Why Only Five?
by Jonathan J. Dickau ©'97 - All Rights Reserved
Does the Universe show its complexity
in a simple underlying order?
(from a talk delivered to the Freethinkers' Forum in November of 1995)
I realize that my question, "Can all of Reality be explained in terms of Five Qualities or Archetypes?", is about as bold a question as one can ask. Any time one asks a question about all of anything, there is a danger of getting caught in the web of one's own logic, by the simple fact that our world harbors many a paradox, and exceptions to almost every rule, making simple answers suspect at best. In point of fact, I already know those few things which do not come from any of these archetypal realities, but I will leave it up to you to guess what they are. I know, of course, that by merely adding more qualities to the list, I could describe the antecedant property, or properties, which comprise any given thing. What I propose, however, is not merely that each of these archetypal qualities can give range to a variety of fruits. I believe that every object, or entity, in our universe must possess all of the fundamental, or archetypal, qualities in order to exist.
The only stipulation I must make is that something must be possible to perceive, measure, or imagine in order to be regarded as real. Should any of you wish to put a stronger condition for reality in its place, I think that you'll find it merely serves to make the logic of my arguments more compelling. Before I am finished, you will hear the wisdom of the Ancients, and how modern Science has come up with many of the same answers, but in new terms which can serve to obscure the strong parallels in meaning. My presentation for today is based upon my attempts to find those fundamental qualities which could serve as a basis for many systems of belief, or descriptions of reality, and are possible to apply to both our outer and inner worlds.
The best way to describe my findings is to say that every manifestation of form must possess all of the following qualities, in some measure. By saying this I acknowledge, and mean to imply that there are natural opposites, of a sort, where the measurable quantity of each quality for any phenomenon in our universe is defined in contrast with the absence or negation of the property which each quality represents. That which everything must be, in order to exist is Unique, Complete, Nothing, Enough, and Even. Of course, these terms are rather general, almost vague, and they need to be linked up with corresponding examples to be meaningful. In addition, there is the question of a language-based bias introduced where that which is being discussed does not easily fit into categories such as a noun, pronoun, verb, or adjective. Some other languages, including Chinese, Hopi, and Mic Mac do not make the same artificial separation between subject and object, where that which is being discussed has attributes of both. It has been said, "One can't step in the same stream twice.", but this doesn't keep us from talking about a stream as if it were an object, though it flies in the face of reality.
The quality of Uniqueness is what makes the possibility for an object to exist independently, or separate from its environment. Being unique is what gives entities such as protons, neutrons, and electrons their particle-like nature, and the existence of this quality leads to some interesting physical properties. Something called the Pauli exclusion principle states that no two entities can occupy the same space, or more precisely the same quantum state within a given area of space. When you put one object in, you'll bounce another out of its space, if it was occupied. This aspect of separation also allows for the existence of a force which attracts centers of matter objects toward one another, that which manifests as gravity or the property of mass. It seems that all the matter comprising our planet and ourselves was flung out from somewhere by force (either from the Big Bang or a Supernova explosion), and behaves as if it wants to come back together, or aggregate.
This property, in turn, is what gives rise to the ordinary (macroscopic) objects of matter with which we are familiar. That is to say that normal objects are an aggregate, or assemblage, of sub-atomic entities which are slightly more particle-like than wave-like, and that it is the cumulative, or macroscopic, behavior of the assembled multiplicity of these jots which makes matter appear solid, or gives it substance. Our own bodies are a great example of this principle at work, since they represent uniqueness by embodying us a distinct entity, but they are not separate from the universe, as over the course of our lives, we will replace all our atoms with new ones several times. A mind-blowing aspect of this story is that all of the higher elements (beyond hydrogen and helium) come from distant stars which exploded as supernovas long ago. It is quite significant to note that the Earth element, the solid nature of our planet and other bodies, is really made up of star stuff.
We generally experience ourselves as quite distinct from the universe, however, and from each other, so humans can be said to have the experience of uniqueness, as well as possessing the property of uniqueness itself. Many humans go out of their way to cultivate uniqueness as a quality, but it appears that this is something which we each possess innately, and need only learn to tap in to. Of course, the perfect acceptance of your own uniqueness, and that of others, is an art in itself, but it is worth a sincere effort to come to terms with this issue. Doing so will free you from unearned guilt, increase your tolerance for others, and improve your objectivity. This is not to say that being unique hasn't been used as an excuse for behaving badly, but rather that there would be less conflict if people didn't feel the need to prove their uniqueness. The alternative involves the appreciation of the Earth element within yourself, and the individuality of your particular connection with the world and the universe.
