Imperatrix Mundi: On Traditional Notion of Destiny pt. 2
Read/listen Part 1
The Preceding analysis has shown how an understanding of what we denote by the term ‘destiny’ requires the fulfillment of one specific condition: that the inner principles and, correspondingly, inner states have to be not only taken into account, but understood as preceding in power and influence those that are outer, i.e. corporeal, mechanical, etc.
This means that when we say, the world corresponds somehow to inner lives of human beings, this presupposes that the world itself has an inner sanctum from which everything that is outside it proceeds – and, in this sense, everything conceivable is in some way and to a certain extent outside it.
This inner sanctum, or intrinsic cause of all, is what we call Providence.
Immediately, one thing is of note: the inner state or inner cause is not meant in the psychical or psychological sense of one’s intentions, wishes, instincts and dreams but in the all encompassing meaning of the inner, or profound, dimension of every thing, including the human soul.
The traditional notion, therefore, sees Providence as having originally very little to do with human subjectivity – If we observe things in the greater context – and by virtue of this it is essentially the opposite of what is nowadays sometimes taken into consideration by SF writers and New Agers – spanning from the idea of time travel to reincarnation.
Most notably, the understanding of destiny and Providence as an unchangeable chain of extrinsic causes is the most one can find in terms of explanation and, as we have already seen, this notion is both utterly superficial and wrong.
Namely, Providence cannot be understood from extrinsic, corporeal, causes, whether we understand those causes as mechanical movements of material particles or movements of the heavenly bodies – neither a contemporary physicist nor a Medieval astrologer could provide adequate depiction of the thing we are trying to explicate.
However, once we attempt to move to the higher – or, congenially speaking, deeper – dimension of this question, we are faced with a dilemma that must be resolved.
Namely, if we define Providence as God’s intention for the world taken in its entirety – from angelic intelligences to the mineral world – then we must once more consider the problem of fatalism.
The question is: if the Providence is the intrinsic cause of the variety of beings ordered in this world as a whole, how then can we consider those beings free?
Providence is the intention of God’s essential being, i.e. it is immutable and necessary.
Does this mean that it is impossible for anything to act in contradiction to it and altogether act freely, without the very choices being predetermined in the eternity of God’s act?
The key to answering this question – whereas partial ones are so often used as a basis for bad SF, sold as “deeply philosophical” – lies in the distinction that must be made between inner and outer, but also between direct and proximate causality.
Aquinas notes that Aristotle already addressed the problem in his Metaphysics:
“(…) the Philosopher shows in his Metaphysics that, if we assert that every effect has a direct cause we must necessarily grant its effect, it follows that all future events come about by necessity. For if each effect has a direct cause, then any future effect will be reducible to a present or past cause.
Thus if we ask whether a certain man is to be killed by robbers; and, in turn, another cause precedes this effect, namely the fact that he went out of his home; still another precedes this, that he wished to look for water; and a cause precedes this, namely, his thirst; and this was caused by the eating of salted foods; and this eating is going on now, or was done in the past. Therefore, if it be so, that, granted the cause, the effect must be granted, then, necessarily, if he eats salt foods, he must get thirsty; and if he leaves his home, the robbers must encounter him; and if they encounter him, he must be killed by robbers.
Therefore, the Philosopher concludes that it is not true that, granted the cause, the effect must be granted; since there are some causes which can fail. Again, it is not true that every effect has a direct cause, for something that comes about accidentally, for instance, that this man who wishes to look for water encounters the robbers, has no cause (SCG III, pg. 51, emp. KT).”
Here we are presented with the description of what is called a contingent event: man was killed by robbers apparently with no higher cause involved. The events happening among individuals appear to be mostly like that, i.e. they’re just the product of the immediate activities of individuals acting upon each other.
The first and last mistake to make here would be to try to extrapolate the higher cause for each among the individual events by tracing its extrinsic effects back to something we decide upon as the first cause of the series.
This is exactly what people tend to do: the causality of the event is being traced to a one first, but completely contingent, cause, that is, the one they can imagine as occurring first and starting a series of events that led to an effect.
Yet this is complete nonsense.
