CAUSALITY, CHANGE AND TIME
“The tree does not explain the seed, nor the seed the tree; cosmos explains both and God explains the cosmos.”
If we are to mean by Causality the necessary, as opposed to contingent, relation between events, so as to explain the phenomenon of change, then indeed such relation is not evident to our perceptual cognition. For what we perceive is merely the succession of constantly changing events, but nowhere any necessity or power necessitating change. On the contrary, there is visible to us the phenomenon of infinite variation which cannot be explained by any law of necessity. It is true, however, that by close observation we do not perceive certain uniformities, that is to say, certain broad repetitions of sequences of events; but there again, they are not entirely uncontradicted, and since what we perceive belongs either to the present or to the past but
never to the future, and since it is impossible to observe all the instances of uniformities, no causal law of necessity can be established.
It has, however, been argued that the proof of Causality has not to be sought for in our sense-experience or observation of the world. For it is contended that Causality is not an idea constructed or derived from experience but an innate or an a priori category of Pure Reason. Reason, it is thought, is so constituted that it cannot conceive of an event except in the framework of Causality, that is to say, except as related to another by which it is determined and therefore from which it necessarily follows. To Reason, therefore, it is held, Causality is an undeniable and selfevident concept.
And yet, pursuing this line of thought, it has been concluded that Causality, when reflected upon, turns out to be unintelligible, unreal and impossible. It has been argued that Causality is a rational attempt to show the necessity of the occurrence of an event or change; but since everything in the world which we may regard as a cause of another is itself an event, we are led to postulate a Cause
or Determiner, transcendent, self-existent and free from any necessity. For if we do not postulate a Free Cause, it is argued, we are led to infinite regress resulting in failure to show the necessity of the event in question and thus proving the absurdity of the idea of Causality. But on the other hand, so the argument continues, if there is a Free Cause, there will be a beginning of the causal series to being which there will be a first act unpreceded by any previous act or necessity. And this, it is held, contradicts the idea of Causality according to which there is always a previous necessity to cause an event. It is concluded therefore that Causality is an antimony implying at once the necessity and impossibility of the beginning of the causal series, a self-contradiction, unintelligible and therefore something that cannot be.
Shall we then return to the primary perceptual certainty of the phenomenon of Change and Becoming? But it has been held that Change too is as much ridden with selfcontradiction as Causality. It has been argued that the very conception of change implies the existence of a permanent to which change belongs; for if we do not postulate a
Permanent Substance, it is argued, we would be obliged to say that there is nothing which changes and thus prove the absurdity of the idea of change. But, on the other hand, if there is a Permanent Substance, so the argument continues, change must belong to it since otherwise it would fall outside it and thus be unreal. But if it belongs to the Permanent Substance, the latter will be affected by change and thus cease to be permanent. It is concluded, therefore, that Change is an antinomy implying at once the necessity and impossibility of a Permanent Substance, a selfcontradiction, unintelligible and therefore something that cannot be.
But then how are we to account for the phenomenon of change? For we have on the one hand, a Permanent Substance and on the other, the phenomenon of change which cannot be and yet which we perceive and experience. It has been declared that the problem is insoluble and therefore it is wise not to raise it.
But this insolubility does not satisfy the demand of our Reason for explanation and solution. Perhaps there is somewhere, we
begin to think, some incompleteness of experience or fallacy in the argument which pronounces the phenomenon of change as self-contradictory or illusory. Perhaps there is some missing link between that Absolute and Infinite Permanent, on the one hand and this relative world of change, on the other. Perhaps there is no fundamental contradiction in the coexistence of the Infinite which is the Permanent and the Change. It may indeed be argued that the Permanent cannot be a fixed form which ceases to be when afflicted with change; it must, on the contrary, be some essence which remains what it is always and eternally without any form or in any number of forms, even as sweetness, for instance, remains the same in all the various forms of sweet things or even as clay is the same whether it assumes the form of a toy or a jar or any other form or none at all. If it is merely formless, no form could ever come into existence — for there is no other reality from which it could derive its existence; on the other hand, it is not impossible for the Infinite to have a power of self-formation in infinite names and forms — nay, on the contrary, it must have this power since the denial of this power
would contradict the perfection of the Infinite. We arrive then at the idea of Reality as a permanent and perfect essence which is at the same time an omnipotent power of selfformation and realisation of infinite potentiality of inherent names and forms which it may or may not assume and yet remain what it is, — a paradox, but is it a selfcontradiction? For does potentiality not presuppose, not any incapacity or want, but instead a capacity or a power of realising what is already and essentially is? What is not there is merely the actualisation of essence in manifestation; but the perfection of the essence does not depend upon its manifestation; it is already there eternally and permanently. Manifestation is only a free exercise of the omnipotent power of realising in Time what is already and essentially is eternally and timelessly.
