[The Fourfold Being]

“…the four most universal realities…known to both Pythagorean and Far-Eastern teachings under different names, these [are]…: God, Providence (or universal spirit), Nature (or fate), and Man (or universal soul). According to this scheme, Providence and Nature both proceed from God, while man is as it were the child of Providence and Nature, though he is no less a creature of God at the same time. This peculiarity of human origin is also indicated by the account in Genesis where Adam and Eve are only created on the sixth day of creation, last of all beings. On this basis, the human being can be taken to be a resultant of the divine action and the created natural order as a whole. Because of this relation to creation as a whole, the human is understood to be an epitome or microcosm of all being, so that each person (the fourth order of being) will be composed of the same things as the ‘three worlds,’ namely the providential or archetypal world, the psychical or subtle world, and the material world. This is the three-fold inner structure which Fabre d’Olivet represents by the Intellective, Animic, and Instinctive spheres in the structure of the human soul.

These spheres are represented by four circles (see figure 4), three of which stand on a vertical line, while the fourth surrounds these three. The lowest circle of the three represents the life of instinct which attaches to the body, ruled only by pleasure and pain, because its higher possibilities depend on its participation in those of the soul. The central one represents what is most typically the soul, the realm of emotions, which are roused by the sense of good and bad. The third circle is that of intellect, which is activated by truth and falsehood.

All conscious activity is distributed among these three, in all kinds of combinations and proportions. Their combined effect is what determines the movement of the fourth circle, which represents the will of the whole person. At birth, the soul or self is almost wholly identified with the Instinctive sphere, and it is only through the development of the possibilities of this sphere that it is able finally to trigger the development of the second, or ‘Animic’ sphere, which is that of soul as such. Similarly, the development of life through the Animic opens up the possibilities of the Intellective sphere. This development can be represented in terms of Figure 4 as an expansion of the Animic sphere to the point where it strikes the center of the Intellective, which then begins its own expansion. Human beings are thus unique in being made up of a union of material, psychical, and noetic principles, reflecting the whole order of creation in miniature. In effect, the soul’s activity evolves from a level inferior to the one specific to it, through that of its intrinsic nature, and up to one above its own level, in which it participates in the intellect as the body participates in the soul.

This account of our inner formation is capable of being shown as another quaternary relationship, which reflects the universal one. The fourth circle, representing the will of the person, related to body, soul, and intellect in ways that reflect the relation of God to Providence, Nature (or Macrocosm), and Man (see figure 5). There are thus two tetrads with man as the common term: these could be called the Great and the Little Tetrads respectively, and which show the correspondences between Providence and Intellect, between Nature or Fate and the body, and between God and man. One thing this figure does not show is that these relations are dynamic, and in no way static, since the human will is able to strengthen or weaken the relationships it has to each of the three inner spheres, and create different combinations among them.

Unless there was such a being as man, comprising both archetypal and material reality at once, Providence and Fate (or nature) would have no means of relating to one another. It is thus a question of man’s being a natural or universal ‘pontifex’ or bridge-builder, therefore, so long as it is understood that this function is a potentiality in need of realization, which Fabre d’Oliver expresses as follows:

At the moment when man arrives on earth he belongs to Fate, which leads him captive for a long time in the vortex of fatality. But although he is immersed in this vortex and subject at first to its influence just like all the elementary beings, he bears a divine seed within him which can never be entirely confounded with it…when this seed is fully developed, it constitutes the Will of Universal Man, one of the great three powers of the universe.

Guénon points out that this mediating role of mankind in the cosmos is the macrocosmic equivalent of the mediating role of the soul in each human being, where it relates to and connects the intellect and the body. All this is of fundamental importance for the freedom of the will. If we start from the complex nature of the person, as above, and bear in mind that the Instinctive, Animic, and Intellective ‘spheres’ are by no means bound to act in concert, but can modify the will by the equivalent rotation at various speeds, both with and contrary to one another, there will be more than enough to support the idea of free will.

The loss of such ideas from modern philosophy has resulted in a point of view which is too simplified to correspond to reality. Its reasonings about free will are therefore based on the most minimal assumptions about human nature which ignore its internal levels of being. When the person is thus treated as a single subject who knows and wills, moreover, the discussion is biased against free will from the start, because, in nature, the simpler the structure, the less room there is for freedom. Simplistic thought is inherently deterministic; the simplest structure of all, like that of a stone, has no freedom at all.”

Source: Robert Bolton, Self and Spirit, pp. 74-9

Advertisements

[‘What am I?’]

“The reality of the soul as the true core of our being makes a vital difference to the idea of personal identity, that is, how we answer the question ‘What am I?’ From what can be said about the soul’s role in perception, it can be seen that there is one way in which soul and body are not only complementary realities [transcendent and immanent], but that each is exactly the inverse of the other. For the common sense idea of identity—based on the body—the ‘I’ or self is one more physical entity among others, and it is wholly contained by a physical world which is made up of other such things. It is a certain kind of organism which runs about on the surface of a certain kind of planet, and is therefore relative by definition.

Conversely, for the soul, the body and the whole physical world which the body belongs to, appear as content. While the body is essentially something contained, the soul is essentially a container of phenomena. Its content is a world-representation which has the body or ego at the center. This does not mean that the common sense idea of the self as a physical entity is false in itself, only that it is extremely one-sided. The complete ‘I’ or self is indeed this physical entity plus the world-containing and world-representing soul. The world, as it appears from one’s unique point of view, is in a real sense a part of one’s identity as well, therefore.People are aware that Gilbert Ryle applied the dismissive expression ‘the ghost in the machine’ to the idea of mind or soul as a substantive reality, but we can now see the irrelevance of this remark once the soul is understood as the container of the representations which make up for us the body and its relations with other physical things. An alleged soul which could be contained by the body, therefore, like an internal organ or an actual ghost in a house, would, on this basis, be just a contradiction. By reason of the soul, therefore, the true and complete self cannot be a passive item in the flow of natural phenomena. A vital part of its being is in effect the stage upon which this flow of phenomena is represented and privately made known, in a way which is distinctive to the person concerned.

The full development of personal identity, which includes the activity of the soul, points towards the traditional idea of the self as microcosm. The idea of the microcosm is that of an epitome of all realities, from the most subtle to the most material, comprised in a separate unity or ‘little world’. This idea has been revived in recent years in the Anthropic Principle, which seeks to explain our ability to understand everything in the universe on the grounds that all cosmic realities are present to some degree in each human individual.”

Source: Robert Bolton, Self and Spirit, pp. 58-60