What moves matter?

Original copyrighted photo by D. Bridge

During my research for my dissertation I encountered the work of the pre-Socratic philosopher, Empedocles. “Pre-Socratic” means that he lived before the time of Socrates, who appears to be a widely recognized as a philosopher of ancient Greece. Socrates lived between the years of 370 and 399 BCE. Empedocles lived from 490-430 BCE, so he died 60 years before Socrates was born. Socrates is widely held to be the father of Western Philosophy.

That question that stopped me in my tracks at the moment of reading it was simply “What makes matter move?” My immediate thought was, “Indeed! What DOES make matter move?” I knew from basic physics that an object at rest stays at rest until some “unbalanced force” acts upon it. Also, an object in motion stays in motion at the same velocity and direction, unless acted upon by a “force”. These observations would eventually become Newton’s First Law of Motion. Issac Newton lived from 1643 to 1747. From the time of Empedocles to the time of Newton is a long time of reflecting on the nature of motion!

Consider again the definition of “matter” as cited in the previous paragraph. According to this definition, matter, the fundamentals of which we acknowledge as being earth, wind, fire and air are constuients of all of the observable substance in the observable universe. This gave me an answer to the relationship of the human individual to the earth. The “matter” of the human body consists of the same materials as the observable universe. We are made of the same “stuff”. Therefore, each individual human has a physical aspect which is the “matter” of the human body. Of course, the answer to the question about what will move this “matter” of the human body, using the terminology of modern day science, is energy. We humans are made up of matter and energy.

Now the definition goes on to inform us that this “matter”, together with energy, forms the basis of all objective phenomena. I have to admit this sometimes hurts my brain to sit and contemplate! Matter + energy = everything! Or, in other words, everything in the observable universe is made up of matter plus energy.

Here is a point in my reasoning that requires a bit of a review of history. We have already discussed that Empedocles lived in the 5th century B.C.E. and Issac Newton lived during the 18th century C.E. I considered this to be significant, because before the 18th century there was no separation between religion and science. In fact, the early day scientists in Europe were monks of the Roman Catholic Church. It was during the late 17th and the 18th century that Western thought underwent a transformative period in Western Europe and to which we now refer as the Age of Enlightenment. The work of Issac Newton was certainly a significant part of the early years of the Age of Enlightenment, also referred to as the Age of Reason. Between the era of the time of Empedocles and the era of the Enlightenment there was a major shift in Western thought the impact of which we continue to experience in this day and age.

It was during this Age of Enlightenment/Age of Reason that primacy was given to knowledge that was apprehended through observation and measurement as perceived through the five human senses. Over time ways to augment these five senses have been developed such as telescopes, which to bring that which is too far away, or microscopes, to magnify that which is too small, to be observed by the human eye. But even with these developments in technologies it is still that which is observable and measurable by the five human senses that has become supremely acceptable as verifiable knowledge – at least in the world of Western thought. With this way of knowing being given pre-eminence over all ways of knowing, that which could not be apprehended in this manner was set aside. It is my suggestion that this is how the separation between science and religion came about. Employing the philosophy of Positivism from France, those in the area of science claimed for themselves systems that confine themselves to the data of experience and excludes  a priori or metaphysical data. That which Science rejected from its consideration was left behind in the disciplines of Religion and Theology.

I have been reflecting on this for several years now. Over my lifetime I have studied a number of religions and through this I became aware that what always seemed to be at the center of each religion, the aspect which is more esoteric than exoteric, was a call to love. However, if one observes how the world around us works, it seems as if, for some reason, we humans often choose strife as the source of energy to make us (matter) move. In fact, religion is often a cause of strife in the very manner in which it calls the faithful to chose love.

Now, why does any of this even matter? In many ways, it doesn’t, I imagine. But as I have been reflecting on the relationship between our bodies (matter) and our spirits (energy) I am finding it intriguing that the fundamental answer to the question of what moves matter is identified by Empedocles, approximately 2500 years ago, can today give cause for me to reflect on what energy(spirit) do I choose to use when trying to make a decision about something I am doing (moving the matter of me).

You are invited to add your own reflection - I look forward to hearing what you have to say:

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