Great chain of being

The Great Chain of Being is a hierarchical structure of all matter and life, thought in medieval Christianity to have been decreed by God. The chain starts with God and progresses downward to angels, demons (fallen/renegade angels), stars, moon, kings, princes, nobles, commoners, wild animals, domesticated animals, trees, other plants, precious stones, precious metals and other minerals.[1]

The Great Chain of Being (Latin: scala naturae, "Ladder of Being") is a concept derived from Plato, Aristotle (in his Historia Animalium), Plotinus and Proclus. Further developed during the Middle Ages, it reached full expression in early modern Neoplatonism.[2][3]

Great Chain of Being 2
1579 drawing of the Great Chain of Being from Didacus Valades, Rhetorica Christiana

Divisions

The Chain of Being is composed of a great number of hierarchical links, from the most basic and foundational elements up through the very highest perfection: God.[4]

God sits at the top of the chain, and beneath him sit the angels, both existing wholly in spirit form. Earthly flesh is fallible and ever-changing, mutable. Spirit, however, is unchanging and permanent. This sense of permanence is crucial to understanding this conception of reality. It is generally impossible to change the position of an object in the hierarchy. (One exception might be in the realm of alchemy, where alchemists attempted to transmute base elements, such as lead, into higher elements, either silver or, more often, gold—the highest element.)[1]

In the natural order, earth (rock) is at the bottom of the chain; this element possesses only the attribute of existence. Each link succeeding upward contains the positive attributes of the previous link and adds at least one other. Rocks possess only existence; the next link up is plants which possess life and existence. Animals add motion and appetite as well.[1]

Man is both mortal flesh, as those below him, and also spirit, as those above. In this dichotomy, the struggle between flesh and spirit becomes a moral one. The way of the spirit is higher, more noble; it brings one closer to God. The desires of the flesh move one away from God. The Christian fall of Lucifer is thought of as especially terrible, as angels are wholly spirit, yet Lucifer defied God (who is the ultimate perfection).[1]

Subdivisions

Each link in the chain might be divided further into its component parts. In medieval secular society, for example, the king is at the top, succeeded by the aristocratic lords and the clergy, and then the peasants below them. Solidifying the king's position at the top of humanity's social order is the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings. The implied permanent state of inequality became a source of popular grievance, and led eventually to political change as in the French Revolution.[5] In the family, the father is head of the household; below him, his wife; below her, their children.

Milton's Paradise Lost ranked the angels (c.f. Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite's ranking of angels), and Christian culture conceives of angels in orders of archangels, seraphim, and cherubim, among others.

Subdivisions are equally apparent among animals. At the top of the animals are wild beasts (such as lions), which were seen as superior as they defied training and domestication. Below them are domestic animals, further sub-divided so that useful animals (such as dogs and horses) are higher than docile creatures (such as sheep). Birds are also sub-divided, with eagles above pigeons, for example. Fish come below birds and are subdivided between actual fish and other sea creatures. Below them come insects, with useful insects such as spiders and bees and attractive creatures such as ladybirds and dragonflies at the top, and unpleasant insects such as flies and beetles at the bottom. At the very bottom of the animal sector are snakes, which are relegated to this position as punishment for the serpent's actions in the Garden of Eden.

Below animals comes the division for plants, which is further subdivided. Trees are at the top, with useful trees such as oaks at the top, and the traditionally demonic yew tree at the bottom. Food-producing plants such as cereals and vegetables are further subdivided.

At the very bottom of the chain are minerals. At the top of this section are metals (further sub-divided, with gold at the top and lead at the bottom), followed by rocks (with granite and marble at the top), soil (subdivided between nutrient-rich soil and low-quality types), sand, grit, dust, and dirt at the very bottom of the entire great chain.

The central concept of the Chain of Being is that everything imaginable fits in somewhere, giving order and meaning to the universe.[1]

The Chain

Carlo Crivelli 007
St Thomas Aquinas classified all beings by rank.

God

God is at the top of the chain and is also external to creation. God exists outside the physical limitations of time and space. He possesses the spiritual attributes of reason, love, and imagination, like all spiritual beings, but he alone possesses the divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. God serves as the model of authority for the strongest, most virtuous, most excellent type of being within any category.

