The Universal of Universals

What undergirds our ‘cognitive criterion’ in a sense that is even deeper than logical rules or basic standards of inquiry is creativity, given that creativity is the greatest universal of all universals to describe and interpret both our reality as well as our role in this reality. As Alfred North Whitehead wrote: “’Creativity’ is the universal of universals characterizing ultimate matter of fact. It is that ultimate principle by which the many, which are the universal disjunctivity, become the one actual occasion, which is the universal conjunctivity. It lies in the nature of things that the many enter into complex unity.”

Thus, we can make sense of our cognitive criterion only if we relate our cognitive criterion to the processes of the universe. Whitehead added: “The creative action is the universe always becoming one in a particular unity of self-experience, and thereby adding to the multiplicity which is the universe as many.” Thus, there is a profundity which we are seeking to encompass by our cognitive criterion which may even be impossible to encompass, even though the paradox is that the profundity we are seeking to encompass through our cognitive criterion is actually acting through our cognitive criterion. 

In turn, through our cognitive criterion, we are searching for something even beyond the difference between good and evil, and ultimately, the difference between good and evil is the conduit for the search for something necessary, ultimate or teleological. That necessary, ultimate, or teleological thing which we are looking for through our cognitive criterion and yet is acting upon our cognitive criterion through the processes of the universe is the essence of all things. As Whitehead said: “This doctrine of necessity in universality means that there is an essence to the universe which forbids relationships beyond itself, as a violation of its rationality. Speculative philosophy seeks that essence.” 

Thus, without the “coherence” and logic and basic rules of inquiry undergirding our cognitive criterion, we would be confused and lost. Without our cognitive criterion and its basic rules of logic and standards of inquiry, we would be deceived and misled by everything around us. For as Nietzsche wrote: “And what else is the aim of education and ‘culture’ today? In our very popularity-minded – that is, plebian – age, ‘education’ and ‘culture’ have to be essentially the art of deceiving – about one’s origins, the inherited plebs in one’s body and soul.” 

In a sense, both the seeker and what is being sought are one and the same, given that both the processes which are acting upon the cognitive criterion of the seeker and that which is being sought – namely, the essence – are “universal, infinite, and impartial” by nature. The essence, which constitutes one half of our equation as human beings, negates the “particular, finite, self-centered” half of the human being’s equation. As Bertrand Russell wrote: “Distant ages and remote regions of space are as real to [human nature] as what is present and near.” It is thus the character of the essence based on universality, impartiality, and infinity which “leads to truth in thought, justice in action, and universal love in feeling.”

We should perhaps end with a word from Rumi in order to add some imagery to the essence which is behind both the universe and the processes of the universe which are acting upon our cognitive cognition and in turns negates all our relationships other than with itself in addition to negating one half of our nature and existence in favor of the other. As Rumi wrote in a poem titled “The Living Doubleness”:

“I ask my heart, Why do you keep looking 

for the delights of love?

I hear the answer back, Why will you not join me in this companionship?

This is the conversation of being a human being, 

the living doubleness.

Cool and in motion like water, 

placed and passionate like fire.

Subtle as wind, yet obvious

as a wine glass poured to the brim,

spilled over and drunk down

all at once for a toast. 

Like rain, you make any image more vivid.

Like a mirror, you can be trusted to hold beauty. 

There are mean people who see only meanness

reflected in your beauty, but they are wrong. 

You are pure soul

and made of the ground.

You are eyeshadow

and the kindness in eyelight. 

A ruby from no telling which mine, 

let yourself be set in a seal ring.

Lift the sword-discernment

that rules a thousand compassions.

Shams in the lovely shape of Shams,

spring-source of invisible meaning.” 

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