Pythagoras and the Philosophy of Number (4 of 5)
Part Four: The Universe as a Supersystem
Note: I originally planned this series on Pythagorean Philosophy to be four parts, but I have now extended it to be five parts. The fifth part is now available (link).
t. Recap: the Godhead as a Divine Family
In the previous article of our continuing series on Pythagorean philosophy (i.e. in Part 3, this present article being Part 4), we introduced the idea that the Universal Form (associated with the Pythagorean principle of the Pentad) is generated from the interaction of Deity’s Self-Consciousness (the Triad) moving into and becoming conditioned by a Cosmic Mind or Intellect (the Quaternary).
Here we find an important esoteric teaching restated in simple numerical terms: that Self-Consciousness (3) is God’s active, Yang, or masculine attribute, while Mind or Intellect (4) is God’s passive, Yin, or feminine attribute. Neither principle exists independently of the other; each requires its counterpart - just like that which is depicted in the classic Yin-Yang diagram of Taoism.
Initially, before creation, these Father-Mother principles - Yang and Yin - were united in an undifferentiated state. Creation begins with their hypothetical separation, with Self-Consciousness (the Father) separating to become the positive pole of Creation and Mind (the Mother) situating itself as its negative or receptive counterpart. Here, the Self (the Triad) gives, and the Mind (the Quaternary) receives.
Thus, in the process of creation, the Consciousness of the Divine Self (Three) moves into the Universal Mind (its feminine “shakti”; Four). Through this sacred union of the Triad (Osiris) moving into and impregnating the Quaternary (Isis) with its life-giving energy, a living, Self-Conscious life form - a Divine Self (Horus) - is conceived and born as an end-result.
Restating the above once more: the Divine Mind takes the Divine Self’s consciousness and builds a Universe or “Universal Form” for this consciousness of this Divine Self to inhabit and experience itself through.
This Universe that is formed out of the union between Consciousness and Mind is the “Child” that they give birth to.
Our Universe is this Universe - this Universal Form. It was originally conceived and born as the “child” of Consciousness and Mind. It inherits its Self-Consciousness from the “Father” and its Intelligence from the “Mother”.
These qualities - Consciousness and Intelligence - are possessed by the Universe at the level of the whole. They only exist within any given individual life form (such as a human) within the Universe because they exist a priori at the level of the whole. Think about it: if these qualities were not initially held at the level of the Universe, they could not be drawn upon and expressed on the localized level of the individual. Meaning: if the human is self-conscious, then the World and the Universe as a whole must also possess this quality of Self-consciousness.
Thus, we must understand that the all-encompassing Consciousness of Deity is fully present within Creation, never being absent anywhere. Likewise, the Intelligence of Deity, which manifests in the form of Universal Law, is also ever-present.
To recap once more: within the Universe, Consciousness is experiencing everything, everywhere. Mind, meanwhile, designs, constructs, and weaves together a “platform of experience” that Consciousness is moving into and inhabiting.
Within the Universe, Consciousness is actively experiencing everything, its awareness being universal. Meanwhile, the Universal Mind is everywhere receiving this active power of Consciousness and guiding it toward a lawful program of Self-experience.
In this way, the Consciousness of the Divine Self, moving into the Universe, is being guided at all times by a matrix of Universal Law, which is ever-present. The interplay between these two sets the stage for Creation to unfold, with Consciousness and Law being the Yang and Yin principles that together lay the foundation for the Universe’s existence.
Once more: the Divine Self, who is born as the Child of Consciousness and Mind, is guided by the Law conceived by Mind (its Mother) to direct Consciousness (its Father) into a highly purposeful and intelligently designed experience of Universal Selfhood.
It is the purpose of the Divine Plan to guide Consciousness into a dynamic experience of Universal Selfhood. In this way, Three and Four (Consciousness and Mind) unite to generate Five (a Divine Self born through the World Form).
Thus, the Universal Cosmology is just as the Pythagorean 3-4-5 Triangle instructs us.
In sum, Consciousness moves into Mind to generate a cycle of Self-experience.
This experience of Divine Selfhood is cyclical: it is born in time as a Unity moving into diversity and it has an ultimate end state that it is working toward achieving, which is the dissolution of diversity back into Unity. This attainment marks the end of its life cycle.
