Tag Archives: actuality

Li and Chi representing hidden and manifest Actuality

5 Apr

Li and Chi representing hidden and manifest Actuality

After reading Ruth E. Kastner’s book, Understanding our Unseen Reality, (2015) and re-reading sections of R.G.H. Siu’s book, Chi, (1974), out of an interest, I decided to speculate about an apparent commonality between two perspectives. While throughout the history of Chinese philosophical thought the expressions Li and Chi have had significantly diverse meanings, this short paper compares Li and Chi to the new noumenon and phenomenon aspects described in the Transactional Interpretation of quantum physics.

Chuang Tsu, Chinese philosopher of the 4th Century BC, had described characteristics of Chi as “When the Chi condenses, its visibility becomes apparent so that there are then the shapes (of individual things). When it disperses, its visibility is no longer apparent and there are no shapes. At the time of its condensation, can one say otherwise than that this is but temporary? But at the time of its dispersing, can one hastily say that it is then nonexistent?” For Tsu, Chi/Qi described vital force functions as the dynamic force out of which all objects or events emerge and into which they all return when their manifestation is completed.

Chu Hsi, an important neo-Confucian Chinese philosopher, (1130-1200) expanded on this concept by stating that there is ‘Li’ which is the underlying yet hidden base essence of the universe, and Chi is the expressed Li in concrete form. He wrote: “In the universe, there are Li and Chi. Li is that which pertains to what is before shapes, and is the source from which all things are produced. The Chi is the material (literally, instrument) that pertains to ‘what is within shapes,’ and is the means whereby things are produced. Hence men or things, at the moment of their production, must receive this Li in order that they may have a nature of their own. They must receive Chi in order that they may have their bodily form.” (Reply to Huang Tao-fu, Collected Literary Writings)

Therefore, Chi is described as the condensed material that creates and is expressed in the uniqueness of the many myriad forms of the macroscopic, spacetime world giving rise to everything manifested. On the other hand, Li, of the microscopic or, I suggest, quantum world, is the essence for the macroscopic world. That is, it is in the realm of ‘no things’ or virtual, that is Li. Hence, a ‘thing’ is a concrete manifestation of Li and it therefore, possesses Li from the first moment of its existence. It is Li that makes things what they are. Thus, according to neo-Confucianism, all categories of objects, sentient or not, possess Li. Since manifested Chi depends upon the Li for its operation, when there is an agglomeration of Chi, Li is also present within it. Chi is the Li as the capacity to condense and thus form things. Yet, the Li constitutes only a pure and ‘empty’ world, without shapes or traces. “But the Chi is the capacity to undergo fermentation and condensation, and thus bring things into existence. And yet, whenever the Chi exists, the Li is present within it.” (Recorded Sayings, chtian 1.) The Chi that moves is called the Yang; the Chi that rests is called the Yin. Thus, according to Chu Hsi, the dualistic elements that are the fundamentals of the universe in Chinese cosmology are produced. He says: “Whereas the Yang is in movement and the Yin in quiescence, the Supreme Ultimate is neither in movement nor in quiescence. But there are the Li of movement and of quiescence. These Li are invisible, and become manifest to us only when there are the movement of the Yang and the quiescence of the Yin. The Li rests upon the Yin and Yang just as a man rides on a horse.” (Complete Works, chiian 49.)

We recognize a similarity of Hsi’s Li and Chi to Kastner’s description of the transaction process that creates spacetime and the manifest objects that are found there. This consists in the idea that there is more to reality than spacetime, and that quantum theory is what describes that subtler, unseen reality. In this hypothesis, quantum processes take place in a realm scaffolding the spacetime realm. Quanta are not contained in our spacetime world but in the realm of possibilities outside spacetime. Kastner explains that according to the transaction interpretation of quantum systems, such as electrons, travel by what is a physical entity called an offer wave , which is offered from a source called an emitter, to a destination called an absorber. The microscopic emitters and absorbers are quantum objects and not in spacetime. When there is absorption of the offer, this process gives rise to a confirmation wave that travels back to the emitter. This process of an offer responded to by a confirmation is the basic ‘handshake’. The confirmation is also like a mirror image of the offer representing an incipient transaction whose essence is merely possible energy rather than real energy. The process of the creation of new particles can only be treated by relativitsic quantum mechanics.

Once there is a matching confirmation, then the property is defined as actualized, brought into spacetime and is a classical property. The incipient transaction is actualized and becomes an observable event in the macroworld.A spacetime object begins at the point at which a confirmation has been generated. Real energy is only conveyed in the actualized transaction, in fact, only through an actualized transaction can real energy be radiated or transferred from one object to another. So indeed, a reliable macroscopic object is a consistent absorber and can be defined as a system of many actualized transactions. Kastner uses the example of a geiger counter to illustrate the difference of the two ‘worlds’. A geiger counter exists as an object in the macroscopic world being a conglomerate of actualized transactions. But it also maintains its roots in the quantumland domain of possibilities because it is comprised of atoms, which can act as emitters or absorbers. Measurement occurs both whenever an absorber is accessible to an emitter and when confirmations are generated.

