The Logos and Metaphysics: A Lecture on Solovyov, Empiricism and Spinoza (2006)

March 18, 2006

From a lecture delivered by Matthew Raphael Johnson at Mount St. Mary’s University, 2006.

Modern science prides itself on empiricism, the idea that it takes experiment and observation as the foundation of its operations. It is often difficult to see how this is true, since science does not deal with observation, i.e. things that are observable, but precisely from those things that are not observable: concepts, abstractions and forces. Nevertheless, the myth of modern science is that it is rational because       it approaches things though experiment. The reality is that it is a purely rationalist enterprise, using as its units of analysis theoretical principles and objects.

Empiricism is the weakest and most irrational of all forms of knowledge. The existence of the observable can be attacked from two points:

First, that the reality of the outside world cannot be proven – it must be taken on faith and only on faith. What we are aware of is sense impression, which themselves are reducible only to psychic states–in other words all we can know are states of our own mind. Calling these “sense impressions of the outside world” do not prove the existence of things outside our mind. Therefore, empiricism is limited only to states of mind, and not any observation of the outside world. Sense data do not prove the existence of the outside world, only that our senses register certain sounds and colors.

This also suggests another common criticism, that of the phenomenology of observation. All observation takes place in context, and therefore, is conditioned by this context. What things we take as important or significant can be dictated by out states of mind, who is paying us, social pressure or basic (and unconscious) cultural and social norms.

Second, that the object itself is not present in any defensible metaphysical manner. What is present are forces and energy, energy of an electric or magnetic kind, though even that implies a further and non-material substratum. The observables are immediately reduced to particles of force, forces whose affects alone can be sensed. If I am an empiricist and I see a tree, what I see exists solely in my mind: it is my senses that have made brown and green out of the elementary forces of the tree, the energies that are interpreted by my mind as colors or textures. When I see an object and call it a “thing,” I am behaving arbitrarily– calling an object “single” when in fact any object immediately observable in nature is a collection of millions of pulses of force and energy, in reality millions of things rather than a single thing.

Empiricism is not empiricism at all – it is an arbitrary approach to the world that takes the

interpretations of the outside world as proof of its existence, yet this existence exists only on faith or worse, utility–we know something is true because it “works,” which usually means it can be turned to some kind of profit. But this is a far cry from the claims of modern science.

Empiricism knows only internal, psychic states and nothing else. It is not a form of knowledge at all, and leads to an extremely superficial approach to the world, justified only by the most base utilitarianism. Therefore, even energy itself, that whose affects we sense in colors, etc., must be further reduced, since, in some cases, we can see and touch force and energy, and feel it working on ourselves in countless ways. Therefore, one must hold to the doctrine of essences, or elementary forces that cannot be seen or heard, or sensed in any way, for of they could be sensed, they would fall under the problems of a or b above. All observables must be reduced to that which cannot be observed in order to make sense of them. Plato was correct in this regard, as was Augustine, Spinoza, Skovoroda and Russell. The true nature and foundation of reality therefore, is spiritual. Anything else falls under contradiction, a point made by Fichte and Hegel.

Solovyov, in Lecture IV of his Divine Humanity, holds that these forces are basically monadanic, acting as elementary energies beyond observable force. They are unchanging, and are the source of all being–beyond space and time. They exist as elemental entities that, by definition cannot be seen or heard, but we know their affects whenever we sense anything at all. These are another interpretation of Platonic forms, or the spiritual essences of all existent things.

For Spinoza, the concept of numerous categories of form was excessive, and the fundamental being was Being itself, not observable, not energy, but God. To identify God in Spinoza’s sense with “nature” is the height of vulgarity – the modern academic establishment holds to this precisely because they want to believe it, they want to justify materialism and hence interpret the history of philosophy as one long march to modern vulgarity and their own careers. Spinoza was not a pantheist, but a Platonist that held, first, the Being itself is non-observable, outside of space and time, and the beginning of all Being, its field and ground. It was not being, but Being, and hence, was the combination of all Platonic forms, called by Spinoza Substance.

