Repotentialization and the Virgin State - 1
In physics two states of energy are considered: potential and kinetic energy. Energy is defined as "the capacity to perform work." More generally, it is the capacity to act. There can be no activity without a release of energy, but this release can occur at several levels of existence. To exist is to use energy. Energy being used is kinetic energy, whether it be at a cosmic or a biological level. Any cycle of existence begins in a release of energy. Such a release occurs when potential energy becomes kinetic energy.
A wound up spring, a stone balanced on top of a high wall, have potential energy. They have a latent capacity to generate activity, the spring by unwinding, the stone by falling. A seed during winter months has potential energy. When spring comes, it is stirred into activity; the latent potentiality of growth as a plant manifests as a release of biological energy. The emergence of the rootlet and the germ begins the yearly cycle of existence for that plant.
If we try to imagine the beginning of a universe in the most metaphysical way possible to the human mind, we can say that this universe emerges into existential being when the cosmic energy that moves the very first type of material later to manifest as stars and galaxies passes from the state of metacosmic potentiality to that of cosmic actuality. How such a passage operates is the great enigma. The religious mind solves for itself this enigma by speaking of God's Creative Act: "Let there be Light!" But the problem is merely shifted to the need to elucidate what is meant by "God."
However God, the Creator, may be pictured by the human mind, this picture has to include a tremendous reservoir of potential energy. God, as the Prime Mover — if he be "the One without a Second" — has to be, or to contain, potential energy on a metacosmic scale. This being so, one might simply say that the beginning of any universe constitutes the emergence of a cosmogonic tide of kinetic energy out of a vast reservoir of metacosmic potential energy. This metacosmic reservoir of potential energy may be significantly symbolized as an infinite Ocean of Potentiality.
We have, however, to be very careful of how consciously or unconsciously our mind pictures the state of potentiality at the metacosmic level. When one speaks of the potential energy within a seed deep in wintry soil, one has something concrete and tangible: a seed, serving as the container of, or basis for, the potential energy. The seed objectively exists, even though in a condition of biological latency. But when we try to think of a metacosmic ocean of potentiality, we have to somehow transcend what we call existence (ex-istence). Potentiality does not "exist"; latency is not existence — nor should it be called nonexistence. It is the possibility of existence; and we may well postulate that whatever is possible will exist at some time or does exist in some dimension or region of infinite space. In an acorn a very limited and clearly definable possibility of existence — existence as an oak tree — inheres. But "inhering" is not the same as "existing." We should say that the potentiality of existence as an oak in-ists in the acorn. The state of potentiality is one of "inistence," not of either existence or nonexistence.
Hindu cosmology speaks of periods during which Brahman manifests as the cosmos, and periods of nonmanifestation — manvantara and pralaya. In a more popular and anthropomorphic sense, mention is made of the "outbreathing and inbreathing" of Brahma, the Creative God. But the concept of nonmanifestation (pralaya) is usually formulated in terms of negative statement. It is conceived as the negation of everything and every value we associate with existence in our dualistic world. "Not this, not that" — a void (Sunya), utter darkness. Because we live in a world filled with a multiplicity of entities in a state of constant change and transformation, we must postulate nonmultiplicity in the state of nonmanifestation; in this state unity prevails. All is one in a timeless condition, and space is reduced to the nondimensional point — a condition of mere subjectivity.
But if the state of nonmanifestation implies unity, we should not speak of absolute unity, for the concept of absolute unity precludes the possibility of multiplicity or even duality. And the very fact that I am thinking and writing implies duality. Everything may be withdrawn into the unmanifested Brahman in the pralaya state, but the desire for eventual manifestation must remain in the One, at least as a possibility; otherwise there could be no universe.
The confusion comes from the ambiguous meaning of the term, unity. When one speaks of "unity in diversity" one actually means by unity integration or wholeness: diverse entities realize that they are parts or at least that they have emerged from an original One in whom they can and eventually must be reabsorbed or reintegrated. When Sri Sankaracharya, the great Hindu philosopher whom his disciples have considered a major Avatar, long ago originated his Adwaita system, he spoke of the nondual character of the supreme Reality (a-dwaita). In so doing he was following the old tradition which had as its essential purpose to impel human beings to free themselves from the dualistic oscillations between pleasure and pain, and from dependence upon the external powers of life (instincts, desires for expansion, passions) which compulsively operate in a polar (thus, dualistic) rhythm. Hindu philosophy, even at its seemingly most metaphysical level, is eminently purposeful. It intends above all to show people how to take the next step in the development of their consciousness, thus to trans-cend the existential state in which they live.
Nondualism is a conceptual means to transcend the attachment to the life-force and the processes of the mind which serve as a foundation for ego-structures. It seeks to achieve this very practical result by devaluating all that belongs to the world of existence and its myriad of attractions — thus, by presenting them as mere illusions, the products of ignorance. What really is absolute is the character of this devaluation or repudiation of all aspects of existence; and it has led millions of Hindus to seek an escape from existence — escape into a condition of pure subjectivity from which they believed there would be no return.
Yet there always is return, as Gautama the Buddha clearly showed in his own life — a return moved by compassion. There is return in time, but what returns may be a being whose consciousness has become transfigured and who no longer is only a part of the cosmic whole, but is the Whole focused through him in order to perform deeds of wholeness and compassionate love.
To put it differently, potentiality and actuality are the two poles of "That" which includes them both — somewhat as, in Chinese philosophy, Tao includes the two principles Yang and Yin. These principles wax and wane in turn. If we think of them in terms of objective existential realities, we associate them with the polarities of life, male and female, light and darkness, expansion and contraction. But we also can think of these two principles in terms of actuality and potentiality. If we do so, a different world-picture emerges, presenting us with two fundamental trends: the trend toward ever more objective and concrete actualization, and the trend toward repotentialization. This latter trend represents an attempt so to transform any particularized or individualized form of existence that it becomes more inclusive, ever more open to a flow of new possibilities, and more able to begin again through fresh creative, that is, originating and/or transforming, acts.
From this point of view, the "illusion" which the Hindu philosophies associate with existence itself should be related only to the inertial character of most of its forms. There must be forms, at whatever level we may think of them — be they physical bodies, psychic structures, of habitual feeling-responses, mental concepts, or cosmic existences. Existence is a state in which kinetic energy operates within some kind of field, each existential field having more or less definite boundaries and a characteristic rhythm of operation (or "tone"). Every release of energy occurs in "quanta", and that "package of energy" manifests concretely as a form or structure — as an entity (ideas and the structured products of mental activity are also entities at the mind level). Every entity occupies some kind of dimensional space and the energy which flows through it will wear out according to a more or less definite time schedule. It has a specific or individual character and some kind of consciousness, diffuse as it may be. It has a cosmic purpose or function, a dharma or "destiny."
Most forms of existence pass through a set schedule of concrete transformation, and the schedule is quite rigid. It resists radical change which would alter its natural character and its function within a well defined environment. When this function reaches its normal operative capacity — that is, when the process of actualization of this very limited aspect of the total potentiality released at the beginning of the universe has reached its apex — degeneration and sclerosis set in, leading to death.
Death simply marks the triumph of the trend toward potentiality, because the death of the formed organism releases the energy potential in the substance of its body into the immense ocean of potentiality. It is released toward some more or less distant rebeginning, as some future "springtime" occurs. In the vegetable kingdom it is released both as seed and as decaying leaves which will be humus to seed the future germ.
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