be seen as ‘categories’ of Being.
5 Mind and matter are examples of substances.
6 This use of ‘experience’ is informal. Experience will be formally defined as subjective awareness or consciousness, which is important to the conceptual development of the long version of A Journey in Being.
7 ‘Greatest’ does not mean ‘best’. This is not Leibniz’ assertion that this is the best of all possible worlds.
8 I.e. one that is logically or conceptually possible.
9 If we ask why our cosmos is as it is and not otherwise it may seem that the very fact and form of the empirical cosmos violates this assertion. However, to the extent that the cosmos is known it is possible and there is no violation. Where the cosmos is not known, i.e. beyond the empirical pale of the large and small scales in size and time and the future, there is no knowledge to contradict the assertion.
10 Extension is primitive as experience of sameness and difference that are precursors to space and time. Extension is not prior to but of and immanent in existents and thus the world.
11 Is there an appropriate name for ultimate being? A problem of naming the ultimate power is that such names tend to become associated with dogmatic, cultural, and familiar overlay and so lose meaning. We do not suggest a name, not because ultimate being is not nameable, but because a name tends to reduce the ultimate to just one more thing.
12 This imperative does not determine local ethics—secular ethics, ethics for this world—but adds to and provides perspective for it.
13 An ontological proof is one that appeals to the nature of Being or existence. From the inadequacy of Anselm’s purportedly ontological argument for the existence of God, it seems to be sometimes concluded that there are no valid ontological arguments. From the present developments this is clearly not true. The point to the doubt from ontology is that the ontology of the present argument ought to be rigorously analyzed for this can only make clearer the true status of the fundamental principle—e.g., whether it ought to be regarded as a given or as a material or existential principle.
Note that I do not call it a spiritual principle though I can see that some persons might choose to do so.
14 That enhances enjoyment of process and anticipated outcome.
15 Analogous to, say, the postulational foundations of the physics of relativity and thermodynamics.
16 That is, ideas of certainty and validity in knowledge should serve to negotiate the real rather than as mere vanities of the ego.
17 It is of course not an openness to irrationality; nor is it a rejection of certainty and proof. Intuition and proof ought to be practiced together—to complement one another.
But what is intuition? In one meaning, it is feeling one’s way—in contrast though not in opposition to explicitly designing the way (the two complement each other). In a more formal meaning, e.g. that of Immanuel Kant, it is the structure of experience (mind) as attuned or adapted to the forms of the world. Thus being open to intuition is being open to one’s Being.
Note that proof is in language and language is discrete or ‘digital’ and so what can be said in a specific language may be unable to capture the entire real whose measure may be some uncountable infinity—which may be open to intuition if we are more than a system with discrete states. But there is also a practical aspect to this. Perhaps digitized knowledge can cover uncountable infinities because for any aspect of the real there may be a special purpose language for it. Still however, the digital may be unable to capture the quality of the real at all or the special aspect of the real in ‘real time’.
This is a potential issue for artificial intelligence.
18 The aims of living well in this life—in this world—are tacit in earlier comments on ecstasy and pain and in discussion on the dimensions of Being.
19 It is essential to understand these terms as explained. For example, reason is not only about things such as perception, thought, and inference but also about feeling, action, correcting, and learning.
20 In the longer version of this work, reason will also be called logos.
21 In greater detail, experience—subjective awareness or consciousness—is the core of our Being; without it we are as if robots; and for any given state of Being, there is a greater experiential (sentient) state. That is, experience is the place of significant meaning—the ‘meaning of life’.
The concept of experience is important to the longer version of the essay where it will be developed in detail.
The world is experience and experienced; the latter is sometimes called the external world but it includes experience as object (existent). These are the pure dimensions of Being—experience and experienced or psyche and world. Part of that experience is identity—sense of sameness; and sameness and difference with the special case of space, time or process, and relation or interaction. The ‘external’ world can be seen as natural (physical, living, and of psyche), social, and the universal (transcending the immediate and detailed empirical). The pragmatic dimensions of the world are psyche (perception, icon and sign, thought, feeling, will, recall, and more), nature (physical, living, and psychical or of mind), the social (culture, political economy, science, and technology), and the universal that transcends this world.
22 This is clearly not the common sense of tradition and therefore the common arguments for and against tradition in its common sense do not apply here.
23 Understanding of the world on principles solely from the world and, particularly, not from myth or the mythic side of religion. It includes science. It is sometimes thought of as limited to common experience and empirical science. However, as we can know Being and universe precisely in themselves—i.e. without reference to empirical detail—the secular can go beyond our sciences without stepping into dogma or myth. An example is the rational metaphysics of this narrative.
24 The transsecular includes religion but not as mythically or dogmatically understood. Where we lack certainty but feel an imperative to act, we may use the ideas of religion as symbolically suggestive toward rational thought and action—an example is in the details of the rational metaphysics of this narrative. Art and metaphysics can be seen as part of the transsecular if the secular is understood as restricted to detailed empirical experience.
25 The ‘ways’ include science and technology as well as the ways, so far as reasonable and pragmatic, of religions. The literal content of religions is included so far as true or symbolically valuable. The ways of the religions may also be valuable—e.g. the ‘eightfold way’ of Buddhism and the way of Christian Mysticism.
26 Catalysts are ‘formal’—vision quest, retreat, fast, meditation, yoga, Beyul (Tibetan nature quest with parallel quest to see truth beyond the secular), and so on; and informal—risk, crisis, physical exhaustion, exposure, and more
27 Reason is the best developed and developing way to know and act in the world and universe. Reason does not begin with foundation but in the present—with everyday reason. Reason is reflexive—i.e., imaginatively and critically self-referential; and it is from this place that it moves toward foundation and toward use of application; in using and developing reason, individuals and cultures employ all dimensions of Being; reason employs and involves shared knowledge (knowing)–acting–learning; that is, reason appeals to tradition.
Whatever state of reason is arrived at, it always remains experimental in thought and action (at least until reason should reveal itself as ultimate); and thus there is no final a priori to all experience, no final authority except ongoing experience.
28 Including aptitude and inclination.
29 The templates are generic and inclusive of the dimensions of Being. They are intended to be adapted to specific circumstances by choosing emphases and filling in detail. An individual will find that different adaptations are appropriate to different phases of their life. In the long version of this narrative, the templates will provide specifics and suggestions.