"A Guide to Self-Evident Principles in Nature"
In this text, we will attempt to isolate and examine the principles of existence - the basic principles underlying all of Nature, as well as the principles which describe the physical workings of Nature as we observe them. Our aim is to provide a solid foundation for further reasoning and inquiry. None of these principles are to be taken as religious edicts. All are to be considered in terms of logic.
To begin, we must first briefly define "existence." For the purposes of this work, we will use the term in its broadest sense - "that which is." Next, we will introduce a dialectical (but not ultimately dualistic) view of existence, in the interest of contextual clarity.
Existence can be thought of in two senses, the ultimate sense, and the physical sense. When we are speaking of the sum total of "that which is," we are speaking of existence in its "ultimate sense." When we refer to an individual component or aspect of existence which is less than the sum total of the whole, we are speaking of existence in its individual, finite, or physical sense.
With this understanding, let us proceed to the text. There are five Existential principles, dealing with the nature of existence in the ultimate sense, and five Dialectical principles, dealing with the nature of finite (physical) existence, which is always of a dual nature.
The Existential Principles:
I. Existence exists.
This is fairly straightforward. The fact that we are able to discuss existence at all indicates that something does in fact exist. This hearkens to Descartes' famous "sum, ergo cogito" - I think, therefore I am. Whatever we subsequently suppose its nature to be, existence itself clearly exists. In order for the thought of existence to arise, something must exist to do the thinking. The fact that existence exists is the most basic and obvious principle. The remainder of our principles will deal with the nature of this existence.
II. Existence exists because it must exist.
This principle is a logical supplement to the first. Its basis lies in the self-contradictory nature of the concept of "non-existence." Non-existence, by its very definition, cannot exist. It is in fact essentially meaningless, a concept which can have no basis in reality. If the alternative to existence is non-existence, we see that there is no alternative to existence. One may object that while this may be true in what we have called the 'ultimate sense,' it is clearly not applicable to the 'individual (or finite) sense,' as there are any number of things which might be imagined but do not in fact exist. A later axiom (V) will address this objection, showing it to be invalid.
III. Existence is infinite.
The term infinite is defined as "unlimited: without end or bounds; greater than any assignable quantity;numberless; immeasurable." It is easily demonstrated that existence as a whole possess these qualities, as the only thing which could be 'outside or 'beyond' existence would be non-existence, and non-existence cannot exist. Therefore, there is no alternative to the infinity of existence. In its reinforcement of its predecessors, this simple axiom is especially self-evident and should require little further explanation.
IV. Existence is dynamic.
An infinite whole cannot possess finite qualities in and of itself. It may contain or encompass finite aspects within itself, but when taken as a totality, no finite qualities can be assigned to it. As a result, the only form which existence can take (in the ultimate sense) is the form of pure potential. Potential, unrealized, is infinite by nature - it is all possibilities with no defined outcomes. This unlimited potential, by necessity, brings about the constant change in form and structure we observe around us. This occurs due to the fact that the infinite must produce finite manifestations (such as our universe and its myriad forms), for if it were not so, there would be no true potential. Potential must be capable of actualizing, or it is not potential at all. If the ultimate sense of existence does not consist of pure potential, it consists of nothing at all, which constitutes non-existence, a violation of the second axiom. Therefore, existence in the ultimate sense is not physical (for 'potential' is the opposite of 'actual'), but physicality must necessarily flow from it. This can be somewhat difficult to understand at first glance, but with due contemplation, the meaning becomes clear. The nature of existence is, by necessity, such that the infinite will always produce finite (physical) manifestations which are subject to the overriding principle of physicality, which can best be described as 'constant change.' This principle is most fundamental because if the finite were not subject to change, it would possess a quality of infinity and could no longer be called finite at all.
V. All potential is realized.
If potentiality is infinite, so must be its realization. Modern theories of cosmology are beginning to find evidence for the truth of this axiom, although proof is not necessary to understand the self-evident logic involved. If there is anything which a given set of potentials cannot actualize, that set is necessarily non-infinite. Similarly, since the concept of time as we understand it is not applicable to existence in the ultimate sense, there is nothing which could conceivably prevent infinite potential from translating into infinite realization. So, we see that because all things can be, all things must be. All possible universes exist, in all possible configurations, and with all possible variables expressed in all possible ways. A staggering concept, essentially beyond reasonable human comprehension in its scope, and yet not only logically necessary, but supported by an increasing portion of the scientific community as well. The Dialectical principles which follow will explore how this concept and the preceding ideas upon which its is built can translate into principles through which we can better understand the nature of our own universe and the human experience.
The Dialectical Principles:
I. Form is emptiness; Emptiness is form.
As shown in the Existential principles, it is necessary that an existence which is infinite bring forth finite forms and aspects within itself, due to its ultimate nature of pure potentiality. The key to resolving the apparent paradox of separateness and unity lies in the realization that these forms, although possessed of individual qualities, are distinct only from one another rather than from the Whole. In the ultimate sense, all things are interconnected and indivisible aspects of the "sum total." Nothing can be entirely isolated from the rest of existence, for to do so would require that it be set outside existence, which is of course impossible due to the fact that only non-existence can be outside or apart from existence, and non-existence cannot exist. At the ultimate (infinite) level, it is impossible to make any meaningful distinction between one aspect of existence and another, since such distinctions can be made only in finite terms. Therefore, we find that (much as the mystics have insisted for time immemorial) all things are in a very real sense (the ultimate sense, in fact) united, and that separateness or individuality are at best only relative "half-truths."