Angelic beings

Angels are beings of pure spirit who have no physical bodies of their own. In order to affect the physical world, angels build temporary bodies for themselves out of particles of earthly elements.[6] Medieval and Renaissance theologians believed angels to possess reason, love, imagination, and, like God, to stand outside the physical limitations of time.[7] They possess sensory awareness unbound by physical organs, and they possess language. They lacked, however, the divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence of God, and they simultaneously lacked the physical passions experienced by humans and animals. Depending upon the author, the class of angels is further subdivided into three, seven, nine, or ten ranks, variously known as triads, orders, or choirs. Each rank has greater power and responsibility than the entities below them. The most common classification is that of Pseudo-Dionysios adopted for example by St. Thomas Aquinas.[8]

Humanity

Die Leiter des Auf- und Abstiegs
The mediaeval scala naturae as a staircase, implying the possibility of progress:[9] Ramon Lull's Ladder of Ascent and Descent of the Mind, 1305

For Medieval and Renaissance thinkers, humans occupy a unique position on the Chain of Being, straddling the world of spiritual beings and the world of physical creation. Humans possess divine powers such as reason, love, and imagination. Like angels, humans are spiritual beings, but unlike angels, human souls are "knotted" to a physical body. As such, they are subject to passions and physical sensations—pain, hunger, thirst, sexual desire—just like other animals lower on the Chain of Being. They also possess the powers of reproduction unlike the minerals and rocks lowest on the Chain of Being. Humans have a particularly difficult position, balancing the divine and the animalistic parts of their nature. For instance, an angel is only capable of intellectual sin such as pride (as evidenced by Lucifer's fall from heaven in Christian belief). Humans, however, are capable of both intellectual sin and physical sins such as lust and gluttony if they let their animal appetites overrule their divine reason. Humans also possess sensory attributes: sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell. Unlike angels, however, their sensory attributes are limited by physical organs (they could only know things discerned through the five senses). The highest-ranking human being is the king.

Animals

BonnetChain
Charles Bonnet's chain of being from Traité d'insectologie, 1745

Animals, like humans higher on the chain, are animated (capable of independent motion). They possess physical appetites and sensory attributes, the number depending upon their position within the Chain of Being. They have limited intelligence and awareness of their surroundings. Unlike humans, they lack spiritual and mental attributes such as immortal souls and the ability to use logic and language. The primate of all animals (the "king of beasts") was variously thought to be either the lion or the elephant. However, each subgroup of animals also has its own primate, an avatar superior in qualities of its type.

Note that avian creatures, linked to the element of air, are considered superior to aquatic creatures linked to the element of water. Air naturally tends to rise and soar above the surface of water, and analogously, aerial creatures are placed higher in the chain.

  • Piscine primate: whale
    • Aquatic mammals
    • Sharks
    • Fish of various sizes and attributes

The chart would continue to descend through various reptiles, amphibians, and insects. The higher up the chart one went, the more noble, mobile, strong, and intelligent the creature in Renaissance belief. At the very bottom of the animal section, we find sessile creatures like the oysters, clams, and barnacles. Like the plants below them, these creatures lack mobility, and are thought to lack various sensory organs such as sight and hearing. However, they are still superior to plants because they have tactile and gustatory senses (touch and taste).

Plants

Plants, like other living creatures, possess the ability to grow in size and reproduce. However, they lack mental attributes and possess no sensory organs. Instead, their gifts include the ability to eat soil, air, and "heat." Plants did have greater tolerances for heat and cold, and immunity to the pain that afflicts most animals. At the very bottom of the botanical hierarchy, fungi and mosses, lacking leaf and blossom, are so limited in form that Renaissance thinkers thought them scarcely above the level of minerals. However, each plant was also thought to be gifted with various edible or medicinal virtues unique to its own type.

  • Trees, with the primate: the oak tree
  • Shrubs
  • Bushes
  • "Crops" (such as wheat)
  • Herbs
  • Ferns
  • Weeds
  • Mosses
  • Fungi

Minerals

Creations of the earth, the lowest of elements, all minerals lack the plant's basic ability to grow and reproduce. They also lack mental attributes and sensory organs found in beings higher on the chain. Their unique gifts, however, are typically their unusual solidity and strength. Many minerals, in fact, were thought to possess magical powers, particularly gems. The mineral primate is the diamond.