The quality of Completeness manifests in the ability to trace a continuous path around the border of an object. A circle is complete, and an electrical circuit must be complete, for current to flow. It is the completeness of a body, or an object (such as a beach ball), which gives it the ability to displace water, or contain space. In the study of Chemistry, this quality relates to the nature of the electron-shell of atoms, and the fact that natural elements will bond together in such a way that electrons are shared, making the shell of each atom appear complete. If one atom has a few too many electrons and another too few to have a continuous outer shell, they can bond together, making each stronger and more stable, and form a molecule which does appear complete, in terms of having a balance with its internal natures.
The relationships of people are also subject to this quality, as humans have the ability to feel a sense of completeness or incompleteness, and this affects our overall level of satisfaction or comfort. It should come as no surprise that this relates to human sexuality in a very strong way. Sexual relationships are defined by the ability of two people to give each other a level of fulfillment, or wholeness, which it is tough to experience as an individual. To the extent that it is possible for both partners to feel more complete in a relationship, there is a lasting benefit, and the possibility for lasting togetherness. When only one partner is made complete, however, the potential for problems exists. Of course, this archetypal quality affects the nature of other relationships, as well.
Completeness was referred to by the ancients as the Water element. Water itself is a molecule whose individual elements are made whole by sharing electrons. Droplets of water are always complete, about their perimeter, and flow together to form larger bodies. The quality of flowing water is very much like the flow of electricity or magnetism, which also has a current, forms swirls and eddys like water, and seeks its own level, just as water does. Water also relates to the property of tides, and to cycles of life such as that of the moon, or sun, and to the seasons. The completeness of each cycle is the beginning of the next.
The quality of Nothing is characterized by empty space. At first, this appears to be insubstantial, but it turns out to be truly fundamental to reality, as we know it. A Chinese proverb states that the substance of an object like a jar, or a house can make it valuable, but it is the space contained which makes it useful. In the same way, all objects are given the attribute of size by their ability to contain space. In terms of scientific principles, or of the creation of physical reality, this relates to the quality known as spin, and to the weak nuclear force. The ancients knew this quality as the Fire element, but today we can control the true alchemical fire, and we call it nuclear fission.
Fire is known for its ability to destroy, to dissolve forms, and to take away the objects of our reality. In terms of human relations, this equates with control over others, with warfare, and with dominance or submission. Our bodies also contain the element of fire, in terms of the ability to burn or oxidize nutrients, and in the ability to digest food. In an abstract way, this quality relates to the subject of memory, as well, since we must digest incoming sense information to retain it, and later to access it as a memory. This quality has many faces, but it is also the very image of facelessness or formlessness, having the ability to wipe away forms where it is present. One thing is important to remember about both fire and nothingness (or space); in sweeping away, it also has the power to invite new forms, and new growth.
The concept of Enough is fairly subtle, but it is familiar to all of us. One can imagine a hill, a mountain, or a cliff, and the fact that one must climb high enough in order to scale it. It can be called sufficiency, or adequacy, among other things, but it always refers to a particular level, or value, which must be achieved to meet some requirement for action. In modern science, this relates to the Quantum principle, where all action must proceed in discrete steps, in order to take place at all. This is embodied most directly by the strong nuclear force, which binds energy into the particles like protons, neutrons, and electrons, which comprise the atoms of our physical reality. It also gives rise to the property known as duration, which actually creates the dimension of Time, as we know it.
In human affairs, sufficiency relates to the concept, or feeling, of self-esteem or ability, and to the concept of wealth. We talk about someone being self-sufficient when they have adequate wealth or ability, and they can apply this to provide for their own needs. The experience of being inadequate, on the other hand, is viewed as being an impairment, since it involves an inability to take care of oneself, and a need for support from others, or a greater dependence upon the environment. In reality, none of us is totally independent, but for a balanced inter-dependence within our world, we must acquire a sense of enoughness, a level of satisfaction or contentment about our lives, as well as being able to provide for ourselves.
The crowning quality, which I refer to as being Even, is the very essence of all of the other qualities, and relates to the property of self-agreement, or equality, to self-similarity, and to congruence. All of these terms are suggestive of this primal quality, which I believe is the essence of Identity, and accordingly the one quality essential to all other aspects of Reality. Science has referred to this entity as the Unified force, or a unified field, which engenders the Big Bang, and gives rise to the sub-atomic entities which comprise our physical Matter, and give rise to the dimensions of Energy, Time, and Space.
In human terms, our individuality is found in this property of self-agreement, but this quality also relates to our commonality with all of Reality. The ancients called it the Ether element, or Spirit. This refers, as well, to the property we know as Life, that ineffable quality which inhabits all living beings, and set us apart from inanimate objects. By being alive, we demonstrate this quality, but by being Human, we embody the ability to experience all of these fundamental qualities ourselves. In a sense, we are identical in form to the creative process which gives rise to the Universe, at large. We are the microcosm within the macrocosm; we are truly created in the image of God, as we embody all of the properties of Reality.
(c)'97 Jonathan J. Dickau - All Rights Reserved
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Unity of All