This cycle of existence is therefore purposeful: there is a divine intention and meaning behind God’s motion to separate its Yin and Yang aspects in order that the Universe may be born in this form of a grand cycle of Self-Experience.
By implication, Life on Earth exists as a cycle-within-a-cycle: it is a small part of a grander, universal cycle of existence - one that Manly P. Hall calls the “Cycle of Necessity”.
We should never forget that we are all (whether we choose to realize it or not) being purposefully moved across the grand chessboard of life by the inevitable motions of this greater Cycle.
We are being moved by it, and the Divine Self as a whole is also being moved by it, meaning that, like us, Deity itself is being guided and lead from an initial state, to a final, superior state, by a precisely planned framework of Law.
This Law weaves a matrix of Self-experience that God “falls into”. This matrix of law is pulling God inevitably toward the attainment of a final evolutionary end-state that it is already preordained and predestined for it to one day achieve and experience. When God finally achieves and experiences this end-state (after also experiencing and living through everything that lead up to its achievement), then the present cycle of existence is concluded, resolved, and dissolved. Once this occurs, a cycle of rest ensues (what in Sanskrit is called pralaya), before, at a future point, a new cycle will begin on a higher plane of existence.
u. The Universal Form as a “Supersystem”
The Universe, once born, exists as a threefold entity (i.e. a Trinity or Triad): it possesses Consciousness (inherited from its Father) and Intelligence (inherited from its Mother), while also exhibiting itself as a grand, archetypal Form. Together, these three elements comprise the three worlds or domains that together constitute the Soul.
In the language of Systems Science, the Universe - which represents the “Child” principle of this Trinity - is organized according to an archetypal design pattern modeled around what theorists in this field call a “system”.
A “system” is a unit of wholeness that is internally comprised of an interconnected network of subsidiary parts. In a system, neither part nor whole can exist independently of its counterpart: the whole exists as a totality of parts, while each part is always nested alongside other parts within the overarching context of a whole.
Within the wholeness of a system, each part serves a purposeful function; nothing is arbitrary or accidental. Each part is networked in some way with every other part; together, these interlinked parts express the internal life pattern of the whole that is containing them.
Each part within a system is positioned into its designated role by the top-down organizing influence of the whole. In other words, diversity always exists in relation to a primordial wholeness. Without the wholeness binding the parts together from above, eventually entropy sets in and the various parts of the system break down and separate from each other.
While each part within diversity holds relationships with a relatively confined network of other parts, all parts commonly share in having a direct personal and individual relationship to the Whole. Each part is equally nested within the common whole; no one part can claim exclusive access to it.
Again, the whole acts top-down over all parts, guiding each part into its pre-designed place, purpose, role and function. This attribute of purposefulness - where every part of the system plays a unique and specific role and function in relation to the whole - is the hallmark of the Divine Intelligence of the Creator whose archetypal design is imprinted on creation through the archetype of the system form.
The archetypal design for creation manifests as the “Law” for how this “Supersystem” is designed to function.
This pattern of Divine Law is permanently enthroned in the superior or heavenly world of Archetypes, which is where what Plato termed “pure” or “archetypal ideas” are held by the Universal Mind. By implication, these “archetypal ideas” are inherently collective, as they exist and are held within an innately collective domain of Mind.
Different individuals can access these archetypes or “pure ideas”, but no individual can claim exclusive ownership over them, as they are innately a product of the whole and not the part.
Here in this heavenly world, reside the divine thoughts or archetypes - as well as the divine beings and enlightened humans who have evolved themselves to the point where they have become One with the Law, never departing from its ways.
By contrast, the inferior domain of material creation - which is what we are a part of here on Earth - is a realm where Law still rules supreme, but the living, growing, and evolving life forms incarnating here have not yet learned and mastered its ways. Thus, the Law is manifested in this realm imperfectly.
This is particularly true in the life of Man, where, through our faculty of self-will and personal choice, we often choose (largely due to our own ignorance, which we are gradually overcoming) to go against the way of the Law in order to pursue and grasp for our own egoistic desires and beliefs.
