Editor’s Note: This article is also available in Spanish and Portuguese.
Vertical causality made its appearance in the context of the measuring problem in quantum mechanics, where it could be identified by the fact that it acts “instantaneously.”1See Physics and Vertical Causation: The End of Quantum Reality (Philos-Sophia Initiative, 2023), ch. 3. Whereas the previously known modes of causation—subsequently referred to as “horizontal”—operate in time by way of a transmission through space, vertical causality operates directly, without the mediation of any such process. That “instantaneity” or lack of process came thus to be taken, in effect, as the defining characteristic of vertical causality. But whereas this criterion may serve to identify VC, it does not tell us whence it acts and what it effects. It is time, now, to broach these deeper questions: time to delve into the metaphysics of VC, in the hope that this may shed light as well upon questions of scientific significance. I begin, then, with the definitive claim that vertical causation is nothing more—and nothing less—than the causation effected by wholeness.
The first thing that needs to be clarified is the notion of “wholeness” itself. To begin with, let me remark that we must not underestimate the impact upon our intellectual culture of Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica, which made its appearance at the close of the Newtonian era,2Published in three volumes between 1910 and 1913. just when the universe had supposedly been reduced to inherently mathematical categories. What the Principia accomplishes—at least to the satisfaction of the periti—is the further reduction of these mathematical constructs to the ground-level notions of set theory, at which point the last vestiges of authentic wholeness have visibly disappeared: for once a whole has been fully reduced to the sum of its parts, no wholeness whatever remains. So long, then, as physics is taken to be the foundational science upon which, in principle, all others—biology for example—are based, wholeness as such has been formally expunged. Or better said: excluded from scientific consideration. And as I have pointed out elsewhere, physics may in fact be defined as the science based on the reduction of wholes to the sum of their “atomic” parts: the science, in other words, resulting from the systematic elimination3The term needs of course to be understood in a subjective sense. It is an elimination—not from the universe itself—but from the physical universe, the universe as conceived by the physicist. In other words, the physicist is willfully closing his eyes to half of reality: the primary or essential half, to be precise. of wholeness from the universe. Moreover, given that vertical causation is the causality effected by wholeness, it follows likewise that physics may also be defined as the science based upon the exclusion of vertical causation, or equivalently, as the science based exclusively on horizontal causation.4By which we mean a causation based upon a temporal transmission through space. And this means that VC can only manifest itself to the physicist as an interruption of its predicted trajectories, as is in fact the case in the context of measurement.
Which brings us to a crucial recognition: the fact, namely, that the very existence of VC—i.e., the causation effected by wholeness—entails that physics is not, nor ever can be, the universal or “all inclusive” science it is generally assumed to be. The very existence of vertical causation, thus, rules out such a thing as that “theory of everything” particle physicists have been laboring for almost a century to formulate. The appearance of VC—at the exact boundary between what I term the physical and the corporeal domains—puts an end to that expectation. To which I would add that this boundary proves likewise to be the only juncture at which VC becomes in a sense measurable: for only in a transition between two distinct ontological domains can “instantaneity” be empirically verified.5When it comes to ordinary measurement, the distinction between “instantaneous” and “exceedingly fast” cannot be empirically ascertained. On this question see Physics and Vertical Causation, op. cit., pp. 26-9. It is thus at the very instant of that ontological transition that an undeniable footprint of VC—the causation effected by wholeness—can be discerned.
The rediscovery of what I term the corporeal world proves thus to be tantamount to the rediscovery of wholeness. But whereas the very idea of wholeness comes as a shock to the physicist6It may perhaps be argued that David Bohm proves to be the exception to this rule. The fact is that he did struggle, as it were, with the idea of “wholeness,” which he may have derived from his long-time friend, the Hindu ascetic Krishnamurti. On this question I refer the interested reader to my article, “Pondering Bohmian Mechanics.”—given that physics is in fact based upon its denial—its re-emergence opens the door to the rediscovery of a perennial insight blocked since the Enlightenment. For it has ever been known to the wise that, in the absence of wholeness, there is no being as well: “ens et unum convertuntur” declares a Scholastic dictum—which signifies in effect that being and wholeness are one and the same.