II. Temporarily and eternity co-exist.
Time, if understood as a measure or indicator of change, is fundamental to finite forms of existence. As established previously, constant change is the overriding principle governing the physical (finite). Time, however, being applicable and meaningful only in reference to the finite things which are subject to change, does not and cannot apply to the changeless 'ultimate sense' or infinite level of existence, meaning that (in accordance with the principle of unity) all created things are essentially eternal as well as temporal. Using the example of human life, which provides the most fruitful and accessible means of explaining these concepts, we see that although we can live only a limited time, the time which we do live will exist eternally and can never be erased. Existence is the one property which cannot be stripped from any created thing, not even by constant change (time), since existence is more fundamental than change, it being that which allows all things, including change itself, to exist. Death ends life, not existence. One who dies ceases to live, but does not also vanish from history and memory at the moment of death. Death, which is the ultimate and inevitable result of time, cannot erase the fact that a life was lived. Accordingly, with some thoughtful contemplation, we find it impossible to avoid realizing that the eternal sense of existence is here with the temporal sense, "behind" it and underlying it.
III. Creation and destruction are cyclic.
Due to the pure potentiality inherent to the ultimate sense of existence, we have shown that Nature (meaning existence conceived of in both its ultimate and finite senses) is by necessity dynamic, and that constant change is the most fundamental principle governing existence in its physical (finite) sense. The measurement or indicator of change is the temporal dimension, or what in our universe we have come to understand as "time." With the passage of time will come countless cycles and forms of creation, which will eventually be destroyed and re-cycled into new creations. This is true of all things, up to and including our Universe as a whole, which was created in a fiery Big Bang, and will end by a slow dissolution into a state of physical nothingness (thermodynamic equilibrium or "heat death"). After our universe passes from physical existence, returning to an indistinguishable state, other universes will succeed it, rising like phoenixes from its quantum ashes. It is ever so with all created things, including our own human bodies, which will provide the raw materials for the growth of new organisms after our death. Creation carries within itself the inevitable seed of destruction, and vice-versa, the two being complementary aspects of constant change in physical existence.
IV. Ultimate determinism allows for relative 'free will.'
The apparent paradox of 'free will' vs. determinism is resolved by appealing to the existential and dialectical principles discussed above. In the infinite or ultimate sense of existence, all is determined, as is implied in the fifth Existential Axiom. Everything that can be, must be. It is entirely determined that all things will happen, and in the ultimate sense, there is no possible deviation from this underlying determinism. In the finite, or physical sense, however, the principle of constant change and the creation/destruction dialectic bring into play the temporal and spatial dimensions, in which it is possible for self-aware intelligences to consciously choose among various alternatives, with the understanding that no matter what their choice, the alternatives not chosen will be played out elsewhere. It does no good to argue that such a concept of free will makes possible a compromise of the ultimate determinism that all which can be must be, for there will always be an infinite number of 'worlds' in which each alternative is played out. In essence, then, one can choose their destiny within the degrees of freedom available to them, but with the caveat that such freedom exists only in the finite or physical sense. Ultimately (in the 'grand scheme of things'), this "freedom" is essentially meaningless, for all alternatives will be realized no matter what we may choose in any given individual universe or situation.
V. Subjects are evolved objects.
In the particular case of self-aware beings, there is a need to understand how knowledge is processed and acquired. In the parlance of philosophy, this pursuit is known as epistemology. Arguably, its most important overall concern is the relationship of that which is being studied to that which is doing the studying, or the interplay of 'object' and 'subject.' One popular (but misconceived) view is predicated on the basic idea that consciousness precedes existence, so that intelligent awareness somehow underlies and is prerequisite to physical existence. Since we have already shown physical existence to be a necessary consequence of ultimate existence, this view can be dismissed. If physical existence and ultimate existence are essentially one, and nothing can precede or stand apart from existence in its ultimate sense, we see that consciousness (in the sense of self-aware intelligence) could be nothing other than a product of physical existence, and certainly not the other way around. Existence, therefore, is objective - its nature does not depend on how it is observed. However, of equal importance is the fact that because intelligent awareness is required in order to form perceptions, existence can only be perceived subjectively. So, while an objectively reality necessarily exists, it is never truly available to us in and of itself, because the means by which we perceive it are always subjective in nature.
Synthesizing these ten principles, we arrive at a position best described as dialectical monism - a view which recognizes that the world is ultimately One, but it manifests only in terms of complementary polar opposites. The essence of this insight has been recognized since antiquity, appearing most notably in the I Ching and later in philosophical Taoism as the concept of yin and yang.
It is important to note that dialectical monism does not depend on an acceptance of all ten principles outlined above, but only on the essential insight that the appearance of duality is the manner in which Oneness is manifested. The ten principles are given only as demonstrations of how we can logically extrapolate from the axiomatic nature of existence in order to yield further ontological insight.