The cause and effect that are meaningfully unrelated, like eating salt and getting killed by robbers from being in the wrong place at the wrong time because of being thirsty, cannot really be understood hierarchically or in any way distinguished from other possible clusters of causes and effects that are not apparent; they have been chosen and correlated in imagination, reducing the world of events to a single chain of contingent material causes and effects.
The consequence of this is a curious transition from completely indeterminate to fatalistically predetermined causality – a random series of events is picked up and then around it the closed causal system is being constructed, supposedly displaying a necessary sequence of causes and effects.
Which is, strictly speaking, an act of fantasy.
In order to remove it, as a natural obstacle to understanding, we must inspect its root, i.e. its intrinsic cause.
It is the proclivity of man to project his own image and the nature of his own cognitive process onto something that transcends him and his immediate knowledge.
The sign of this is the fact that imaginary, contingency generated, necessity appears to be nothing else but an attempt to overpower the events that are not in our power; a compulsive mental act of tying things up in a system to make sense of them in accordance with our own limited understanding.
Naturally, this of necessity involves the reduction of what is in itself abundant with possibilities to a linear and petrified system of interrelated random events which end up being necessary only by virtue that we cannot, and will not, see over and above them.
In reality, of course, each event, from the human standpoint which is limited in scope, implies infinite unknowns in the form of causes about which we don’t know anything and effects which we cannot foresee. The knee jerk reaction of creating fatalistic system ends up reducing this profoundness of things to one superficial chain of events which puts our understanding of the world in proverbial chains, only those chains are not being forged by some supposed natural necessity, but by our own imagination.
This illusion, let it be mentioned in passing, plays a significant part in the modern philosophy of history – a modern discipline if there ever was one – from Hegel to Francis Fukuyama and the term ‘providence’ is from time to time being invoked. Let us observe one typical example from de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America:
“The various occurrences of national existence have everywhere turned to the advantage of democracy: all men have aided it by their exertions, both those who have intentionally labored in its cause and those who have served it unwittingly; those who have fought for it and even those who have declared themselves its opponents have all been driven along in the same direction, have all labored to one end; some unknowingly and some despite themselves, all have been blind instruments in the hands of God. The gradual development of the principle of equality is, therefore, a providential fact. I has all the chief characteristics of such a fact: it is universal, it is lasting, it constantly eludes all human interference and all events as well as all men contribute to its progress.” (Tocqueville Democracy in America. Wordsworth Editions Ware: 1998, pg.8)
This is a text book example of projection of modern man’s imagination into the past and reconstructing it as a linear system, leading it precisely to rest at the feet of the author of the projection. Moreover, in Tocqueville’s historical imagination we see the inversion of the immutability and stability of God’s necessity into the necessity, and therefore the divinity, of process or progress, a phenomena we cannot explore at length here, but can point out as the diametrical opposite of the true nature of the thing we’re attempting to explicate.
The necessity and immutability of Providence is, of course, something all together different.
To say that every direct cause produces a necessary effect would completely abolish any kind of freedom of action and even thought, yet, as we to some extent already pointed out in part 1 of this essay, the inner causation and inner freedom are precisely where one should look first, if he wants to understand these things.
The above described approach rests on the inversion of this principle, focusing us on the outer causes and effects as well as onto corporeal world. In this way, if the inverted principle gets stretched out into some kind of metaphysics, we end up with a system where first causes are just the corporeal things imagined into quasi absolutes and God ends up being pictured as the mechanical perpetuum mobile.
It is interesting to note that thinkers of modernity, who tackled the problem, fell directly into the trap of trying to claim that this imaginary theology is the proper traditional view on the matter, that they wanted to refute, and then proceeded to invert things still further.
C.G. Jung affirmed that the causal nature of everything coming to pass in our world should be broken by a-causal relations, i.e. some sort of causality that is neither corporeal nor intrinsic, but is a destruction of causality in general; a-causal meaningful relations dissolve understanding of cause and effect relations – instead of recognizing how problematic anthropomorphic projection of causality is and that the principle of necessity should be approached from an entirely different direction, Jung and his followers simply seek to dissolve the corporeality into un-corporeality, i.e. they seek to descend bellow the corporeal or to project themselves outside of what is already outside.