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Following upon these introductory observations, let us begin by reflecting upon the historical origins of physics in the contemporary sense. It is to be noted, first of all, that the implicit denial of vertical causation is indigenous to the Enlightenment: its very premises demand as much. The fact is that this four-hundred-year arc of history began with a relapse into Democritean atomism: the imposition, namely, of its reductionist claims as the foundation of that avowedly “scientific” Weltanschauung. It is vital to observe that this worldview is based upon the Cartesian postulate of “bifurcation,” which maintains that the objectively real world consists exclusively of “bare-matter”: i.e., of so-called res extensae or “extended entities.” All the rest—everything thus that does not reduce to sheer quantity—is relegated, by fiat as it were, to the limbo of so-called res cogitantes or “things of the mind,” leaving in theory an inherently “mechanical” world, tailor-made for the physicist. My point is that, with this Ansatz, the die has been cast: in a presumptive world made up exclusively of res extensae, horizontal causality reigns supreme—for the simple reason that, in such a stipulated world, there are no more wholes! Wholeness as such has been expunged, along with all the qualities that make up the corporeal world—the actual world, that is. The Cartesian myth of “res cogitantes” has misled and blinded us. There is actually nothing “secondary” about color, for example, as Galileo mistakenly claimed; in point of fact, qualities belong to the real world as truly as quantities do. And here too it may be said: “Let no man sunder what God Himself has joined.”
The most that can conceivably exist in a Cartesian universe are ensembles of tiny indivisible res extensae termed atoms, and throughout the Newtonian era this ontological conception did hold sway. Yet, with the advent of quantum mechanics, it became at last apparent that there are in truth no such Democritean atoms: that the newly discovered “quantum particles”—so far from being actual particles—proved in truth to be something midway between being and nonbeing.7This astounding recognition—which can however be predicted on ontological grounds—was made by Werner Heisenberg. Cf. Physics and Philosophy (Harper & Row, 1962), p. 41. At that fateful juncture the very concept of “wholeness” disappeared from the ontology of physics—as indeed it must de jure: for as we have already noted, the concept of “wholeness” has no place in physics when that science is rigorously conceived. My point, now, is that, along with “wholeness,” being itself disappears, and that in consequence, the quantum realm—the world as conceived by a physics “come into its own”—proves perforce to be sub-existential.
I will note in passing that this is something the physics community at large can neither comprehend, much less acknowledge: if not even a respectable paradigm is ever rejected in the face of contradictory evidence, as Thomas Kuhn maintains, what to speak of the presiding Weltanschauung! Individual scientists—a titan like Werner Heisenberg, for example (whose father, incidentally, happened to be a classicist)—may discern the ontological implications of the quantum quandary; yet collectivities, most assuredly, do not operate that way. What presently concerns us, however, is not what the presiding pundits think, but what the modus operandi of physics entails ontologically. For my part, I am persuaded that Werner Heisenberg, in company with a handful of his Copenhagenist associates, had it exactly right: these vaunted quantum particles—which the contemporary rank and file take to be the ultimate building blocks of the universe—prove in truth to be no more than “Aristotelian potentiae”—mere “probabilities” if you will.
Such then is the quantum quandary which prompted Richard Feynman to observe that “No one understands quantum mechanics,” a recognition which obliges the establishment to “make do” with something they cannot comprehend, but tout nonetheless as the answer, in principle, to everything.
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The resolution of the quandary, it turns out, is perforce to be found in the act of measurement: it is here, after all, that the quantum world comes to be observed, and thereby acquires a “more than mathematical” reality. Now, in the days of classical physics, it was assumed that the act of measurement is inherently receptive, which is to say that the measuring instrument is simply the recipient of information derived from the system it measures. Admittedly, the latter was likewise affected to some degree, yet it was in any case assumed that the physical system subject to measurement owned its measurable attributes. When it comes to the quantum realm, however, such proves not to be the case—which is precisely what renders that realm sub-existential. The nature of the measuring act, therefore, has changed drastically: instead of ascertaining the objectively existent value of an observable, its function in quantum physics is to actualize a potency: to bestow objective or empirical reality upon something which does not yet exist.
