sphere universality

Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless indicated. See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format.)

connectedness
interconnectedness
inter-relatedness
interrelation I, 9;
interwoven I, 37, 133
sphere universality II, 403
NC II, 334

Although each aspect of our temporal experience is “sovereign in its own sphere,” it also displays an indissoluble inter-relation with all other aspects of our experience. This inter-relatedness of our experience is sphere universality. The sides or modalities of reality do not exist in isolation from each other. Each is analogically related to the others by retrocipatory and anticipatory moments in cosmic time. This is the idea that Dooyeweerd develops as “sphere universality.” He compares the aspects to colours refracted by a prism. Although the colours refracted in a prism cannot be reduced to each other [sphere sovereignty], they nevertheless are related to each other in that they come from a common source [sphere universality].

Sphere sovereignty is the “vertical” effect of cosmic time as it refracts meaning, and sphere universality is the “horizontal” continuity across these aspects:

The coherence of meaning of the law spheres is an order of cosmic time. In our religious a priori we refer this back to divine predestination in the broadest sense of plan for the world. It is a law-order of a horizontal nature that spans particularized meaning, in contrast to the vertical, which comes to expression in particularized meaning by sovereignty in its own sphere. (I, 70).

The coherence of the aspects is maintained “horizontally” by cosmic time. The kernel of the aspect, the sovereignty in its own sphere, is related “vertically” to the sovereignty of God, and to us as the image of God who expresses the aspects. What in the totality of meaning has no meaning is the sovereignty in own sphere in the particularity of meaning (I, 71).

Sphere universality allows the Christian to see the true connection between temporal reality and the Christian reliigojn in the theoretical cognitive attitude.

Anyone who, as a Christian thinker, has seen through the modal sphere-universality, cannot fall back into the nominalistic dualism between believing and thinking, and between ‘nature’ and ‘grace.’ Every dualism of this kind makes the temporal modal functions self-sufficient with regard to their religious root. But there is nothing in time that can be set apart and by itself (NC II, 334).

Steen points out that many students of Dooyeweerd emphasize only the modal law spheres and sphere sovereignty. The ideas of the continuity of time and temporal coherence are not emphasized enough. Sphere universality says nothing is unrelated to anything else in the temporal world. Steen 246.Because individuality structures ar an experiential dimension that relies on the modal dimension, there is also an inter-connectedness among things.

With respect to temporal reality, Dooyeweerd opposed Heidegger’s view of it as “Vorhandenes.” Nor is is a rigid atomistic view (II, 490). Reality is dynamic in the inter-relatedness of its temporal aspects, and in its relatedness to its religious root.

Sphere Universality in Baader:

Dooyeweerd’s emphasis on sphere universality is also to be found in Baader. Baader says that the Center is also in the periphery; the points on the periphery communicate with each other via the Center (Fermenta VI, 1). The Center is the intermediary between two peripheral points; the Center inhabits, perhabits and cohabits the periphery (Fermenta 250, note o). The Center is present in every single point, both as filling it and as containing it. The whole is placed in each part of the organism. ‘Totum in toto et totum in qualibet parte’ (Werke 1, 74; VIII, 74; cited by Sauer 172). In one light we see all partial lights; word, partial words (Werke 5,85 fn 2)

Baader also emphasizes that the particular centers in the temporal world are all interconnected. All of the universe as center and as point of beginning and endpoint; all receive influences and all acts. Interdependence is the grand law of the universe (Susini 107).

Sphere Universality in Comparative Mysticism

Dooyeweerd’ pre-theoretical experience is an inter-related view of temporal reality. What does this inter-relatedness of naive experience look like? It is so different from our normal Western philosophical viewpoint that we need some help to snap out of our way of regarding the world (and ourselves). I believe that we can be helped to overcome our British empiricist traditions by looking at nondual views of perception. Nondual perception is the seeing of the “essential interdependence” or interrelatedness of the cosmos. The Hua-Yen Buddhist tradition has a story about this inter-relatedness in the story of “Indra’s Net.” This story symbolizes our cosmos as an infinitely repeated interrelationship among all its members–as a net of jewels, each of which reflects all the other jewels. One of the best versions of that story is given by the Vietnamese Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh:

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow, and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either…
If you look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the tree cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too…
You cannot point out one thing that is not here–time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything co-exists with this sheet of paper…As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it. (Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Understanding (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1988), 3-5).

Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of the “interbeing nature of things.” If everything is inter-related, then nothing has its own self-contained existence. The centre is everywhere. This is a nondual view the cosmos.

David Loy writes about this Buddhist view of interrelationship, which is related to the Buddhist view of “emptiness.” This view of inter-relatedness is non-linear. It has implications for our ideas of causality and for our views of teleology. But he does say that there may be another type of causation could be consistent with Indra’s Net:

…at each interstice is a jewel which may be said to be empty because it simply reflects all the other jewels; but it may also be said to contain all the others. Thus our cosmos is symbolized as an infinitely repeated interrelationship among all its members–each one of which encompasses and expresses all the others. This is very different from our more usual linear and temporal conception of causality; Jung’s concept of synchronicity–“an acausal connecting principle.” (“The Difference between samsara and nirvana,” Philosophy East and West (Oct. 1983), vol. 33 no. 4, p. 363)

Dooyeweerd’s view of Christian nonduality differs from this view in a very important way. I believe that he agrees with the story of Indra’s net in regarding the temporal world as inter-related. He says that in our everyday temporal naive experience, we do not view “things” separately. And he says that there is no substance whereby things exist apart from us, as things in themselves. But he says that the entire temporal cosmos finds its center in the supratemporal root of humanity, which was redeemed in Christ. Temporal reality does not exist except in this center.

But Dooyeweerd also emphasizes that we cannot use causality from a temporal perspective of the physical aspect in order to explain the inter-relationship. God’s sovereignty is not to be explained using a physical idea of causality. We need to explore further how temporal inter-relatedness may relate to what Loy has written.

Note: ‘Interwoven’ may also refer to the enkaptic interlacement.

Dooyeweerd’ pre-theoretical experience is an inter-related view of temporal reality. What does this inter-relatedness of naive experience look like? It is so different from our normal Western philosophical viewpoint that we need some help to snap out of our way of regarding the world (and ourselves). I believe that we can be helped to overcome our British empiricist traditions by looking at nondual views of perception. Nondual perception is the seeing of the “essential interdependence” or interrelatedness of the cosmos. The Hua-Yen Buddhist tradition has a story about this inter-relatedness in the story of “Indra’s Net.” This story symbolizes our cosmos as an infinitely repeated interrelationship among all its members–as a net of jewels, each of which reflects all the other jewels. One of the best versions of that story is given by the Vietnamese Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh:

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow, and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either…
If you look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the tree cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too…
You cannot point out one thing that is not here–time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything co-exists with this sheet of paper…As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it.
If everything is inter-related, then nothing has its own self-contained existence. The centre is everywhere. This is a nondual view the cosmos.

Dooyeweerd’s Christian nonduality differs from this view in a very important way. I believe that he agrees with the story of Indra’s net in regarding the temporal world as inter-related. He says that in our everyday temporal naive experience, we do not view “things” separately. And he says that there is no substance whereby things exist apart from us, as things in themselves. But he says that the entire temporal cosmos finds its center in the supratemporal root of humanity, which was redeemed in Christ. Temporal reality does not exist except in this center.

The Buddhist idea of impermanence may also help us to understand sphere universality in its relation to lack of permanence of things. Dooyeweerd refers to the complete relativity [i.e. interconnectedness] and lack of self-sufficiency of all that is created. (II, 123).But cosmic time also relativizes this particularity of the particular law-spheres by maintaining a coherence of meaning. the coherence is the “horizontal” order that spans across the aspects. (I, 70-71). Even the structure of an aspect is only a relative structure. “The structure of a specific aspect is always a unity in diversity of moments and never an absolute unity above the moments.” (“Introduction to a Transcendental Criticism of Philosophic Thought” Evangelical Quarterly, 51). And individuality structures are relative unities in diversity, a relative unity in a multiplicity of functions. (NC III, 65).

Revised May 17/04