Natural science

From Aristotle to Linnaeus

Linnaeus - Regnum Animale (1735)
Linnaeus' classification of animals with mammals ("Quadrupedia") first and worms ("Vermes") last, echoing the scala naturae

The basic idea of a ranking of the world's organisms goes back to Aristotle's biology. In his History of Animals, where he ranked animals over plants based on their ability to move and sense, and graded the animals by their reproductive mode and possession of blood (he ranked all invertebrates as "bloodless").[10]

Aristotle's non-religious concept of higher and lower organisms was taken up by natural philosophers during the Scholastic period to form the basis of the Scala Naturae. The scala allowed for an ordering of beings, thus forming a basis for classification where each kind of mineral, plant and animal could be slotted into place. In medieval times, the great chain was seen as a God-given ordering: God at the top, dirt at the bottom, every grade of creature in its place. Just as rock never turns to flowers and worms never turn to lions, humans never turn to angels. This was not our lot in life. In the Northern Renaissance, the scientific focus shifted to biology.[11] The threefold division of the chain below humans formed the basis for Linnaeus's Systema Naturæ from 1737, where he divided the physical components of the world into the three familiar kingdoms of minerals, plants and animals.[12]

In alchemy

Alchemy used the great chain as the basis for its cosmology. Since all beings were linked into a chain, so that there was a fundamental unity of all matter, transformation from one place in the chain to the next might, according to alchemical reasoning, be possible. In turn, the unit of matter enabled alchemy to make another key assumption, the philosopher's stone, which somehow gathered and concentrated the universal spirit found in all matter along the chain, and which ex hypothesi might enable the alchemical transformation of one substance to another, such as the base metal lead to the noble metal gold.[13]

Scala naturae in evolution

Human pidegree
The human pedigree recapitulating its phylogeny back to amoeba shown as a reinterpreted chain of being with living and fossil animals. From a critique of Ernst Haeckel's theories, 1873.

The set nature of species, and thus the absoluteness of creatures' places in the great chain, came into question during the 18th century. The dual nature of the chain, divided yet united, had always allowed for seeing creation as essentially one continuous whole, with the potential for overlap between the links.[1] Radical thinkers like Jean-Baptiste Lamarck saw a progression of life forms from the simplest creatures striving towards complexity and perfection, a schema accepted by zoologists like Henri de Blainville.[14] The very idea of an ordering of organisms, even if supposedly fixed, laid the basis for the idea of transmutation of species, for example Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.[15]

The Chain of Being continued to be part of metaphysics in 19th century education, and the concept was well known. The geologist Charles Lyell used it as a metaphor in his 1851 Elements of Geology description of the geological column, where he used the term "missing links" in relation to missing parts of the continuum. The term "missing link" later came to signify transitional fossils, particularly those bridging the gulf between man and beasts.[16]

The idea of the great chain as well as the derived "missing link" was abandoned in early 20th century science,[17] as the notion of modern animals representing ancestors of other modern animals was abandoned in biology.[18] The idea of a certain sequence from "lower" to "higher" however lingers on, as does the idea of progress in biology.[19]

Politics

Allenby and Garreau propose the Catholic Church's narrative of the Great Chain of Being kept the peace for centuries in Europe. The very concept of rebellion simply lay outside the reality within which most people lived for to defy the King was to defy God. King James I himself wrote, "The state of monarchy is the most supreme thing upon earth: for kings are not only God's Lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon God's throne, but even by God himself they are called Gods."[15]

The Enlightenment broke this supposed divine plan and fought the last vestiges of feudal hierarchy by creating secular governmental structures that vested power into the hands of ordinary citizens rather than divinely ordained monarchs.[15]

However, scholars such as Brian Tierney[20] and Michael Novak[21] have noted the medieval contribution to democracy and human rights.

Adaptations and similar concepts

The American spiritual writer and philosopher Ken Wilber uses a concept called the "Great Nest of Being" which is similar to the Great Chain of Being, and which he claims to belong to a culture-independent "perennial philosophy" traceable across 3000 years of mystical and esoteric writings. Wilber's system corresponds with other concepts of transpersonal psychology.[22]