This “underworld” or “inferior world” is a world of imbalanced forces. As long as Mankind remains imbalanced, he is continuously moved by these forces. But as he learns to master the control of these forces within himself, he simultaneously learns the key to balancing all imbalances in the greater environment around Him.
Returning back to our main topic - the overarching grand, systemic design of the Universe - let’s restate the main thesis we’re working with: when the Universal Form is born from the Union of the Father-Mother principles that initially conceived it, it emerges as a grand, universal System - or what System Scientists call a “Supersystem”.
The universal supersystem is singular: it is one cumulative totality that exists as a single, ultimate wholeness. Within this singular wholeness, all subsidiary systems, forms, structures, processes, motions, and dynamics - from the Galaxy to the Human to the molecule - are nested as parts within a whole.
Thus, there are many systems, but only one Supersystem.
Always, one macrocosmic wholeness embeds all subsidiary parts, nesting each into its proper place, role, and function. This singular wholeness is the Supersystem - the “system of systems”.
Within this Supersystem, a vast internal hierarchy of systems-within-systems is nested, with each planet, solar system, and galaxy existing as such a “system”. This means that each, on its own scale, is a system, holding within itself an internal network of lesser systems or “subsystems”, while at the same being embedded within the inner life of one or more greater systems, each existing as a relative “supersystem” above it.
As should be now apparent, within this nested hierarchy of systems-within-systems (all contained within the singular Universal Supersystem), a three-part organizational schema is exhibited.
In relation to any given system existing with the Supersystem, there will be a) some systems existing alongside it as peers; b) there will be other, lesser systems that are nested internally as subsystems; and c) there will also be a hierarchy of systems above it, each of which will embed that first system as one of their own internal parts, thus making that system one of their “subsystems”.
From this discussion we can see that there are two types of supersystems: one absolute, the other relative. The Absolute Supersystem is the one universal wholeness that holds all other systems within itself as parts. A “relative supersystem” is a system that is held within the Absolute Supersystem. In relation to a hierarchy of lesser systems (i.e. subsystems) that it holds within its nature, a given system may play the role of “supersystem” in relation to these lesser systems.
In this case, the status of “supersystem” is granted relatively: a system may be a “supersystem” in relation to some systems but not others; on one level they may be a “supersystem” to the lesser system they embed within themselves as parts, but on another level that same “system” may actually play the role of “subsystem” for an even larger cosmic system.
For example, our solar system is the “supersystem” within which our planet is embedded as a part. But in relation to the Galaxy, this solar system is a mere subsystem, a tiny part of a yet vaster cosmic wholeness.
This fractal pattern of nesting (i.e. of systems-within-systems) continues upward until the level of the Absolute Supersystem (i.e. the Universe) is reached. This is the level of Unity, where there is one complete wholeness embedding all lesser parts within the infinite vastness of its own being.
Having discussed the level of “Absolute Supersystem”, let’s now introduce a counterposing domain: that of “Absolute Subsystem”, which can be found at the level of “atoms".
The atom is the smallest unit of life that demonstrates the system archetype’s hallmark part-whole relationship.
While individual atoms contain lesser substructures or “parts” within themselves, these lesser parts do not exist stably as “wholes” in their own right. In other words, subatomic structures together comprise the atom as a system, but each is not individually a system in its own right.
All material forms above the atom are built upon the foundation of atoms. Likewise, as “absolute subsystems”, atoms are always existing and coming into formation in relation to greater systems that embed them and position them into place.
At the highest level, all atoms, as well as all greater systems built from atoms, exist within a single, universal field of Consciousness and Intelligence. This field is the level of the Supersystem, which circumscribes and embeds all lesser systems within itself - from the level of the galaxy to that of the single Hydrogen molecule.
While the Universe or “Supersystem” implies singularity (there being only one), atoms imply plurality: atoms always exist in relation to other atoms, which they form relationships with. In short: atoms are many, but the Universal Supersystem is always one.
In between these two extremes - the level of Absolute Supersystem (the Universe as a whole) and the level of Absolute Subsystem (atoms; parts) - is extended a vast, hierarchical network of systems-within-systems.