So we can consider that the emitted offer wave from ‘quantumland’ or ‘Li’ is actualized in the transaction or ‘Chi’ created from the process at the inherently unpredictable quantum level to the macroscopic level of transformed spacetime events. In fact, there is no spacetime or things and substance apart from those transforming events. In the subtler level of uncertainty or quantum, emission or absorption of transaction are not automatically assured, they are only tendencies: the swapping of virtual quanta which do not participate in energy transferring transactions unless they are elevated to offer waves or real photons.

The distinction between macroscopic world and microscopic or quantum world is made when classical physics describes the macro of atoms and other fundamental components of matter while the underlying hidden actuality corresponds to the quantum level. For humans then, the essence of existence is fundamentally ‘quantumland’ or Li while our experienced Actual as expressed through Chi is the manifested in spacetime.

So everything around us is the result of an actualized event established through actualized transactions. This is the world of appearance or spacetime. But all those events are brought into spacetime from the vast unseen hidden reality of quantumland which exists as the essential scaffolding that supports our spacetime world of experience. In this light, it becomes possible to clearly draw the similarities between the Chu Hsi’s Neo-Confucian concepts of Li and Chi with Kastner’s proposed operation of quantumland and spacetime. This matching of perspective helps to illuminate the position of both on the operation of forces in the universe.


Actuality and Reality in the Buddha’s Teachings

16 Aug

Actuality and Reality in the Buddha’s Teachings
I was surfing the net and came across an image of two sign posts, each pointing in an opposite direction; one direction pointed to Reality and the other, Truth. This demarcation was surprising because often Truth, or Actuality, and Reality are understood as synonymous, depending on whether we use small or big dictionaries. The shorter the annotation, the more “actual” means the same as “real”, while in more extensive annotation, Actuality is “what it is”, and it is the addition of subjective and conscious factors that create Reality. Our Reality, or our “world”, is how we understand and cognitively organize the complexities of existence. We make a “model” of life and operate along those guidelines. In addition, this “world” serves as both a means to process incoming information and as a filter. It not only determines what we pay attention to of Actuality, but what it means. In the Buddha’s teachings, Reality and Actuality are described as very different states of mind. Understanding this significant difference between the meanings of Actuality and Reality has enormous consequences in comprehending the profundity of the Buddha’s teachings.
In the Buddha’s teachings Reality and Actuality are very different, and this difference is significant. Let’s further explore this difference – an Actuality is that which involves action or exists in motion and can never be considered static. Reality is that which is perceived with a subjective consciousness and interpretation, meaning, or value. Actuality is universal, while Reality is that which is idiosyncratic. Reality is a person’s cognitively determined interpretations, perceptions, assumptions, cultural indoctrination, motivations, and countless other subjective elements that make up how something is perceived. It is what one thinks occurred. All the representations of our Reality are just representations, not Actuality. While an Actuality that is independent of any human conceptualization/construction exists, pre-enlightened beings normally experience only an interpretation of that as Reality. Pre-enlightened people react to their Reality, not to the actual and therefore, the same event can be viewed in countless different ways. One person’s Reality may be the opposite of another’s, with very different interpretations. However, Truth is beyond representation, is the antecedent behind the referent, it is the Tathatā.
As Paul J. Griffins described in his book, On Being Buddha, “The technical term actuality (Tathatā) used here is key. It is an abstract noun denoting the way things are, the true nature of things, and is often used as a synonym for Buddha, an accurate mirroring or reflecting of things as they are. Buddha understood actuality is naturally pure and radiant, and it is this natural purity that makes possible the perfections of cognitions and actions. Implicit in this is that actuality can be defiled and in need of purification because of affective and cognitive obstructions (affective is hate, passion and delusion) and cognitively by doxastic habits and false beliefs. The removal of obstructions is called ‘the radical reorientation of actuality’.” (1)
The Buddha referred to himself as Tathagata, which when interpreted correctly can be read as “One who has arrived at suchness”. Suchness is also referred to as sunyata,emptiness, or void. Tathatā, as a central concept of Buddhism, expresses appreciation of the void nature of existence in any given moment. Tathatā is the purified mind in its natural, empty state, free of obscuration. Sunyata is seen not as a negation, but rather as the ground out of which all apparent entities, distinctions, and dualities cognitively arise. It denotes the way things are in Truth or Actuality and is therefore beyond the range of
conceptual thought. (2) There is no worldly knowledge, be it science or philosophy, which can lead to the attainment of the state of Tathatā. The experience of Actuality, “as it is”, is one of the goals of bhavana or mental cultivation practice. Meditation as bhavana is prescriptive as a method to transcend the ways in which people normally experience “Reality” in order to attain a higher, pure state of Tathatā mind. For the Buddha, many conventional ways in which Reality is interpreted are seen as pathological; for example, the imposition of constructs and concepts onto Actuality, maintaining the notion of a substantial self, and applying dichotomous constructs to interpret Actuality. The Buddhist path to the state of Tathatā is via the development of supreme wisdom of an equanimous
and discriminating mind through bhavana, or mind cultivation of the Eightfold Path.
Rodger Ricketts, Psy.D.
1. On Being Buddha: The Classical Doctrine of Buddhahood Paul J. Griffiths SUNY Press, 1994
2. The Buddha’s Teachings: Seeing without Illusion, Rodger R Ricketts Callistol Green. 2013