So the sequence of inversion follows the path from contingency that transforms into its opposite – meaningless necessity – and, finally, ending up in meaningful contingency, the world of chance where meaning is infused by a magical act of human will and imagination.
This trajectory begins with humanizing the universe, i.e. putting things into the straight jacket of a system of man-made concepts and causal chains, only to end up in further sub-humanizing it by attempting to dissolve this system and allow pure, unbridled, imagination will its meaning into existence. Where once the unbridled optimism of Enlightenment reigned – as displayed in de Tocqueville’s quote above – a reaction takes place and everything is to be brought from the imaginary humanist pantheon of progress down to earth and then, bellow it: into blood, soil, genes, race, particularity and regression.
Yet, the way up and the way down are one and the same.
In traditional metaphysics, the sequence of principles is reverse, as well as the trajectory the act of understanding takes.
The necessity precedes contingency but it is not a necessity of random event which is deemed necessary only insofar as it happened and cannot un-happen; on the contrary, the necessity is a quality of that which is higher than anything contingent and anything that already happened, because it ontologically precedes both.
It is the necessity of God’s eternity.
As such it does not exclude contingency but precedes it as its cause – in order for things to come to pass in a variety of ways, they must be free to act to the extent their form allows for it; this, in Thomas Aquinas’ eyes, is made actual by the eternal act of God that, among other things, opens the horizon we call ‘the world’ to our understanding, but is not the first thing we understand, nor even notice, in the initial acts of thinking. As such, obviously, it is an intrinsic cause of the being of beings – their acts of being – and is in a proper sense the first cause.
The illusory necessity we described as a petrified contingency is simply the past projected into the present and future by an act of imagination, thus, so to speak, enslaving beings in the world into a sort of petrified image of corporeality; the isolation of the temporal dimension of the past comes about by the human act of attempting to calculate the complexity of the world as something that has to be made totally transparent to a systemic understanding, for which the human intellect simply has not been built.
The very choice of words we are goaded into while describing this predicament points to a subtle shift in understanding that ends up replacing God with man as the first principle of understanding the universe: in truth, the world is not really complex, but rather profound, if we are to observe it sub specie aeternis.
This profoundness is being disclosed to us in a number of ways, going more or less deeper, from instance to instance, and being possessed by destiny and, consequently, moving closer to the inner sanctum of the world while moving away from its outer shell, means being more in the grip of Providence.
All of this, however, takes time.
This simple statement points out the essential aspect of the problem, we already had the opportunity to notice in the case of the wrong understanding of necessity as a chain of contingent events that end up in one and only one effect. What made all those contingent acts: eating salt, going to a well, falling into the hands of robbers and getting killed, necessary is the fact that they’re all past events – they became necessary by virtue of the fact that they cannot un-happen.
However, this line of reasoning cannot be applied either to the present or the future events without defying logic. The reason is very simple. It is because it absolutely excludes any kind of intrinsic causality; the chain of events that happened, if observed in isolation, is completely outside, extrinsic, corporeal. Even if one would proceed to include the intrinsic causality in it, the inside would also be understood as being outside: this thought caused that thought, this act of will caused that act of will and, finally, it all resulted in one and only one state.
It is obvious that we are dealing not only with absurdity but also with a situation that cannot have any relation to reality.
Yet, if we reflect on how often it has inspired modern art and philosophy, it is obvious that it is no joke and that it must be the result of a deeply ingrained illusion of the human intellect.
Reality – a proverbial antidote to illusions – on the other hand, must fulfill two conditions that are totally absent from this absolutely materialistic (in the modern sense of the word) notion: it must be present and it must provide the possibility of deliberation, “for Providence is not only in present and past time, but in eternity, since nothing can be in God that is not eternal” (SCG, III, pg. 52).
Providence is a creative intention of inconceivable power, yet what the human intellect can conceive about it is something both limited and unlimited intention share: the temporal dimension of the future.
The unreality of the above described fatalist illusion comes about primarily because it completely negates possibility of change and with it not only free choice – as a deliberation aimed at future – but also the potential different future state of beings in the world, related to the past event.