Like it or not, metaphysics has entered the picture: I mean authentic metaphysics, as distinguished from the Cartesian kind. No wonder physicists are helpless! Since the advent of quantum theory a century ago, they find themselves trapped in an impasse created by the very metaphysical assumptions upon which classical physics was based. What renders that impasse virtually unbreakable, moreover, is the fact that these Cartesian conjectures have by now become as invisible to the physicist as the ambient air we breathe. I am referring to the fiction of res extensae, followed by the sleight of hand which disposes of everything else by calling it a “res cogitans.” Early in the twentieth century already, when Alfred North Whitehead lectured the physicists at Cambridge and elsewhere on this very point, exposing the fraudulence of these Cartesian premises in the most irrefutable terms—for instance by noting that “Thus there would be two natures, one is the conjecture and the other is the dream”8The Concept of Nature (Cambridge University Press, 1964), p. 30.—it is obvious that his message was not received. Meanwhile, in the intervening decades, adding up almost to a century, nothing has changed in that regard; now as before, Whitehead’s diagnosis applies verbatim:
The result is a complete muddle in scientific thought, in philosophic cosmology, and in epistemology. But any doctrine which does not implicitly presuppose this point of view is assailed as unintelligible.9Nature and Life (Greenwood Press, 1968), p. 6.
In fact, the “muddle” appears to have become compounded. If, in the early days of quantum theory, Whitehead was right when he charged that physics has become “a kind of mystic chant over an unintelligible universe,”10Ibid., p. 15. what to speak then of such additions as string theory with its “11-dimensional spaces,” or the multiverse with its infinity of “other universes,” not to mention the latest such innovation termed “superdeterminism,” which strikes me as perhaps the most “mystic” of all contemporary “chants.”
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So much, then, regarding the Cartesian confusion, which to this day impedes the physics community from coming to grips with the quantum enigma and the associated measuring problem. The fact is that corporeal entities do not reduce to res extensae, but actually require certain so-called res cogitantes in order to exist. So far from reducing to an ensemble of, say, Democritean atoms, they cannot be simply an “ensemble” of any kind: for as we have noted earlier, to be is perforce to be a whole. Wholeness, in other words, so far from being optional or dispensable, proves to be a sine qua non of being. What confronts us thus in its absence is at best a “mixture” as the Scholastics would say; but mind you, there can be no “mixture” without something in the mix. Which is to say that the corporeal realm—the world in which we live, and move, and have our being—is ultimately composed of entities that are more than aggregates, which in fact are themselves corporeal: identifiable, namely, as a spatio-temporally circumscribed whole.
The actual problem however—as distinguished from pseudo-problems created by false metaphysical premises—resides in the fact that physics as such is restricted in its purview to aggregates; for as noted earlier, its very modus operandi is based upon the systematic elimination of wholeness by way of a maximal decomposition of corporeal entities into their component parts, which ultimately turn sub-existential. What is quantum theory, in the final count, if not physics come into its own! The loss of being, therefore—the fact that the quantum world proves to be “sub-existential”—should come as no surprise; the fact that “the concept of substance has now disappeared from physics,”11The Philosophy of Physical Science (Cambridge University Press, 1939), p. 110. as Sir Arthur Eddington observed at the outset of the quantum era, was predictable from the start.
To repeat, physics operates reductively by decomposing corporeal objects into ever smaller parts, until one can go no further: it operates thus by breaking down wholeness—right to the point where there is no more wholeness left to break down. It does so, moreover, in the expectation that, in so doing, it will eventually arrive at the “ultimately real”: originally conceived as Democritean atoms, these “vestiges” have become identified as the so-called fundamental particles, which as we have noted, prove to be midway between being and non-being, which as such are reminiscent of Aristotelian potentiae!12Cf. Werner Heisenberg, op. cit.
Yet, even so, the Democritean spell was not broken, but remains with us to this day in the apparently unshakable conviction that the “ultimate ingredients” of the universe will eventually be found by systematically breaking down whatever vestiges of wholeness yet remains through the application of ever more drastic—not to say, ever more expensive—means. One cannot but wonder what it is about this ancient heresy—recognized as such more than two thousand years ago by the leading pre-Christian schools—that accounts for its continuing stranglehold upon the most sophisticated scientists the world has ever seen.