In the 1977 book A Guide for the Perplexed, British philosopher and economist E. F. Schumacher wrote that fundamental gaps exist between the existence of minerals, plants, animals and humans, where each of the four classes of existence is marked by a level of existence not shared by that below. Clearly influenced by the great chain of being, but lacking the angels and God, he called his hierarchy the "levels of being". In the book, he claims that science has generally avoided seriously discussing these discontinuities, because they present such difficulties for strictly materialistic science, and they largely remain mysteries.[23]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Arthur O. Lovejoy (1964) [1936], The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-36153-9
  2. ^ "This idea of a great chain of being can be traced to Plato's division of the world into the Forms, which are full beings, and sensible things, which are imitations of the Forms and are both being and not being. Aristotle's teleology recognized a perfect being, and he also arranges all animals by a single natural scale according to the degree of perfection of their souls. The idea of the great chain of being was fully developed in Neoplatonism and in the Middle Ages.", Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy, p. 289 (2004)
  3. ^ Edward P. Mahoney, "Lovejoy and the Hierarchy of Being", Journal of the History of Ideas Vol. 48, No 2, pp. 211-230.
  4. ^ Lovejoy, (1964). This theme permeates the book, but see e.g. p.59
  5. ^ Censer, Jack R. Censer; Hunt, Lynn (2001). Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution. Penn State Press. p. 21. ISBN 0-271-04013-0.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica (PDF). p. 588 – via Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
  7. ^ Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica (PDF). pp. 603–605 – via Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
  8. ^ Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica (PDF). pp. 1189–1191 – via Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
  9. ^ Ruse, Michael (1996). Monad to man: the Concept of Progress in Evolutionary Biology. Harvard University Press. pp. 21–23. ISBN 978-0-674-03248-4.
  10. ^ Singer, Charles. A short history of biology: A General Introduction to the Study of Living Things. Oxford 1931.
  11. ^ Allen Debus, Man and Nature in the Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978).
  12. ^ Linnaeus, Carl (1758). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae :secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin) (10th edition ed.). Stockholm: Laurentius Salvius.
  13. ^ O'Gorman, Frank; Donald, Diana (2005). Ordering the World in the Eighteenth Century. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 63–82. ISBN 978-0-230-51888-9.
  14. ^ Appel, T.A. (1980). "Henri De Blainville and the Animal Series: A Nineteenth-Century Chain of Being". Journal of the History of Biology. 13 (2): 291–319. doi:10.1007/BF00125745. JSTOR 4330767.
  15. ^ a b c Snyder, S. "The Great Chain of Being". Grandview.edu. Retrieved 2017-01-05.
  16. ^ "Why the term "missing links" is inappropriate". Hoxful Monsters. 10 June 2009. Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
  17. ^ Prothero, Donald R. (1 March 2008). "Evolution: What missing link?". New Scientist. 197 (2645): 35–41. doi:10.1016/s0262-4079(08)60548-5. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  18. ^ Ehrlich, Paul R.; Holm, R. W. (1963). The process of evolution. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-07-019130-3. OCLC 255345.
  19. ^ Ruse, Michael (1996). Monad to man: the Concept of Progress in Evolutionary Biology. Harvard University Press. pp. 432–433, and passim. ISBN 978-0-674-03248-4.
  20. ^ Reid, Charles J., Jr (1998). "Book Review | The Medieval Origins of the Western Natural Rights Tradition: The Achievement of Brian Tierney" (PDF). Cornell Law Review. 83: 437–463.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ Novak, Michael (1 October 1990). "Thomas Aquinas, the First Whig: What Our Liberties Owe to a Neapolitan Mendicant". Crisis Magazine (October 1990).
  22. ^ Freeman, Anthony (2006). "A Daniel Come to Judgement? Dennett and the Revisioning of Transpersonal Theory" (PDF). Journal of Consciousness Studies. 13 (3): 95–109. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 3, 2012. Retrieved July 3, 2012.
  23. ^ Pearce, Joseph (2008). "The Education of E.F. Schumacher". God Spy.

Further reading

  • Arthur O. Lovejoy: The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press (1936)
  • E. M. W. Tillyard: The Elizabethan World Picture (1942)

External links

Amazonomachy

In Greek mythology, Amazonomachy (English translation: "Amazon battle"; plural, Amazonomachiai (Ancient Greek: Ἀμαζονομαχίαι) or Amazonomachies) was one of various mythical battles between the Ancient Greeks and the Amazons, a nation of all-female warriors. Many of the myths portrayed were that of Heracles' ninth labor, which was the retrieval of the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, and of Theseus' abduction of Hippolyta, whom he claimed as his wife. Another famous scene portrayed is that of Achilles' victorious battle against Penthesilea during the Trojan war.

The subject was popular in ancient Greek art and Roman art.