It is presupposed that everything happens by necessity borne out of contingency and that, once it happened, it is impossible for things to be otherwise than following the same chain of events. But, as we have already shown, this sequence is purely arbitrary and reductionist, relying entirely on a human act of will – of willful choice to make past events absolute.
The absurdity is plain to see: the very act of choice is not something that can be confined in the chains of direct cause and effect and is as such already transcending the fatalist world image it chooses.
The problem is, however, that it proceeds to project this image, i.e. the past, into the present and future thus producing an illusion that there is no real possibility of choice and indeed no possibility as modal quality at all.
It is a world we would have to imagine as an infinite gallery of immovable statues, everything being completely petrified and only moving when something breaks due to an infinitely complex chains of events, that are, nevertheless, completely necessary and completely in the past. The only possibility of the future event would be the one produced by accident, yet as such it would not be in any sense and at any moment possible but would only become real as it occurs and remain necessary ever afterward. The same applies to inner states of thoughts, deliberations, etc.
The absurdity is indeed plain to see. Yet this is the line of reasoning prevalent in ever day life, popular culture and even in modern philosophy if it is at all concerned with questions of metaphysics and cosmology. It stems, as we already noted, from the attempt to place the providential power in the human intellect whereas:
“The fact that we are not able to think out, ahead of time, the order of all particular events in regard to matters to be arranged by us stems from the deficiency of our knowledge.” (SCG III, pg. 54)
The intent behind it all is an attempt to cognitively rule the world, that is, to bend it to our own will. This is why this illusion is so prevalent and secretly appealing. However, it can result in nothing but a series or system of images that forecast the future on the grounds of projecting the past into it and constantly and persistently failing to adequately do so.
Put simply, the human intellect is not capable of creation which is what Providence, stricto sensu, is. Only the creator of substance can wield power on the acts of that substance, because He, as its cause, retains in Himself all possibilities inherent to it; and, as possibilities can be actualized only by activities/energies that are adequate to them – as, for instance, the child can be brought into actual existence only by an action of men and women – all possibilities of beings in this world can be actualized solely by the agent Who is not limited by any of them.
The reason why we use the personal pronoun is not to merely imply the person of God, but to express a strictly logical necessity of understanding the cause as person.
The trouble comes about precisely because this unconsciously apprehended fact is transposed to that personal being we know best – i.e. ourselves – without recognizing the existence of that which is higher than us.
The power of this cause is such that it is capable of creating freedom, while our creative power is capable only of enslaving everything into its own image:
“So, it is obvious that, though divine Providence is the direct cause of an individual future effect, and though it is so in the present, or in the past, indeed from eternity, it does not follow, (…), that this individual effect will come about of necessity. For divine Providence is the direct effect why this effect occurs contingently.” (SCG III, pg. 56)
So the freedom of contingency, i.e. the possibility of things occurring in various ways is an act of Providence; while the human attempt to manage temporal succession into an all encompassing system turns contingency into necessity, God’s act of creation makes necessary that the possibility is always open and that an individual can act of itself.
This is reflected in the metaphysical order of the universe where beings proceed in hierarchy – from the angelic to mineral world – with various degree of freedom and power available to them, and thus reflect God’s own goodness, beauty and truth, whereas the human notion of the world system tends to meld them into equality, i.e. turn them into total, undifferentiated oneness reflecting nothing but itself:
“Now the primary perfection among the parts of the whole universe appears on the basis of the contingent and necessary. For the higher beings are necessary and incorruptible and immobile., and the more they fall short of this condition, the lower the level on which they are established. Thus, the lowest things may be corrupted even in regard to their being, whereas they’re changed in regard to their dispositions, and they produce their effects not necessarily but contingently.” (ibid.)
If observed from this perspective, necessity is never founded in contingency, that is to say, the universal cannot evolve from random interactions of quantified individuals. Indeed, this is the diametrical opposition of the modern evolutionist, or better to say: progressivist, metaphysics, where individuals create necessity and purpose at random, precisely in the way we described as an imaginary and completely human induced act of imagination.