Within this Supersystem, each individual system is always enmeshed in a triangulated pattern of relationship. Meaning:
Each system is comprised of an internal network of lesser systems (i.e. subsystems);
Each system exists in relation to a hierarchy of yet greater supersystems, which embed it as a part within their greater systemic wholeness; and
Each system is nested beside and dynamically intertwined with a network of other systems who share the fate of being embedded within a common supersystem.
Each system is intelligently designed and placed within the being of a greater supersystem in order to perform a specific role and function on behalf of it.
In this way, each system is positioned into place “from above” by its parent supersystem. Then, within itself, it similarly positions an inner network of lesser subsystems, which also experience its influence upon them as if “from above”.
The goal for the system is to find an internal design expression that matches the role and responsibility specified for it by the larger supersystem that embeds it. The design of the internal thus must match and harmonize with the design of the external: that is the challenge for the philosopher.
Overall, note that, when it comes to systems dynamics, we’re dealing with a five-part organizational scheme.
The foundation of this scheme is the polarity between “Absolute Supersystem” and “Absolute Subsystem”; these form the boundary conditions for the World System to form.
Within these two absolute levels of the World System emerges an intermediary state - that of “systems within systems”. Here, we find a networked hierarchy of systems, each existing in relation to one another in one vast web of interconnection.
All systems that exist are part of this vast hierarchical network. Each system within this matrix finds itself embedded in a three-part organizational scheme, one that imitates in miniature the design of the Supersystem as a whole.
Here we find that each system is linked to a hierarchy of lesser subsystems below it, greater supersystems above it, and other systems like itself alongside it (iones that are peers to it, working alongside it on its own level).
Added together, this three-part framework of systems-within-systems, plus the two boundary states of Absolute Subsystem and Absolute Supersystem, yields five total levels of systemic organization and order.
Remember: Five is the number of the Universal Form. It is notable that the findings of the modern scientific field of Systems Science - a field attempting to describe the archetypal organizational patterns present within Nature - fits precisely into the ancient pattern of philosophical thinking once taught by the Pythagoreans and Egyptians.
v. Case Studies: Earth and Man as Systems
In ecological terms, we can gain an intuitive grasp of the dynamics involved with the “System Archetype” (discussed above) by considering how life exists here on Earth.
Ecologically, the Earth is an interconnected supersystem in which life, consciousness, energy, information, and resources interact, flow, and are exchanged at the level of the whole.
Every continent and climactic region of the Earth plays a unique and important role in facilitating the overall flow of life-energy moving through this planet. Without each region playing its part, the overall design of the supersystem would break down and the planet would experience sickness as a composite wholeness.
Each continent and/or climactic region of the Earth exists as a semi-autonomous system nested within the greater Earth supersystem. As such, while each is a “part” of the whole Earth ecosystem, each is also, on its own level, a miniature “supersystem” in its own right, one that embeds an internal hierarchy of lesser systems within its sphere of influence, as lesser parts of its own microcosmic wholeness.
For example, a rainforest ecosystem exists as a miniature supersystem: a dynamic internal hierarchy of lesser systems, species, organisms, etc. come together to provide all the elements necessary to keep that rainforest ecosystem thriving and functional at the level of the whole.
Zooming in now to the level of the human species, we find the “system archetype” present once again.
Each individual human organism is a microcosmic supersystem comprised of an internal hierarchy of lesser subsystems, which are embedded within itself as parts within a whole. At the same time, each individual human is also a subsystem within a greater social ecosystem, where it forms a part of a larger social, political, and economic community alongside other individual humans like themselves.
These smaller communities, tribes, nations, and states, each a miniature “supersystem” in its own right, has, in the course of time, become linked to others like itself, such that, gradually, each social community is becoming networked together to become local “part” within a single collective whole: global civilization.
The “World Nation”, as it forms, becomes the single overarching “supersystem” which embeds all elements of human life - both individual and collective - within itself in a nested hierarchy of systems-based relationship.
At the nadir of the human supersystem - i.e. at its “atomic” level - is the individual human. At the other extreme - at its apex - is an innately collective sphere of human existence that Jung termed the “Collective Unconscious” and which sociologists analyze and reference by the name of “Institutions”.
This also the realm of Platonic Archetypes - i.e. of innately collective ideas which exist as a common heritage for all members of the human species to experience and draw from.