Amniote

Amniotes (from Greek ἀμνίον amnion, "membrane surrounding the fetus", earlier "bowl in which the blood of sacrificed animals was caught", from ἀμνός amnos, "lamb") are a clade of tetrapod vertebrates comprising the reptiles, birds, and mammals. Amniotes lay their eggs on land or retain the fertilized egg within the mother, and are distinguished from the anamniotes (fishes and amphibians), which typically lay their eggs in water. Older sources, particularly prior to the 20th century, may refer to amniotes as "higher vertebrates" and anamniotes as "lower vertebrates", based on the discredited idea of the evolutionary great chain of being.

Amniotes are tetrapods (descendants of four-limbed and backboned animals) that are characterised by having an egg equipped with an amnion, an adaptation to lay eggs on land rather than in water as the anamniotes (including frogs) typically do. Amniotes include synapsids (mammals along with their extinct kin) and sauropsids (reptiles and birds), as well as their ancestors, back to amphibians. Amniote embryos, whether laid as eggs or carried by the female, are protected and aided by several extensive membranes. In eutherian mammals (such as humans), these membranes include the amniotic sac that surrounds the fetus. These embryonic membranes and the lack of a larval stage distinguish amniotes from tetrapod amphibians.The first amniotes, referred to as "basal amniotes", resembled small lizards and evolved from the amphibian reptiliomorphs about 312 million years ago, in the Carboniferous geologic period. Their eggs could survive out of the water, allowing amniotes to branch out into drier environments. The eggs could also "breathe" and cope with wastes, allowing the eggs and the amniotes themselves to evolve into larger forms.

The amniotic egg represents a critical divergence within the vertebrates, one enabling amniotes to reproduce on dry land—free of the need to return to water for reproduction as required of the amphibians. From this point the amniotes spread around the globe, eventually to become the dominant land vertebrates. Very early in their evolutionary history, basal amniotes diverged into two main lines, the synapsids and the sauropsids, both of which persist into the modern era. The oldest known fossil synapsid is Protoclepsydrops from about 312 million years ago, while the oldest known sauropsid is probably Paleothyris, in the order Captorhinida, from the Middle Pennsylvanian epoch (c. 306–312 million years ago).

An Essay on Man

An Essay on Man is a poem published by Alexander Pope in 1733–1734. It is an effort to rationalize or rather "vindicate the ways of God to man" (l.16), a variation of John Milton's claim in the opening lines of Paradise Lost, that he will "justify the ways of God to men" (1.26). It is concerned with the natural order God has decreed for man. Because man cannot know God's purposes, he cannot complain about his position in the Great Chain of Being (ll.33-34) and must accept that "Whatever IS, is RIGHT" (l.292), a theme that was satirized by Voltaire in Candide (1759). More than any other work, it popularized optimistic philosophy throughout England and the rest of Europe.

Pope's Essay on Man and Moral Epistles were designed to be the parts of a system of ethics which he wanted to express in poetry. Moral Epistles has been known under various other names including Ethic Epistles and Moral Essays.

On its publication, An Essay on Man received great admiration throughout Europe. Voltaire called it "the most beautiful, the most useful, the most sublime didactic poem ever written in any language". In 1756 Rousseau wrote to Voltaire admiring the poem and saying that it "softens my ills and brings me patience". Kant was fond of the poem and would recite long passages from it to his students.Later however, Voltaire renounced his admiration for Pope's and Leibniz's optimism and even wrote a novel, Candide, as a satire on their philosophy of ethics. Rousseau also critiqued the work, questioning "Pope's uncritical assumption that there must be an unbroken chain of being all the way from inanimate matter up to God."The essay, written in heroic couplets, comprises four epistles. Pope began work on it in 1729, and had finished the first three by 1731. They appeared in early 1733, with the fourth epistle published the following year. The poem was originally published anonymously; Pope did not admit authorship until 1735.

Pope reveals in his introductory statement, "The Design," that An Essay on Man was originally conceived as part of a longer philosophical poem which would have been expanded on through four separate books. According to his friend and editor, William Warburton, Pope intended to structure the work as follows:

The four epistles which had already been published would have comprised the first book. The second book was to contain another set of epistles, which in contrast to the first book would focus on subjects such as human reason, the practical and impractical aspects of varied arts and sciences, human talent, the use of learning, the science of the world, and wit, together with "a satire against the misapplication" of those same disciplines. The third book would discuss politics and religion, while the fourth book was concerned with "private ethics" or "practical morality." The following passage, taken from the first two paragraphs of the opening verse of the second epistle, is often quoted by those familiar with Pope's work, as it neatly summarizes some of the religious and humanistic tenets of the poem:

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan

The proper study of Mankind is Man.

Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,

A Being darkly wise, and rudely great:

With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,

With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,

He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;

In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;

In doubt his mind or body to prefer;

Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;

Alike in ignorance, his reason such,

Whether he thinks too little, or too much;

Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus'd;

Still by himself, abus'd or disabus'd;

Created half to rise and half to fall;

Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all,

Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;

The glory, jest and riddle of the world.

Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides,

Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;

Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,

Correct old time, and regulate the sun;

Go, soar with Plato to th’ empyreal sphere,

To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;

Or tread the mazy round his followers trod,

And quitting sense call imitating God;

As Eastern priests in giddy circles run,

And turn their heads to imitate the sun.

Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule—

Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!

In the above example, Pope's thesis is that man has learnt about nature and God's creation through science; consequently, science has given man power, but having become intoxicated by this power, man has begun to think that he is "imitating God". In response, Pope declares the species of man to be a "fool", absent of knowledge and plagued by "ignorance" in spite of all the progress achieved through science. Pope argues that humanity should make a study of itself, and not debase the spiritual essence of the world with earthly science, since the two are diametrically opposed to one another: man should "presume not God to scan".

Anchorite

An anchorite or anchoret (female: anchoress; adj. anchoritic; from Ancient Greek: ἀναχωρητής, anachōrētḗs, "one who has retired from the world", from the verb ἀναχωρέω, anachōréō, signifying "to withdraw", "to retire") is someone who, for religious reasons, withdraws from secular society so as to be able to lead an intensely prayer-oriented, ascetic, or Eucharist-focused life. Whilst anchorites are frequently considered to be a type of religious hermit, unlike hermits they were required to take a vow of stability of place, opting instead for permanent enclosure in cells often attached to churches. Also unlike hermits, anchorites were subject to a religious rite of consecration that closely resembled the funeral rite, following which they would be considered dead to the world, a type of living saint. Anchorites had a certain autonomy, as they did not answer to any ecclesiastical authority other than the bishop.The anchoritic life is one of the earliest forms of Christian monasticism. In the Catholic Church today, it is one of the "Other Forms of Consecrated Life" and governed by the same norms as the consecrated eremitic life. In England, the earliest recorded anchorites existed in the 11th century. Their highest number—around 200 anchorites—were recorded in the 13th century.From the 12th to the 16th centuries, female anchorites consistently outnumbered their male counterparts, sometimes by as many as four to one (in the 13th century), dropping eventually to two to one (in the 15th century). The sex of a high number of anchorites, however, is not recorded for these periods.

Arthur M. Young

Arthur Middleton Young (November 3, 1905 – May 30, 1995) was an American inventor, helicopter pioneer, cosmologist, philosopher, astrologer and author. Young was the designer of Bell Helicopter's first helicopter, the Model 30, and inventor of the stabilizer bar used on many of Bell's early helicopter designs. He founded the "Institute for the Study of Consciousness" in Berkeley in 1972. Young advocated process philosophy, an attempt to integrate the realm of human thought and experience with the realm of science so that the concept of universe is not limited to that which can be physically measured. Young's theory embraces evolution and the concept of the great chain of being. He has influenced such thinkers as Stanislav Grof and Laban Coblentz.

Arthur Oncken Lovejoy

Arthur Oncken Lovejoy (October 10, 1873 – December 30, 1962) was an American philosopher and intellectual historian, who founded the discipline known as the history of ideas with his book The Great Chain of Being (1936), on the topic of that name, which is regarded as 'probably the single most influential work in the history of ideas in the United States during the last half century'.

Bojana Barltrop

Bojana Barltrop (born Bojana Jovanovic, in 1949 in Skopje, Yugoslavia. Also known as Bojana Komadina) is an artist and photographer. Barltrop's process-based body of work and research investigate the relationship between desire and politics through the lenses of the performative body and the architectural space.

History of ideas

The history of ideas is a field of research in history that deals with the expression, preservation, and change of human ideas over time. The history of ideas is a sister-discipline to, or a particular approach within, intellectual history. Work in the history of ideas may involve interdisciplinary research in the history of philosophy, the history of science, or the history of literature. In Sweden, the history of ideas and science or Idé- och lärdomshistoria has been a distinct university subject since 6 November 1932, when Johan Nordström, a scholar of literature, was appointed professor of the new discipline in a ceremony at Uppsala University (coinciding with that commemorating the 300-year anniversary of the Battle of Lützen). Today, several universities across the world provide courses in this field, usually as part of a graduate programme.