Spinoza held that Being was immanent in things, but this is no different from Solovyov. Immanentizing the forms is not to fall into Aristotelianism or other forms of empiricism, but it simply makes a neater economy of metaphysics. Where is God? Up? Of course not. God is immanent in His creation, though not identical with it, modes are manifestations of Substance and not identical with Substance, they are appearances only. God exists right here with us, but in a dimension of reality outside of space and time, beyond the sense capabilities of all but the most pure ascetics and some young children (and as an aside, I do believe, with Dostoyevsky, that young children, due to their innocence, are given the gift of seeing beyond that which exists in space and time, and that many young children live at least partially in Eden, which also explains the homosexual and Satanic obsession with defiling young children).

The point is, whether we are dealing with Spinoza or Skovoroda, we are dealing with the best in metaphysics, science we are dealing with a singular Substance, which makes sense out of the Platonic forms. In a way, the “Limit” of Plato’s Philebus is, in fact, the attributes and modes of Spinoza, while the Unlimited, is the substance, the immaterial substratum of both Spinoza and Skovoroda. It is that which must exist to explain any Being at all. It is the foundation of all the sciences.

The Logos is the interconnections of forces that are not material, but, by the nature of reality, purely spiritual. Matter is the myth of modern man, the God of the evolutionists, who hold that matter is eternal and capable of producing all things, including God himself. According to evolutionary mythology, matter is god, eternal and always present, capable of producing anything and everything from itself, all powerful. This lies at the root of contemporary gnosticism, freemasonry and modern science – that god is dead matter, and dead matter can give life.

Matter cannot be proven to exist – it exists because forces external to the person are interpreted by the senses as having solidity, texture, etc: but this solidity does not exist, but merely the constant swirl of electrons. All is energy, but this energy itself must derive from a non material cause, since energy to the extent it can be felt, is also simply a matter of interpreting our internal states. All reality must be spirit and unchanging, matter is merely the psychic state of the observer. Anything that is not spirit exists solely in the mind, and hence, matter cannot be proven to exist. At most, we can say with Skovoroda that matter is, in reality, the mere quality of appearing.

The ideas of Plato and the Substance of Spinoza exist because there is no proof of the reality of the sense data we see, therefore, true being must exist outside of the sense impressions of the “outside world,” and therefore, are spiritual in nature, existing outside of space and time. What we know to be real is energy, but energy itself, to the extent it makes up our inner states of sense, also must be further reduced. It can be reduced only to that which cannot be seen, the ideas, or elemental forces, that which is behind force and energy itself, and that which animates it. Solovyov claims that since our sense data are multifold, then the forms that created it must be so as well. This is a reasonable claim, but Spinoza seems to be more economical by holding that the force beyond force manifests itself in distinct ways, only several of which we can actually have cognizance of, i.e. the modes of thought and extension.

The historical understanding of asceticism was to permit the ascetic to see beyond the two modes of Spinoza’s Substance (that is, extension and thought) the only two dimensions of existence open to normal sensate life, deriving from a non-sensate Substance. But asceticism, in cleansing and sharpening the senses, in getting rid of the hangups of adult life–bad habits and pride–open new vistas, new elements of the Logos/Substance that exist, this is how the saints and small children see things that ordinary people cannot. In my view, the “imaginary friends” of small children are angelic substances that can be seen only by the innocent, explained away by alienated adults who can only see that which exists for their benefit and buttresses their ego. It is these adults who created our modern philosophical sciences.

Substance is infinite existence, as the Logos is, and hence the potentiality of forces existing at any time are equally infinite. What is available to the average man is merely sense and reason – what is available to the ascetic and little children are multi-fold dimensions of reality beyond those, the beginnings of the fullness of understanding when all infinite elements are revealed to those called to be perfect. But even in heaven, the realm of form (which is really the infinite dimensionality of this world), all infinitity is not revealed, and the process of deepening and deepening our knowledge of reality continues after death, and with the help of the Logos whose infinity is so expressed. Keep in mind that these forces, or Spinoza’s modes, are not abstractions: they are inherent in the sensible themselves and are the cause of the sensible’s appearance to consciousness. In other words, the empiricist abstracts and the abstract concept means less and less as specific traits are systematically removed. Here, we are dealing with a

different process – since the force is inherent in the thing, it is not an abstraction, but a spiritual thing (cf. Solovyov, Lecture V, 59, where he takes issue with Spinoza).

