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How the Triple Existence exists

The Triple Existence is an idea for our time. Its constituent elements are matter, life, and thought. What does this mean?

Matter is a type of being that comprises the physical universe. Along with energy, it exists or operates in particular spatial locations at particular times. We understand the basic structure of matter through chemical elements as arranged in Mendeleev’s periodic table. Although matter is found throughout the universe, it is only on earth that the Triple Existence exists.

It is important to realize that the other two types of being, life and thought, must also exist materially for them to exist at all. Plato’s theory of form notwithstanding, the idea of life and of thought is not enough to support their existence. There must be a physical basis for each.

Life, too, is comprised of chemical elements. However, the RNA and DNA molecules give it a special characteristic which is the ability to affect other objects in its environment for the purpose of maintaining its own structure. Unlike other physical being, living creatures exist during a period of time associated with their life cycle.

It is more difficult to understand how thought exists physically. Human beings are aware of mental experiences had at certain times. Thought is our sentient interface with the world. Neurologists tell us, however, that what we experience as thought is the result of neuron firings with in the brain. Thought therefore follows an electro-chemical process that creates conscious experiences.

If that were all, thought would hardly merit being included in a trinity of beings comprising our world but would instead be a mere attribute of life. Other animals have similar neural processes that could be considered thought. Even plants “know” what they need to do to survive. But human thought is different because of the impact it has had upon its environment.

There are rules to distinguish between the three types of being. You breathe matter - primarily nitrogen and oxygen in the air. You drink matter in the form of water, milk or fruit juice. You eat life, both animal and vegetable. Social mores say that you do not eat the flesh of other human beings; the human species is off limits as a food source. Thought itself does not provide physical nourishment so far as I know.

Except in primitive religion or ecstatic visions , human beings do not communicate with inorganic matter. If you speak to a mountain or lake, it will not respond. Such things have no mind or voice with which to communicate. Except for other human beings, life, too, has a limited capacity to deal consciously with us. Animals are more expressive than plants. Domesticated animals speak to us with body language so we have an idea what they are thinking; however, it takes another human being to share thoughts with us in a complete way.

If you look around you, you will see examples of the three types of being. Look at the ocean and you see water. Look at the sky and you see clouds or stars. They are examples of inorganic materials. Likewise, if you look down at the earth, you see rocks or sand.

Around you there is also evidence of life. You and your fellow human beings are examples of this type of being. The world also includes dogs, cats, cattle, birds, squirrels, insects, worms, and other animals. Even more prominent is the vegetable kingdom with plants of various kinds. That part of the earth not inhabited by man is given over to forms of life that we call wild.

When I speak of thought in the trinity of beings, I am thinking primarily of artificial objects found in the world. Natural landscapes have been replaced by urban habitats featuring concrete structures, machines, and utilitarian objects made of metal, plastic, or wood. If you are indoors, you see this type of object almost exclusively. Although they are comprised of matter, human thought has given them a distinctive purpose and design.

Even if these various objects are products of thought rather than thought itself, I would associate them primarily with the third member of the Triple Existence rather than with the material from which they are made. Just as life devours inorganic materials to sustain itself, so thought appropriates both matter and life to suit its purposes.

Think of the impact that life has had upon the earth’s environment. The calcium skeletons left by coral and other sea creatures have produced immense strata of limestone within the earth. The decayed and compressed remains of plants that lived millions of years ago have left deposits of coal, petroleum, and natural gas. So human intelligence, too, is leaving its residue in the earth’s physical environment. Machines designed, built and operated by thinking persons have transformed the natural world.

Humanity is also uniquely aware of the limitation of death that life’s condition has imposed. Personal thought systems suddenly come to an end. Although the“lower”forms of life also experience death, we alone are able to contemplate that fact before the time arrives. It is a terrifying thought that we as thinking creatures will some day cease to exist. Can one imagine how it feels to go through a process of ceasing to exist?

I end with a mournful tune whose lyrics are attributed to Charles Wesley, the Methodist hymn writer. It goes:

“And am I born to die?
To lay this body down!
And must my trembling spirit fly
Into a world unknown?
A land of deepest shade,
Unpierced by human thought;
The dreary regions of the dead,
Where all things are forgot?”

 


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