So the image of necessity as something petrified comes from the inability of the human intellect to extricate itself from images it gets from the senses; this however happens in the process of pursuit of thought which leads to an ever intensified enlightening of it by it’s objects if those objects are ever less sensual and ever more intelligible, i.e. ever less extrinsic and ever more intrinsic.
Providence is in the last instance the equivalent of the act of rendering something alike to its archetype.
For Aquinas, likeness is not primarily a property but a cause:
“God, through his Providence, orders all things to the divine goodness, as to an end; not, (…) in such a way that something adds to His goodness, (…) but rather that the likeness of His goodness, as much as possible, is impressed on things. However, since every created substance must fall short of the perfection of divine goodness, in order that the likeness of divine goodness might be more perfectly communicated to things, it was necessary for there to be a diversity of things, so that what could not be perfectly represented by one thing might be, in more perfect fashion, represented by a variety of things in different ways. (…)
Now, things are differentiated by their possession of different forms from which they receive their species. And thus the reason for the diversity of forms in things is derived from this end. (…) Indeed, since it is in accord with its form that a thing has being, and since anything, in so far as it has being, approaches the likeness of God Who is His own simple being, it must be that form is nothing else than a divine likeness that is participated in things.(…)
Now, the nearer the thing comes to divine likeness, the more perfect it is. Consequently, there cannot be a difference among forms unless because one thing exists more perfectly than another.” (SCG III, pg. 66-67, emp. KT)
The form, that is: the intelligible structure or logos of each existing being, is the principle of likeness and, finally, indicates to an ultimate logos of all.
In this sense, the universe – and by this is meant “all visible and invisible” as stated in Creed of Constantinople, not merely natural surroundings – is a dynamic act of becoming alike its archetype; it is, however, not an evolution because both the archetype and the type exist a priori, but an act of return of the effect into its cause.
In this sense, as we can see, Providence is a higher term than destiny, because it encompasses every mode of Being – from Angel to mineral – whereas destiny is the cause effectuating beings with intellectual soul, i.e. persons.
Notably, a person is the highest humanely conceivable form of existence because, in the case of human beings, it represents the middle term between the visible and the invisible or the finite and the eternal.
In that respect one could say that having the destiny means to participate in the higher form of existence, than the one Providence allots to purely natural beings, i.e. beings that posses an intrinsic principle of activity which acts spontaneously and without deliberation.
In this sense, not only that destiny is necessarily correlated to free will but it is its ultimate cause as a real possibility of the fulfillment of its purpose, because it provides it with the possibility of accomplishment of its ultimate striving which is the accomplishment of likeness to ultimate truth, beauty and goodness.
The ultimate likeness in accomplishment comes from the ability to freely understand and choose the right way in life, thus participating in the inner essence of the divine Providence to the utmost.
The idea of blind fatum, which is even today the most popular notion of destiny, is rather the negation than the valid explanation of it.
It comes to pass from neglecting the invisible and intrinsic while petrifying into an absolute their opposite and then projecting this petrified image into eternity, effectively closing the doors for both the intellect and will to freely enact their inner powers.
The consequence, in a historical sense, because the process is not merely an individual flaw but a cultural, philosophical and, finally, political tendency of modernity, is the craving for the dissolution of what is petrified which bears even more sinister results.
Yet history and its tendencies are hardly what we might call immutable givens – the whole argument of traditional metaphysics negates precisely this illusion of modernity. Therefore, it is possible at every moment, no matter how the zeitgeist might contradict us, to reclaim the truth and with it, destiny as the promise of both a deeper and higher life that one is called for.
As we, hopefully, demonstrated in this analysis, the profoundness of being immersed in the freedom of destiny, i.e. time that is not petrified into an ever perpetuating past, is not something that is too far on horizon but is in fact a natural state of man reverting back to his origin.
Destiny is not a tragic play where the hero is being destroyed by his deliberate acts that were necessary yet judged as being free, with all the blame that follows.
It is more like returning to Ithaca, despite all deliberate acts to the contrary.
Destiny means that when all the blame is being redeemed, one act suffices to bring you back home.
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