Nevertheless, Solovyov in his Fourth Lecture seems to come very close to Spinoza’s idea of Substance when he writes: “. . .the essential relation between ideas is similar to the formal-logical relation between different concepts. In both cases, there is a relation of greater or lesser generality of breadth. If the ideas of several entities relate to the idea of a single entity as specific concepts relate to the generic concept, the latter entity covers all the others; it contains them in itself. Different among themselves [Solovyov here is speaking of forms/forces], they are equal in relation to the generic concept that is their common center and equally fulfills each of them with its idea” (Lecture IV, 53).

This is not only a basic approach of Spinoza’s Substance (which also exists outside of time and space), but is an excellent exposition of the Logos doctrine using modern logical language. Solovyov continues, “A complex organism of entities this appears. Several such organisms find their center in another entity with a still more general, or broader, idea and thus become parts or organs, of a new organism of a higher order, which responds to or covers with itself all the lower organisms relating to it. Thus, gradually ascending, we reach the most general and broadest idea, which must inwardly cover with itself all the others. This is the idea of absolute goodness, or more precisely, absolute love” (ibid). This is the Logos doctrine, scientifically considered. Science, mechanism and materialism, if consistent, must give way to the Logos, or the Idea (so to speak) behind the forces that in turn, make up our sensate universe in its relative unreality.

Hence, as Solovyov holds in Lecture V, there are three things that metaphysics cannot overlook in order to make sense of itself: the force itself, the representation it creates in our minds, and the Idea of which all the forces make up, the Logos, the center of all super-sensible forces and movement and the content of all forces, speaking ultimately. As Solovyov used “force,” and Plato uses “form,” the Spinozastic modes are the two ways under which the energy can be conceived by the average sensate being. There is thought and extension and only these two, which are only forms by which Substance reveals itself to those not yet on the ascetic path.

They are the collection of the “forces” of Solovyov, but reduced to their singularity, the generic modes of thought and extension. Of course, Substance is the truly highest entity of all, and is similar to the Logos doctrine and it is likely this that got Spinoza removed from his Amsterdam synagogue. Spinoza would say that Aristotle was arbitrary when he took observables as having essence, since, apart from the objections above, objects are interconnected in irreducible systems of energy and force, therefore, the nature of the cosmos is a system of systems, a system of forces that must have a super-sensible foundation. To take an isolated observable and make it the subject of essence is arbitrary for this reason and falls into the same trap as the more radical and reductionist empiricists above. Hence, to be consistent, there is a single substance, that which holds all the systems together, this is energy, and the substrate of this energy is the Logos. The single Substance is rarefied energy (so to speak), and this energy must have a source, that which holds all the irreducible systems into a broader and more inclusive system. The Logos is the substrate of this energy. But even this must have a source, eternally conceived.

There can only be one God, one source of the energy, i.e Logos, that is the substrate of creating forces (that which is expressed in the modes). Spinoza argues that if there are two substances, they can have nothing in common A substance is “that which in itself is conceived through itself.” That is, dependent on nothing, which is implied in any definition of Being (as such). There is no understanding of God without understanding the distinction between an object

that is expressed through something else, and an object that has its existence through itself alone. This then, means that essence involves existence necessarily, that is, the concept of a being existing though itself rather than from another implies that the being exists through itself. If that is true, then there can only be one substance, God himself, He who is beyond all energy and is the source of it. The Logos is this substrate, this energy, coming into existence outside of time, so-eternal with the Father.

One substance alone can exist, and Spinoza argues it this way: All things that exist exist from a cause. This reason or cause must lie within the nature of the thing or outside it. That which has its existence from itself must necessarily be eternal and uncreated. There is no cause that can bring this about, since it is its own cause. Therefore, God exists necessarily. There can only be One, since multiple substances (that which exists from itself) would be a contradiction. But there must be such a being as God since Reality is made up of sensibles and thoughts that agree with sensibles, (i.e. attributes in Spinoza’s sense), these are the two modes, themselves the creations of the ultimate energy, Substance. This Substance is that which is the subject of the change of the systems, their motion and cause of movement. A body is not God, God is not a body, but the body is the solidification of light/energy with the Logos as its root source.