Happily, however, no one fully believes the physicists—not even the physicists themselves, it turns out: if they did, they could not live a normal life, for they would in truth be stark raving mad. My point is that nothing is actually more obvious than the fact that the real world in which we find ourselves is not composed of “quantum stuff”: it consists, rather, of the things we all perceive, and can perceive, precisely because it is made of wholes! For who can deny that what we perceive—an apple, say—is always a whole, and that even if it be only half an apple, it is still obviously “a whole half.” We find ourselves thus in a world made up—not of so-called quantum particles—but ineluctably of what may properly be termed corporeal entities. And this fact is moreover believed implicitly by every sane man, woman, or child, to which one must however add the proviso “most of the time”; for it happens that, ever since the Enlightenment, our intellectuals have learned to deny apodictically—in their “enlightened” moments namely—what the rest of the time they staunchly believe.
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Given then that we live in a world not made of quantum stuff, but composed rather of wholes, let us ponder the notion of “vertical causation” simply as an act of wholeness. The moment we do so, however, the realization dawns that a wholeness subject to the conditions of space and time will not suffice: for whether we are presently able to grasp the point or not, the ontological fact is that a corporeal wholeness—a wholeness subject to the bounds of space and time—proves to be secondary or derived. And let me add that this fact should not altogether surprise us, given that vertical causation acts instantaneously: for does this not suggest that the wholeness from which it acts is not subject to the condition of time?
The fact is that primary wholeness is not to be found on the corporeal plane, but pertains rather to that Center to which Dante alludes as il punta dello stelo a cui la prima rota va dintorno:13Paradiso xiii, 10. that mysterious “Point” around which “the primordial wheel” is said to “revolve.” To speak in philosophical terms, this signifies that it is needful to recover the ontological conception of the tripartite cosmos, which is centered precisely upon that punta dello stelo where space and time are no more. In the final count, metaphysics is indeed a matter of viewing the integral cosmos from the vantage of that Pivot around which time itself is said to circulate—in keeping with Plato’s enigmatic metaphor of time as “the moving image of eternity.”
This is not of course “philosophy” as understood innocuously in our day, but rather as it was comprehended by the wise in pre-modern times, which is ultimately a matter—not of conceptual speculation, nor of clever reflections concerning language—but of a higher seeing. And so long as we are obliged to see “as through a glass, darkly,”141 Cor. 13:12 it behooves us to employ an icon for our “glass”—which brings us back to what I have termed “the cosmic icon,” upon which, in a preceding publication,15Physics and Vertical Causation, op. cit., ch. 8. I based my discussion of vertical causality. The integral cosmos comes thus to be represented by a circle which breaks into three domains: the center, the interior, and the circumference. Now the key which renders this schema enlightening ontologically relates to the cosmic bounds of time and space, which need to be assigned to the two outer regions in the correct order, the point being that time has precedence over space. This means that, whereas the region defined by the interior of the circle is subject to the bound of time alone, the circumference—representing our corporeal world—is subject in addition to the bound of space. And I will recall in passing that this ontological fact alone suffices to disqualify the Einsteinian notion of space-time,16Ibid., pp. 108-11. and thus to invalidate “relativistic” physics as such at a single stroke.
What proves crucial for metaphysics at large is the iconic fact that the center of the cosmic icon—or better said, the ontological domain which it represents—is subject to neither bound, and corresponds thus to Dante’s punta dello stelo. And that—to speak in inherently Platonist terms—is the Center where, ultimately, all wholeness resides. Its opposite—the circumference, namely, representing the corporeal world—rests, as it were, upon that Center: for it is from thence that such wholeness as it contains is derived. Finally, let us note that these two extremes—the aeviternal17The best definition I know comes from St. Thomas Aquinas: “Aeviternity itself has neither ‘before’ nor ‘after,’ which can however be annexed to it.” Summa Theologiae I, Q. 10, Art. 5. Center and the corporeal Circumference—are joined by an intermediary ontological domain, which is subject to time but not to space.
Now, as I have noted elsewhere, this intermediary domain—integral to the traditional schools of metaphysics, and in a way known also in occult circles—has been roundly forgotten in the contemporary world.18Still remembered in the Orthodox Church as the so-called “aerial world,” considered to be the habitat of demons, it was termed the “astral plane” in 19th-century occultism. I might mention that, in our day, Malachi Martin became rather well-acquainted with that domain in his capacity as an exorcist, and referred to it habitually as the “middle plateau.” No bona fide metaphysical comprehension of the corporeal realm is possible, however, without a recognition of that intermediary world: for it happens that corporeal entities do not stand alone, but derive such wholeness as they embody from the aeviternal realm by way of the intermediary. The fundamental fact—upon which all authentic metaphysics rests—is that cosmic reality is inherently tripartite, and that all authentic wholeness, be it on the corporeal or on the intermediary plane, derives “from above”: from that Center beyond the pale of both space and time. And let us note, as a corollary, that vertical causation—which is the causation exercised by wholeness—emanates perforce from the aeviternal plane, which is after all the reason why it acts, not “in time,” but instantaneously.
