There is a code that underlies all creation. It is not something hidden from us, but rather, like the purloined letter, something we do not notice because it is too obvious.
On any brisk fall day, we see but do not see the creation code that openly operates before our eyes, as our minds engage a subliminal process of comparing and contrasting. The sunlight fattened green leaves of August are now thin, crisp and browned. The warmth of yesterday has given way to a crisp chill, and we know winter is approaching. The Creation Code reveals itself: the world is made up of different and opposite things that are defined in relation to one another-summer and winter, cold and warmth, light and darkness. We see that everything is constantly changing. Everything comes into being and passes out of being. Things are mutually defining and mutually determining so that the strength of the sunlight determines the temperature of the air and that both define the color of the leaves. We understand without being conscious of the fact that these things are internally related to one another. In this fact we find that quantitative changes produce qualitative ones. We subliminally comprehend that things go through phase transitions; they move from one stage to another. Thus, what one sees and feels as one looks out the window, are not just leaves or colors, but the laws of the creation code itself.
Before science, philosophy or logical thought, the code was obvious to our ancient prehistoric ancestors. Without an understanding of what they were doing they apprehended and expressed in and through their religious myths. Hesiod gathered together the ancient prehistoric legends of the Greeks and retold them. Later, after the Greeks had mastered writing[i] Hesiod’s ancient tales were written down and his Theogony became the ancient Greek equivalent of the Old Testament. In the beginning there was only a dark, formless nothingness – Chaos. From this chaos, and through the positing of opposites, the process of creation ensued Chaos begat Gaea (life giving mother earth) and her opposite, the land of death-the underworld. Then Darkness and Night were born, and the union of darkness and night gave birth to the bright air and Day. Gaea gave birth to her opposite, the male God Uranus, the Starry Sky, and together they produced twelve mutated monsters, and twelve perfect Titans – biological opposites. But Uranus did not want to share his power; he did not want creation to continue, and so he sends his monster children to the underworld and hides the others somewhere in Gaea.
Gaea, who loves her children and wants them to emerge, urges them to overthrow their father. Her son, Chronos (time) obeys his mother’s wishes. But Chronos too wants to be the only One, and so he takes each child as it is born and swallows it. Once again, the mother intervenes and helps her son, Zeus, to survive and overthrow his father. With Zeus creation proceeds unfettered as he goes on to populate the world with heroes and Gods.
Thus, from a single place of origin, logically necessary opposites and differences come into being in unity and conflict with one another. Mother Earth with the Heavenly Sky, the female principle with the male principle, mother (Gaea) against son (Uranus) and at the same time, mother against father, father against son, one generation against another and out of their conflicts great phase transitions occur which are both evolutionary and revolutionary in nature and reach their absolute realization in Zeus.
Individually, each God is a holy trinity, the unity of human, nature and divine: they are immortal deities with the appearance and behavior of humans, they are forces of nature animated by passion, and yet still, Gods, who control the forces of nature and the lives of humans, who are nothing more than their toys.
As humans began to expand their knowledge and gain greater control over the world, their understanding of the Creation Code underwent a phase transition. No longer subliminal and hidden within the creation myths of a world of Gods, it was grasped in its actuality as the code governing the existence of the real world. As such, it becomes the conscious object of conscious thought and rational analysis. Thus, around the 6th Century BCE in a wealthy and worldly Greek colony, Miletus, on what is now the Western coast of Turkey, the first Age of Reason began initiated by the great Pre-Socratic philosophers: Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, etc. One of the most influential of them was Heraclitus. He rejected religion, was contemptuous of the religious masses, and hated Hesiod. He hated Hesiod not only because Hesiod had given the Greeks the holy book which kept them mystified, but also and specifically because he felt he did not understand the Creation Code. “Hesiod is a teacher of the masses. They suppose him to have possessed the greatest knowledge, who indeed did not know day and night. For they are one.” [ii] Of course, the unity of day and night is implicit in the myths; it is present without pronouncement.
Heraclitus would present the code to the world in its true nature as the logical structure of Being. Another way of putting it is to say he revealed the logic of ontology. He began by positing an everlasting Word or Logos in which all things are unified. “It is wise for those who hear, not me, but the universal Reason, to confess that all things are One.”[iii]. This One is composed of paired opposites“… day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger.” Each dimension of these unities is likewise itself a one, which contains its otherness inside itself as a definition of what it is, so it is likewise a One and a many.
Just because they are in unity these opposites are constantly at war with one another. “We must know that war is common to all and strife is justice, and that all things come into being and pass away through strife.” It is through this strife, this constant movement of things into and out of one another that is the source of change and thus Heraclitus tells us. In addition, he presents a “theory of relativity” which asserts that a thing’s quality is established only in relation to something else “The most beautiful ape is ugly compared to man.”[iv]82 The same thing may be good or bad depending upon the side from which you look at it, “Sea water, he says, is very pure and very foul, for while to fishes it is drinkable and healthful, to men it is hurtful and harmful.”
Heraclitus’ was enormously influential in his own time and is still influential today. Socrates by his own admission studied Heraclitus and found him difficult to understand. But we see the logic of Heraclitus at work in the Socratic Method which consists of first asking a question then taking the answer to that question and asking another question on its basis, etc. Each time the respondent answers a new question he both contradicts and expands his previous answer thus moving to a new level more nearly approximating the truth which the absolute unity of all the contradictions that is have preceded it.
