Friday, May 14, 2010


If it is the law of Change that determines the evolution and involution of the one downward and upward road, the same law prevails all along the path, through all its steps and returns, in all the million transactions of the wayside. There is everywhere the law of exchange and interchange, amoibe. The unity and the multiplicity have at every moment this active relation to each other. The One is constantly exchanging itself for the many; that gold has been given, you have instead these commodities, but in fact they are only so much value of the gold.
The many are constantly exchanging themselves for the One; these commodities are given, disappear, are destroyed, we say, but in their place there is the gold, the original substance-energy to the value of the commodities. You see the sun and you think it is the same sun always, but really it is a new sun that rises each day; for it is the Fire's constant giving of itself in exchange for the elemental commodities that compose the sun which preserves its form, its energy, its movement, all its measures. Science shows us that this is true of all things, of the human body, for instance; it is always the same, but it preserves its apparent identity only by a constant change. There is a constant destruction, yet there is no destruction. Energy distributes itself, but never really dissipates itself; change and unalterable conservation of energy in the change are the law, not destruction. If this world of multiplicity is destroyed in the end by Fire, yet there is no end and it is not destroyed, but only exchanged for the Fire. Moreover, there is exchange between all these becomings which are only so many active values of the Being, commodities that are a fixed value and measure of the universal gold. Fire takes of its substance from one form and gives to another, changes one apparent value of its substance into another apparent value, but the substance-energy remains the same and the new value is the equivalent of the old, - as when it turns fuel into smoke and cinders and ashes. Modern Science with a more accurate knowledge of what actually happens in this change, yet confirms Heraclitus' conclusion. It is the law of the conservation of energy.
Practically, the active secret of life is there; all life physical or mental or merely dynamic maintains itself by constant change and interchange. Still, Heraclitus' account is so far not altogether satisfactory. The measure, the value of the energy exchanged remains unaltered even when the form is altered, but why should also the cosmic commodities we have for the universal gold be fixed and in a way unchanging? What is the explanation, how comes about this eternity of principles and elements and kinds of combination and this persistence and recurrence of the same forms which we observe in the cosmos? Why in this constant cosmic flux should everything after all remain the same? Why should the sun, though always new, be yet for all practical purposes the same sun? Why should the stream be, as Heraclitus himself admits, the same stream although it is ever other and other waters that are flowing? It was in this connection that Plato brought in his eternal, ideal plane of fixed ideas, by which he seems to have meant at once an originating real-idea and an original ideal schema for all things. An idealistic philosophy of the Indian type might say that this force, the Shakti which you call Fire, is a consciousness which preserves by its energy its original scheme of ideas and corresponding forms of things. But Heraclitus gives us another account, not quite satisfactory, yet profound and full of suggestive truth; it is contained in his striking phrases about war and justice and tension and the Furies pursuing the transgressor of measures. He is the first thinker to see the world entirely in the terms of Power.
What is the nature of this exchange? It is strife, eris, it is war, polemos! What is the rule and result of the war? It is justice. How acts that justice? By a just tension and compensation of forces which produce the harmony of things and therefore, we presume, their stability. "War is the father of all and the king of all"; "All things becoming according to strife"; "To know that strife is justice"; these are his master apophthegms in this matter. At first we do not see why exchange should be strife; it would seem rather to be commerce. Strife there is, but why should there not also be peaceful and willing interchange? Heraclitus will have none of it; no peace! he would agree with the modern Teuton that commerce itself is a department of War. It is true there is a commerce, gold for commodities, commodities for gold, but the commerce itself and all its circumstances are governed by a forceful, more, a violent compulsion of the universal Fire. That is what he means by the Furies pursuing the sun; "for fear of Him" says the Upanishad "the wind blows . . . and death runs." And between all beings there is a constant trial of strength; by that warfare they come into being, by that their measures are maintained. We see that he is right; he has caught the initial aspect of cosmic Nature. Everything here is a clash of forces and by that clash and struggle and clinging and wrestling things not only come into being, but are maintained in being. Karma? Laws? But different laws meet and compete and by their tension the balance of the world is maintained. Karma? It is the forcible justice of an eternal compelling Power and it is the Furies pursuing us if we transgress our measures.
War, contends Heraclitus, is not mere injustice, chaotic violence; it is justice, although a violent justice, the only kind possible. Again, from that point of view, we see that he is right. By the energy expended and its value shall the fruits be determined, and where two forces meet, expenditure of energy means a trial of strength. Shall not then the rewards be to the strong according to his strength and to the weak according to his weakness? So it is at least in the world, the primal law, although subject to the help of the weak by the strong which need not after all be an injustice or a violation of measures, in spite of Nietzsche and Heraclitus.
And is there not after all sometimes a tremendous strength behind weakness, the very strength of the pressure on the oppressed which brings its terrible reaction, the back return of the bow, Zeus, the eternal Fire, observing his measures? Not only between being and being, force and force is there war, but within each there is an eternal opposition, a tension of contraries, and it is this tension which creates the balance necessary to harmony. Harmony then there is, for cosmos itself is in its result a harmony; but it is so because in its process it is war, tension, opposition, a balance of eternal contraries. Real peace there cannot be, unless by peace you mean a stable tension, a balance of power between hostile forces, a sort of mutual neutralisation of excesses. Peace cannot create, cannot maintain anything, and Homer's prayer that war might perish from among Gods and men is a monstrous absurdity, for that would mean the end of the world. A periodic end there may be, not by peace or reconciliation, but by conflagration, by an attack of Fire, to pur epelthon, a fiery judgment and conviction. Force created the world, Force is the world, Force by its violence maintains the world, Force shall end the world, - and eternally re-create it.

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