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Primary wholeness, then, resides “above,” in that supreme ontological realm to which the Platonist adjectives aeviternal, archetypal, and intelligible properly apply. Yet “esoteric” and “empirically irrelevant” as that ontological conception may appear to the contemporary mind, it proves to be essential to the resolution of our scientific quandary. For as we have by now come to see, what limits the scope of physical science—and ultimately relegates the so-called “physical universe” to the status of a sub-existential domain—is the fact that physics has no conception and no grasp of wholeness, and in fact operates by systematically breaking down all corporeal wholeness in quest of Democritean atoms or quantum particles, which prove in the end not to exist.
It may be noted at this juncture that a Weltanschauung based upon physics cannot but be evolutionist to the core: for once authentic wholeness has become de facto inconceivable, it needs to be replaced by a pseudo-wholeness which reduces to the sum of its parts. And needless to say, the only way such a pseudo-wholeness can conceivably emerge is by an aggregation of its constituent parts. Moreover, inasmuch as such a pseudo-wholeness exemplifies no model or archetype, its formation cannot be in any sense “directed,” and reduces therefore basically to a random process. In a word, Darwinian evolution proves to be essentially the one and only means by which plant and animal forms could conceivably originate in a world answering to the conceptions of physics. And this accounts for the fact that the Darwinist hypothesis has been doggedly retained in the face of persistent empirical failure, and even after it has been mathematically disproved, in 1998, by William Dembski’s theorem to the effect that horizontal causality cannot produce “complex specified information” or CSI. Let me emphasize that inasmuch as the nucleus of every living cell—of even the most primitive organism—literally “teems with” CSI, we now know for certain that it takes vertical causation to produce a living organism. Moreover, this in turn entails, and again in light of our reflections, that a living organism constitutes—not a mere aggregate or Darwinist pseudo-whole—but a bona fide whole. And again, in light of our reflections, this further entails that such an organism can, in turn, act as an agent of VC in its own right. Finally, it has become clear by now that the attempt to understand living organisms on the basis of physics cannot but fail in the end.
Getting back to wholeness as such, the ontological fact is that what I term the corporeal world is indeed made up of entities such as “red apples,” which prove not to be mere aggregates, but wholes. The fact that they are divisible, in other words, does not entail that they are in truth divided—that they are aggregates rather than wholes. What ontologically distinguishes the corporeal from the physical realm is in truth the fact that the former is comprised of wholes, whereas there is no wholeness in the quantum world. It is crucial to note, moreover, that this explains why vertical causation enters the picture precisely in the act of measurement: for inasmuch as measurement constitutes a transition from the physical to the corporeal plane, it entails a transition to wholeness, which horizontal causality cannot provide. And that is why vertical causation enters—and must enter—into play at the instant of that ontological transition.
The pieces of the puzzle are beginning to fall into place, which is to say that the “big picture” is about to emerge. It turns out that the corporeal world is composed, not of quantum particles, but indeed of wholes—and thus, in a sense, of the very opposite. The question now becomes: what are these wholes, and whence do they arise? And strange as it may seem, what is called for at this crucial juncture proves to be the Platonist recognition that “wholeness resides ultimately in the aeviternal realm.” This connects, first of all, with what, for us, has been from the start the defining characteristic of VC: the well-nigh incomprehensible fact, namely, that vertical causation acts instantaneously. For this, in itself, is indicative of the fact that VC does not originate in this, our time-constrained world. No physicist, after all—however ingenious—is capable of producing an “instantaneous” effect, nor could that “instantaneity” be measured or verified by empirical means.19It is to be noted that the VC operative in the act of measurement acts neither on the physical nor on the corporeal plane, but at the instant of transition. The fact—the momentous fact, to be sure—is that both vertical causation and wholeness originate from that punta dello stelo no less, where the dispersion of time does not reach.