Plato, who had been a Heraclitan in his youth,[v] responded to Heraclitus by agreeing that while everything he said about the world was true, the world was not real, but merely an unreal world of shadows. The real world is the eternal and unchanging, which exists above and beyond the ever-changing world of appearances. In positing this separation between the real and material world Plato prepared the ground for the separation of heaven and earth that lies at the core of modern monotheistic religions.
As far as Aristotle was concerned the thoughts of both Plato and Heraclitus were flawed; Plato’s, because he saw the world of unchanging universals and forms existing apart from preceded the real world and denied the truth of the senses, and Heraclitus, because what he said was just illogical. In response, he would establish his own logic which stands as the polar negation of Heraclitus’:
ABOVE TAKEN FROM: http://www.cheniere.org/books/aids/appendixIII.htm
For approximately two thousand years, as a result of a series of historical “accidents” Aristotle’s Logic would prevail over that of Heraclitus. It would become the core of university education so that the human mind was continually conditioned to view the world as made up of separate, isolated, unchanging essences. In addition to providing the Catholic Church with a logical foundation for its dogma, Aristotle’s thought would determine the scientific outlook of Newton, shape the linear geometry of Euclid, the political theory of liberal democracy, and the economic principles of Adam Smith. While Plato and Aristotle prevailed over the hearts and minds of men, the ideas of Heraclitus hibernated for thousands of years.Heraclitan logic would be aroused by G.W.F Hegel., who, understanding that it was the Creation Code itself, would dedicate his life to explaining and expanding it.
The name Hegel gives to the ontological logic of Heraclitus is “Dialectic”, and he is to say this about it: “It is of the highest importance to ascertain and understand rightly the nature of Dialectic. Wherever there is movement, wherever there is life, wherever anything is carried into effect in the actual world, there Dialectic is at work.[vi] Just as DNA (albeit with some differences) is present in the cells of all living things, so too, the Creation Code (The Dialectic) albeit with slight differences, is manifested in all dimensions of Being.
Hegel understood that in his exposition and expansion of Heraclitus’ basic elucidation of the Creation Code, he could not deviate from its logical laws. Both opposition and unity had to be maintained. This meant that the polar opposition that existed between the logics of Aristotle and Heraclitus, had to be brought into unity. So too the separation of the unchanging Idea of Plato and the actual dialectical world, had to be unified. Moreover, the Socrates notion of development through opposition (contradictions), had to replace chaotic change produced by the struggle of opposites the Heraclitan system. In fact, the central ideas of every philosopher had to be subsumed into the dialectic for the philosophy of internal relations which posited that all things are in Unity to be True. The sheer brilliance of Hegel was that he was able to do this.
He would begin this process by defining in his Logic the first premise of the Creation Code: Being without Nothing is equally nothing, it is a meaningless concept unless combined with its opposite, and this unity is to be found in becoming. Thus, nothing is but all is becoming. He will then take not just the idea of contradiction as the source of movement (Heraclitus’ flux), but make this movement through contradiction, in the Socratic method, a movement to a new and higher level. Thus, change becomes a staircase of development in which all that has comes before is moved to a new higher level, a closer approximation to the absolute truth which is the totality of all the differences, a container rather than a point of truth. This is a very difficult task and he can achieve it only by integrating Aristotle’s ideas into the creation code of Heraclitus. The clearest and most masterful explanation of how Hegel achieves this is explained by Stace in his book on Hegel. I will only summarize what he says. Hegel takes the Idea of the Good, God the Creator, and holding him both apart and above the world, makes creation an evolutionary process self-creation which is achieved in and through humans living in a material world. Human, in the image of the Creator, are the vehicles in and through which it realizes itself in time and space.
Hegel would dedicate his life to showing us how the dialectic shapes human consciousness and thought,[vii] religious beliefs[viii], human social relations[ix], the state, [x] philosophy [xi]and in his Logic, the structure of Being itself.
Marx took up Hegel’s Dialectic and expose its logical necessity in modes of production defined by the trinity of man’s relationship to nature, to his fellow men (in class society) and to the forces and means of production. He may have claimed to stand Hegel on his head by taking away the primacy of the Idea (the Creator’s blueprint so to speak). But truthfully, he merely got rid of the Creator. He too clung to the Idea of men creating themselves through their interactions with one another and nature, evolving to the point in which they could realize their true nature as freelyself-defining beings in a Communist society.
Meanwhile it is Science, which with its instruments and experiments, mathematics and measurements, daily brings forth confirmation of the laws of the dialectic. But that is another essay, another book.
[i] Linear B
[iii](Fragment I, p.84) The Fragments of the Work of Heraclitus of Ephesus, G.T.W. Patrick, Ph.D., N. Murray, Baltimore, 1889).
[v]Plato studied the philosophy of Heraclitus with special diligence; we find much of it quoted in his works, and he got his earlier philosophic education most indubitably from this source, so that Heraclitus may be called Plato’s teacher.
[vii] Phenomenology of Spirit
[xi] Lectures on the History of Philosophy
Mary Metzger is a 72 year old retired teacher who has lived in Moscow for the past ten years. She studied Women’s Studies under Barbara Eherenreich and Deidre English at S.U.N.Y. Old Westerbury. She did her graduate work at New York University under Bertell Ollman where she studied Marx, Hegel and the Dialectic. She went on to teach at Kean University, Rutgers University, N.Y.U., and most recenly, at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology where she taught the Philosophy of Science. Her particular area of interest is the dialectic of nature, and she is currently working on a history of the dialectic. She is the mother of three, the gradmother of five, and the great grandmother of 2.