Heraclitus of Ephesus

The pre-Socratic mystical philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535 – c. 475 BCE) is most famous for stating that you cannot step twice into the same river. But for me his understanding that opposites are never separate in Reality and that the Logos is the Divine, Cosmic Intelligence that creates our thoughts and hence our conception of the Universe are even more important.

I’m not sure when I first came across Heraclitus. Most certainly by the mid 1990s, when my girlfriend gave me a book of Osho’s dialogues on this incredibly intelligent philosopher titled The Hidden Harmony. As Heraclitus’ insights are barely understood by the Western mind, his contemporaries called him the ‘Obscure’.

For myself, since 2009, after attending a conference in honour of David Bohm’s legacy, I have been attempting to attract people to Project Heraclitus, whose purpose is to complete the final revolution in science. But this has not yet happened, for a few key reasons.

First, Plato did not like Heraclitus’ principle that everything is changing, for he regarded universals as eternals, called Forms or Ideas in The Republic, his attempt to define the fundamental principles of a Utopian society. All that Plato was willing to accept is that particulars are in a constant state of flux. This presents Western thought with something of a dilemma, for Western philosophy is regarded as “a series of footnotes to Plato”, as Alfred North Whitehead famously put it. So anyone engaged in replacing Plato’s philosophy with one that is in harmony with the fundamental law of the Universe could be guilty of the Greek sin of hubris, as Abraham Maslow pointed out in an essay on the Jonah Syndrome.

Yet, it is not too difficult to see how this can be done. Plato’s notions of universals and particulars appear in computer science as class and object in the programming language SIMULA, which has evolved into object-oriented modelling methods, modelling all processes and entities in business. In turn, these have become class and being in Integral Relational Logic, enabling us to design the information systems for a life-enhancing global economy, recognizing that even the creation of new concepts as classes by humans rather than machines is an ever-changing process.

Secondly, Aristotle did not like Heraclitus’ notion of the Hidden Harmony, which denotes that opposites are never separate in Reality, by declaring in his Law of Contradiction that no entity can have the attributes of both A and not-A in the same relational context. This is understandable from a mathematical perspective, for if the axioms of mathematics are contradictory, any theorem can be deductively proved from them.

In 1931, Kurt Gödel showed that it is not possible to prove the axioms of mathematics to be consistent, ingeniously developing a paradoxical theorem that is true but cannot be proven true through a linear process of thought. Mathematical truth is stronger than that of proof. As a related idea, in developing the fundamental theory of automata, Alan Turing showed in 1936 that there are functions in mathematics that are not computable by mechanical algorithms.

We can reconcile these difficulties by recognizing that paradoxes are ubiquitous and that we humans are not machines and nothing but machines, developing a systematic process of reasoning that is nonlinear and holographic. This is called Integral Relational Logic, which has evolved from Ted Codd’s relational model of data, proposed to design nonlinear databases, consisting of both hierarchical and non-hierarchal relationships.

This universal art and science of thought and consciousness, which we all implicitly use every day to form concepts and organize our ideas, has become manifest through the action of the Logos, which Heraclitus regarded as the “immanent conception of divine intelligence” signifying “the rational principle governing the cosmos”, as Richard Tarnas put it in The Passion of the Western Mind.

He then went on to say that John the Evangelist used the word Logos “to assist the Greco-Roman culture in understanding the Christian mystery”, as indicated by the opening words of John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.” However, translators of the Greek seem to have missed the point, using the word ‘word’ as the translation of Logos, one of many mundane meanings, rather than the mystical meaning that Heraclitus intended.

This denial of the existence of the Logos is closely related to science’s denial of Life bubbling up from the Divine Origin of the Universe like a fountain. As a consequence, astronomers are spending billions of dollars taxpayers’ money searching for life outside ourselves, even engaged in a search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), when what they are looking for is to be found within the psyche.

Carl Gustav Jung was one of the few who understood the wisdom of Heraclitus, calling him ‘a very great sage’ having “discovered the most marvellous of psychological laws: the regulative function of opposites”, called enantiodromia in Greek, meaning “that sooner or later everything runs into its opposite.”