The definitive characteristic of Platonist metaphysics resides in the recognition that all temporal being or wholeness stems ultimately from an aeviternal archetype. It appears to be in fact the characteristic of all “higher” wisdom schools not only to recognize an “eternity,” but in a way to subordinate the temporal to the eternal, the transient to the immutable. What I wish now to point out is that this very subordination of the temporal to the eternal proves in fact to be the key to the enigma of vertical causation and wholeness. This first of all explains, as we have noted, why VC acts “instantaneously”: it does so because it does not originate “in time.” It acts thus in what the Scholastics termed the nunc stans, the “now that stands,” which in fact proves ultimately to be the only “now” there is: for as St. Thomas Aquinas apprises us with the utmost brevity, “time consists of before and after.”20Op. cit., Art. 1. The complete passage is as follows: “As we attain to the knowledge of simple things by way of compound things, so must we reach to the knowledge of eternity by means of time, which is nothing but the numbering of movement by ‘before’ and ‘after.’ For since succession occurs in every movement, and one part comes after another, the fact that we reckon before and after in movement, makes us apprehend time, which is nothing else but the measure of before and after in movement. Now in a thing bereft of movement, which is always the same, there is no before or after. As therefore the idea of time consists in the numbering of before and after in movement; so likewise in the apprehension of the uniformity of what is outside of movement, consists the idea of eternity.” It was Aristotle who first defined time thus, as “the numbering of motion with respect to before and after.” The fact is that the creation of the temporal world, whether it be attributed to God or to a Demiurge, takes place—not “in time”—but precisely in that nunc stans; as Meister Eckhart says, “God makes the world and all things in this present ‘now’.”21Meister Eckhart. Trans. C. de B. Evans (Watkins, 1924), vol. I, p. 209.
The action of VC is thus Demiurgic in that it operates, not ex nihilo, but from the aeviternal plane. It is nonetheless “creative” in the sense that it gives rise to the temporal order, consisting thus of entities based upon aeviternal prototypes. Whatever being we encounter on the corporeal or the intermediary planes constitutes thus a temporal manifestation of an aeviternal whole. One sees moreover that the corporeal and intermediary strata of the integral cosmos are brought into existence precisely by way of vertical causation—which moreover should surprise no one, seeing that horizontal causality presupposes the bounds of time and space. Inasmuch, therefore, as horizontal causality operates within a spatio-temporal continuum, it proves to be an effect of vertical causation. And this explains why VC has power to override horizontal causality, as in the act of measurement, when the Schrödinger wave equation is “re-initialized” following the so-called “collapse” of the wave function.
The question remains what “causes” the quantum realm: could it be VC? In a sense this is of course the case, for in the absence of VC, there would be no temporal strata of existence, and therefore no quantum world as well. What, on the other hand, speaks against that argument is the ontological fact that, strictly speaking, the quantum world does not exist: for it is made up, after all, of mere potentiae, which do not attain being until they are actualized. And that, as we know, is precisely the point at which VC enters into play: for this actualization of quantum potentiae occurs at the very instant of measurement as an act of VC.
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It thus appears that vertical causation constitutes the primary causality which brings the temporal orders—inclusive of their sub-existential modes—into manifestation. In this capacity, VC proves thus to be none other than what, in Platonist parlance, is termed formal causation.22On this issue I refer to a doctoral dissertation by Andrew R. Hill, submitted at the Catholic University of America in 2016, under the title “Forms as Active Causes in Plato’s Phaedo and Timaeus.” Based upon the preceding considerations, moreover, the adjectives primary, creative, or even Demiurgic could likewise be applied to identify this mode of causation. It needs however to be noted that vertical causation, as we have conceived of it, is by no means restricted to formal causation in this primary or “creative” sense. As a matter of fact, inasmuch as horizontal causality presupposes both time and space—and consequently is operative only within the corporeal, and subcorporeal, domains—it follows that VC constitutes likewise in truth the primary efficient causality.