Let’s take a moment to explore further how the findings of Depth Psychology offer additional support and validation to this systems-based method of analyzing the inner social and psychological dynamics behind human life.
In particular, through Jung’s concepts of the “collective unconscious” and the “psychological archetypes” that reside therein, we find expressed the notion that individual humans are psychologically embedded within a shared, collective psychic atmosphere (this being the collective unconscious, which is home to the archetypes).
This realm of the “collective unconscious” exists as a single, shared “supersystem” of psychic activity, one that impacts and influences all humans, top-down, from the level of the whole.
As we can see from this discussion, in the same way that each individual human organism contains within itself a descending hierarchy of organs, tissues, and cells, the human species as a whole contains nations, cities, economies, companies, governments, and individuals within itself - each embedded in a descending hierarchy of systems within systems; of parts relating to each other, all embedded with a single supersystemic unity.
Both are alike - the individual and the collective - because both are designed according to a common framework: the “system archetype”.
This archetype extends from mankind into nature as a whole, and from nature upward to the “solar system” as a whole. Everywhere in nature we look, we find one common archetype of interconnection binding all things together.
w. Microcosm and Macrocosm: a Systems View
In the esoteric teachings, Mankind and the World as a whole are defined as analogues of one another: Man being the microcosm and the World the macrocosm.
In this teaching, the Universe is like the World, and the World is like Man. With our consideration of the “systems” archetype, we find a modern confirmation of this ancient teaching: both the World and Man are alike because each is patterned according to a common archetypal design - i.e. as a “system”.
The implication of this is that the World (i.e. the global Earth supersystem we are embedded in) is a Grand Man, while Man (i.e. the collective human species) is a Little World. Likewise, the collective human species exists like a Grand Man, with each individual human organism existing as a miniature microcosm of the whole.
The profound truth revealed in this perspective is that there is an analogical design to how the entire hierarchy of creation is constructed. This self-similarity in design allows for the principle of resonance to be established among systems existing at all scales of Creation.
Similarity in design between two systems means that a harmonic resonance can be established between them, such that the similar elements each share in common can be stimulated to vibrate in synchronization with each other.
This type of resonance creates a bond between them, one that allows them to unite their inner dynamics together. In this way, systems at various scales of creation can link together and act “as one”.
This truth is the basis of spirituality: the idea that, through mastery of the disciplines of philosophy, the individual can attain resonance with the consciousness of greater supersystems above it - even up to the level of the Universal Supersystem itself.
In this way, through resonance, the individual link his personal conscious to the universal consciousness of the whole (i.e. to the Divine Self).
Again, this experience of “universal awakening” is possible because there is a similitude between Man’s consciousness and the collective consciousness of he World as a whole.
Through this mechanism of self-similar design and energetic resonance, the unified consciousness of Deity flows into creation and inhabits a hierarchy of differentiated life forms. In so doing, it obtains an almost infinite diversity of experiences for itself to have and be stimulated by.
God the Mother is responsible for designing this hierarchical matrix of Self-Experience, while God the Father is the singular divine consciousness that moves into, inhabits, and experiences this matrix of differentiated life forms.
God the Child, meanwhile, is this Universal Self, who manifests its Being into Creation in the form of a Universal Supersystem.
This Universal Supersystem is born at the beginning of Creation. Creation takes place within it as a vast cycle - a vast process where this Supersystem grows and develops into, at the end, a perfect expression of its own archetype.
Within the master life cycle of the supersystem, all lesser systems, cycles, life processes, and experiences of self-existence are embedded - again, like parts within a whole.
The grand cycle of creation comes to completion when the Universal Supersystem achieves the fullness of its evolution, as specified by its own divine archetype. For this final evolutionary state to be attained, each part within it must individually achieve the completeness of its own evolution as a microcosm of the whole.
Thus, the macrocosm and microcosm are alike: what the Universe experiences as a whole, each individual system within it will experience as an individual part.
In both cases, the task is to fulfill the grand design of evolution, where each individual - and the collective as a whole - evolves itself to the point where it can bring into perfect expression the initial archetypal design that the Universal Mind originally intended for it.
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