So the activity of science itself begins with the human explaining the material; and it is functionally impossible for humans to remove themselves from that dilemma. Instead, then, of trying to use laws to explain humans, let us admit that we always use humans to explain the laws; and then, let us look at the laws from the point of view metaphysical humanism, that is, the understanding that to be human and to be alive does not end, either in individuals or in the aggregate, at the margins of individual bodies. To be human, as Swedenborg pointed out, raises much larger questions about the nature of the universe, because all of the meaning that is discovered in it – whether that meaning be negative or positive, whether it be derived from mechanistic rationalism or metaphysical humanism — is discovered by humans. We can imagine a universe in which there was something other than human that made such discoveries — but it is just making things up. We must be pragmatic and deal with what actually happens and where we are.
So humans explain the laws. And we need to explain them from the perspective, not of the mechanical interactions, but the fundamental properties of the universe (what the Sufi scientists would have called the names of God) which are reflected not just in the physical nature of things — which is one third of what all things consist of — but also in the intellectual and emotional nature of things.
What we'll attempt to do here, then, is look at what universal law means from an intellectual and emotional point of view, rather than a physically operational point of view. Mechanistic rationalism, by itself, is not an invalid science — it is simply one third of a valid science, which must include the other two enterprises in order to reach any real understanding of the nature of things.
In redefining the laws, we will attempt to see a fragment of what Gurdjieff was explaining to Ouspensky when he originally explained the nature of universal law, citing, among other of the few laws he specifically named, the law of falling and of the law of accident. These, to be sure, refer in the first instance to mechanical law and perhaps even in the second (although that is not a given, since the law of accident is probably related to fate.) But we are going to be looking at laws derived from larger and more fundamental understandings first, beginning with what I call the first order of law, the three fundamental laws.
As we engage in this redefinition of law according to metaphysical humanist principles, let us remember that law, in this context, does not just refer to laws that govern the physical manifestation of the universe. Law also applies to the metaphysical aspects of existence, that is, the aspects of existence that involve what Swedenborg would have called Divine Love and Wisdom. Readers of Ouspensky will remember Gurdjieff’s remark to him about the seminary student who said, “even God Himself cannot beat the ace of spades with a deuce.” God and His actions, in other words, are also subject to law; yet these laws exist solely because they are the laws of God’s own Being, and everything that follows from the existence of God manifests according to the nature of God’s Being. One might say, on this point, that law is not so much something that acts on God, so much as something that is God, because God’s Being both embodies law, emanates law, and inevitably exists within its own law.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.