What the primary or creative VC brings into being—to speak now in basically Aristotelian terms—are “substances” determined by a substantial form. It needs however to be realized that—so far from acting like marionettes—every such being is endowed with a certain capacity to act upon other beings by a vertical causation of its own, which derives from its substantial form. This secondary mode of VC can therefore be termed substantial. And let me emphasize: “substantial” or secondary as it may be in comparison to the primary or creative kind, that causality is yet authentically vertical inasmuch as it operates “instantaneously,” and thus not “in time.” How, then, is this possible, given that this mode of VC derives supposedly from a substantial form, which after all pertains to the intermediary or “time-bound” realm? What we need to grasp is that a substantial form, though subject to the flux of time, does not exist in and by itself, but derives its essence and being “from above”: that is to say, from its aeviternal prototype. The point is that the substantial form remains ontologically connected to its aeviternal prototype, which is to say that the two constitute a whole: an “organismal” whole, one might say. What Plato affirms regarding the soul—i.e., that “it is partly in eternity and partly in time”—applies thus to substantial forms at large. So far from being separated or cut off from their supra-temporal prototype, they constitute in reality a manifestation thereof; a temporal manifestation, to be precise.
We began this inquiry with the stipulation that vertical causation constitutes the causality of wholeness. It now appears in addition that wholeness as such is characterized by the capacity to act by way of vertical causation. Let this much suffice as an introduction to the Platonist view of the integral cosmos.
Dr. Smith’s latest book, Physics: A Science in Quest of an Ontology, is now available, as is our feature documentary chronicling his life and work, The End of Quantum Reality.
|See Physics and Vertical Causation: The End of Quantum Reality (Philos-Sophia Initiative, 2023), ch. 3.
|Published in three volumes between 1910 and 1913.
|The term needs of course to be understood in a subjective sense. It is an elimination—not from the universe itself—but from the physical universe, the universe as conceived by the physicist. In other words, the physicist is willfully closing his eyes to half of reality: the primary or essential half, to be precise.
|By which we mean a causation based upon a temporal transmission through space.
|When it comes to ordinary measurement, the distinction between “instantaneous” and “exceedingly fast” cannot be empirically ascertained. On this question see Physics and Vertical Causation, op. cit., pp. 26-9.
|It may perhaps be argued that David Bohm proves to be the exception to this rule. The fact is that he did struggle, as it were, with the idea of “wholeness,” which he may have derived from his long-time friend, the Hindu ascetic Krishnamurti. On this question I refer the interested reader to my article, “Pondering Bohmian Mechanics.”
|This astounding recognition—which can however be predicted on ontological grounds—was made by Werner Heisenberg. Cf. Physics and Philosophy (Harper & Row, 1962), p. 41.
|The Concept of Nature (Cambridge University Press, 1964), p. 30.
|Nature and Life (Greenwood Press, 1968), p. 6.
|Ibid., p. 15.
|The Philosophy of Physical Science (Cambridge University Press, 1939), p. 110.
|Cf. Werner Heisenberg, op. cit.
|Paradiso xiii, 10.
|1 Cor. 13:12
|Physics and Vertical Causation, op. cit., ch. 8.
|Ibid., pp. 108-11.
|The best definition I know comes from St. Thomas Aquinas: “Aeviternity itself has neither ‘before’ nor ‘after,’ which can however be annexed to it.” Summa Theologiae I, Q. 10, Art. 5.
|Still remembered in the Orthodox Church as the so-called “aerial world,” considered to be the habitat of demons, it was termed the “astral plane” in 19th-century occultism. I might mention that, in our day, Malachi Martin became rather well-acquainted with that domain in his capacity as an exorcist, and referred to it habitually as the “middle plateau.”
|It is to be noted that the VC operative in the act of measurement acts neither on the physical nor on the corporeal plane, but at the instant of transition.
|Op. cit., Art. 1. The complete passage is as follows: “As we attain to the knowledge of simple things by way of compound things, so must we reach to the knowledge of eternity by means of time, which is nothing but the numbering of movement by ‘before’ and ‘after.’ For since succession occurs in every movement, and one part comes after another, the fact that we reckon before and after in movement, makes us apprehend time, which is nothing else but the measure of before and after in movement. Now in a thing bereft of movement, which is always the same, there is no before or after. As therefore the idea of time consists in the numbering of before and after in movement; so likewise in the apprehension of the uniformity of what is outside of movement, consists the idea of eternity.” It was Aristotle who first defined time thus, as “the numbering of motion with respect to before and after.”
|Meister Eckhart. Trans. C. de B. Evans (Watkins, 1924), vol. I, p. 209.
|On this issue I refer to a doctoral dissertation by Andrew R. Hill, submitted at the Catholic University of America in 2016, under the title “Forms as Active Causes in Plato’s Phaedo and Timaeus.”