Both Spinoza and Solovyov agree on several points: first, that the ultimate reality, the supreme Love is not a body, is beyond space and time, but is the spiritual unit that produces our sensible world. This sensible world is not the real world, but is relative to the forces that derive from the Ultimate Substance. While Spinoza might not give this love a personality, the Logos doctrine holds that this is Christ Himself, the very Thought of the Father. I am interpreting Spinoza here to hold to the three constructions of reality in Solovyov: the representation, the sensible, the force, the modes, and the Substance, or the final unity of all modes, the source of all expression – the spiritual center of the world that is not a body and beyond space and time.

Spinoza does not reduce all to One in ontology, but only in cause. Solovyov writes: “It follows directly that there is an internal connection among all entities, by virtue of which the system of entities is an organism of ideas” (Lecture V, 57). This organism is what Spinoza means by Substance. But Solovyov goes further, and hold that personality–that is will and love–is a necessary attribute of Substance, the all unity of Ideas. The argument goes like this: the substance, or the Logos, that which generates all forces in nature, is self sufficient – it contains all forces and all being. This makes Substance different ontologically, but also subjectively. Solovyov writes: “That is to say, it must possess a separate reality of its own, be an independent center for itself, and consequently, it must possess self-consciousness and personality. For if ideas differed only objectively, by their knowable qualities, but were not self-differentiated in their own being, they would only be representations for the other and not real beings. . . Thus, the bearer of an idea , or the idea as subject, must be a person. The two terms, person and idea, are as correlative as subject and object and necessarily require each other for the fullness of their respective activity” (Lecture V, 64).

To put this differently, one can picture, as Solovyov does, a personality without an idea, the American couch potato, a useless waste. But equally as evil is the idea without a personality, since that would be the opposite evil, an inert force, content without a vehicle, without will. Hence, forces that act in nature, at some level, must have a personality, and this metaphysical idea helps explain why civilizations the globe over have believed in angels, or the idea of natural forces, elements of the Logos’ power, as having personalities, personhood, will, love, etc. God is alive for the same reason as a subject needs an object, as an idea needs a will. Will without idea is blind force, idea without will is inert and stagnant, unreal.

Solovyov wants to remove the error as a simply idealized cosmos as Plato or Spinoza did. Such a universe, “has a speculative and artistic character, one that is exclusively contemplative, not active.” Such a divine principle has nothing to do with the will in this case, and hence is basically useless. But if the forms had will, were unified in the Logos, the Son, an actual person, then one holds that the subjective will of the human person, relatively useless and without force, should have the Logos as its substitute. The Logos is not only a being, a person, but also the collection of the forces of the all, all that make up the universe. Logos is both person and concept, man and God, Logos and specific human determination (Lecture V, 67). Therefore, the Trinity must exist, and the Logos must be two entities.

This is because the concept of divinity here is that of the All, or all of the forces in nature, as well as a determinate man, Jesus. At the same time, one can hold to an All, as the Logos is, but the All must have a source, any system, in order to make sense, must have a singular source, that is, the Father, beyond all time and label, it is beyond the Substance of Spinoza. In other words, in all crated reality, the number three dominates. First, there is the form, then the determinate content, the matter. These two correspond to the Father and the Son. The Spirit corresponds to the actualized unity, the whole, both together. But all things in nature are of this sort: there is a form, the force itself, and the matter, what it creates and what it’s purpose is. The third is the fulness, the whole as whole, the All as actualized in the world.

Thus, the trinity, when considered rationally and scientifically, is the net result of the rejection of the naivete of the empiricists. Objects in space and time can be reduced to forces, and these forces must themselves be outside of space and time. These forces are, collectively speaking, the expression of the Logos, the content and manifestation of the mind of the Father. This must be because the system of forces is itself irreducible, the system must exist before the parts (so to speak). Therefore, the Logos exists before the ages. Spinoza is helpful in conceptualizing this, but He never went beyond the Logos doctrine, and never considered what might account for Substance. Another means of dealing with Spinoza is that Substance is the father God, but is not truly independent for itself in that it does not have a will–it is blind force.