It is then by the recognition of the omnipotent Power, one with and inherent in the Infinite, as a link between the essence and the phenomenon of change that we are able to arrive at a solution of the problem. For then we see that change is a process of selfrealisation of the infinite potentialities inherent
in the essential Reality. It proceeds from Reality and effects real formations without affecting the eternal and permanent essence of the Being. It is thus not an illusory or a nonexistent superimposition on the eternally inactive Absolute but an effective and real process effected by the inherent power of the Absolute itself.
In effect, we have arrived at the idea of Reality as at once a self-existent Being and a Free Causal Will or Power capable of projecting and realising its own potential names and forms. But can we, it may be asked, accord our acceptance to this idea which implies the reality of causality — causality which has been declared, as we have seen, to be an insoluble antinomy? But it may be that this antinomy arises not because of any inherent inadequacies in the idea of causality but because of some confusion or fallacy in the argument. It may indeed be admitted that the causal series does imply a Free Cause; but it may also be pointed out that if the existence of the Free Cause is taken to imply a temporal beginning of the causal series we have to declare that to be impossible. For since the idea of beginning is valid only in Time, the idea of
the beginning of the temporal or causal series is unthinkable. But if the Free Cause is transcendental and therefore Timeless, is it not reasonable to suppose that its causal activity also is timeless? For that which causes the temporal and causal series cannot itself be a temporal event, having a beginning at some date or moment. It must be a Timeless act of the Infinite. This would mean that there is between the Timeless Eternal and the Time- Eternity an intervening Timeless Will causing timelessly a beginningless temporal and causal series. It is then the recognition of this intermediate Timeless Will which enables us to solve the antinomy of causality. For in that will and act we have the sufficient explanation of the necessity of the causal series without involving us into the impossible situation of supposing a beginning of the temporal or causal series. We can then be certain that the universal causal relations which our reason is obliged to suppose in the sequences of events are not imaginary constructions having no corresponding truth in the objective universe; for we see now that Causality is a fundamental character of the Truth of existence and that our mental
category is a reflection of that objective Truth — the subjective idea corresponding to the objective fact. The causal laws are, we might say, that Timeless Will working in different conditions and circumstances, the manifestations of that original Law of creation.
But what about the phenomenon of infinite variation? Does this phenomenon, it may be asked, not contradict the operation of the causal law? Our reply is that this phenomenon does not contradict our position: for our supposition is that the Reality to which the Timeless Will belongs has infinite potentialities and therefore there is nothing impossible in its manifestation of infinite variety. For the omnipotent Will may bring forth and arrange potentialities in some order and uniformity but it may also permit infinite variation of the complex working of the Time- Eternity.
There is, however, still the question of the relation between the Timeless Will and the Time-Eternity which it causes; but we can be certain that since these two are not temporal events they cannot be related in terms of Time. The only way therefore by which we can relate
them is by supposing a simultaneity of the two in the all-powerful Infinite. We have already seen how Reality is simultaneously a selfexistent Being and the omnipotent Power; we may now say that the self-existent is the Timeless Eternal which becomes the Time- Eternity through the free exercise of its omnipotent and Timeless causal Will.
But it may be objected that the temporal series, that is to say, the Time-Eternity, which the causal will is shown here to be causing is so ridden with self-contradiction that it is unintelligible, unreal and impossible. For it has been argued that the temporal series is a succession of diverse elements needing a further reconciliation by a further relation, and so on ad infinitum. It is concluded therefore that Time is an antinomy implying at once the necessity and impossibility of succession, a self-contradiction, unintelligible and therefore something that cannot be.
Now it may be admitted that there is undoubtedly the successive movement implying a diversity of moments, for otherwise there would be no phenomenon of change and development. But just as all forms and names
are potentially present in the Infinite and therefore reconciled with each other through their common basis in the Infinite, even so the diversity which succession implies may be regarded as inherent in the Infinite and therefore reconciled with each other through the same common basis.
This would mean that the Infinite is at once the basis of Time and Time itself, an infinite extension by self-projection and an eternal successive movement by selfobservation; for if it is not an extension, it cannot be the basis serving as the common support of successive moments: and this extension presupposes a power of selfprojection on the part of the omnipotent Infinite. Again, if it is not successive movements the latter would be alien and therefore unrelated to it; and this successive movement presupposes a power of successive self-observation. But there is no impossibility in the Infinite having this double power. For neither self-projection nor self-observation involves any unbridgeable division in the Infinite. For if there were such division we can arrive at it by analysis of the presented Time at irreducible and indivisible units of moment.
But what we find on the contrary is that any given unit of Time is infinitely divisible; and this means that at the bottom of the presented Time, there is something which always remains undivided. In fact, we can even go farther and say that since there is infinite, divisibility there is in reality no such thing as a process of division which can break the given object into two unbridgeable units. What we call division is then merely demarcation which delimits but does not cut. We may then conclude that the infinite Time-Extension and successive Time-Eternity imply no impossible division in the Infinite but they are only a process of self-delimitation which can justifiably be attributed to the omnipotent power of the Infinite. Indeed, an omnipotent Will exercising freely its power of selflimitation is the secret of all creation and causality.