Ken Wilber

Kenneth Earl Wilber II (born January 31, 1949) is an American writer on transpersonal psychology and his own integral theory, a systematic philosophy which suggests the synthesis of all human knowledge and experience.

Lion (color)

Lion is a color that is a representation of the average color of the fur of a lion.

The lion is a feline top predator found in Africa and India.

The lion was poetically called the king of beasts in the great chain of being, one of the bases of medieval philosophy in Western civilization.

The first recorded use of lion as a color name in English was in 1551.The source of this color is: ISCC-NBS Dictionary of Color Names (1955)--Color Sample of Lion (color sample #76).

Missing link (human evolution)

The missing link is a non-scientific term that typically refers to transitional fossils. It is often used in popular science and in the media for any new transitional form that is discovered. The term originated to describe the hypothetical intermediate form in the evolutionary series of anthropoid ancestors to anatomically modern humans (hominization). The term was influenced by the pre-Darwinian evolutionary theory of the Great Chain of Being and the notion that simple organisms are more primitive than complex organisms.

The term "missing link" has fallen out of favor with biologists because it implies the evolutionary process is a linear phenomenon and that forms originate consecutively in a chain. Instead, last common ancestor is preferred since this does not have the connotation of a linear evolution, as evolution is a branching process.

In addition to implying a linear evolution, the term also implies that a particular fossil has not yet been found. Many of the famous discoveries in human evolution are often termed "missing links". For example, there was the Peking Man and the Java Man, despite the fact that these fossils are not missing. Transitional forms that have not been discovered are also termed missing links, however, there is no singular missing link. The scarcity of transitional fossils can be attributed to the incompleteness of the paleontological record (see fossil record). Creationists have used the concept of a missing link to argue that evolution is not a valid theory.

Natural history

Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms including animals, fungi and plants in their environment; leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history is called a naturalist or natural historian.

Natural history encompasses scientific research but is not limited to it. It involves the systematic study of any category of natural objects or organisms. So while it dates from studies in the ancient Greco-Roman world and the mediaeval Arabic world, through to European Renaissance naturalists working in near isolation, today's natural history is a cross discipline umbrella of many specialty sciences; e.g., geobiology has a strong multi-disciplinary nature.

Religious cosmology

Religious cosmology is an explanation of the origin, evolution, and eventual fate of the universe, from a religious perspective. This may include beliefs on origin in the form of a creation myth, subsequent evolution, current organizational form and nature, and eventual fate or destiny. There are various traditions in religion or religious mythology asserting how and why everything is the way it is and the significance of it all. Religious cosmologies describe the spatial lay-out of the universe in terms of the world in which people typically dwell as well as other dimensions, such as the seven dimensions of religion; these are ritual, experience and emotional, narrative and mythical, doctrinal, ethical, social, and material. Religious mythologies may include descriptions of an act or process of creation by a creator deity or a larger pantheon of deities, explanations of the transformation of chaos into order, or the assertion that existence is a matter of endless cyclical transformations. Religious cosmology differs from a strictly scientific cosmology informed by the results of the study of astronomy and similar fields, and may differ in conceptualizations of the world's physical structure and place in the universe, its creation, and forecasts or predictions on its future. The scope of religious cosmology is more inclusive than a strictly scientific cosmology (physical cosmology) in that religious cosmology is not limited to experiential observation, testing of hypotheses, and proposals of theories; for example, religious cosmology may explain why everything is the way it is or seems to be the way it is and prescribing what humans should do in context. Variations in religious cosmology include those of Indian origin, such as Buddhism, Hindu, and Jain; the religious beliefs of China; and, the beliefs of the Abrahamic faiths, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Religious cosmologies have often developed into the formal logics of metaphysical systems, such as Platonism, Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, Daoism, Kabbalah, or the great chain of being.

Robert E. Kuttner

Robert E. Kuttner (March 10, 1927 - February 19, 1987) was an American biologist and white supremacist.

Species

In biology, a species ( (listen)) is the basic unit of classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexes or mating types can produce fertile offspring, typically by sexual reproduction. Other ways of defining species include their karyotype, DNA sequence, morphology, behaviour or ecological niche. In addition, paleontologists use the concept of the chronospecies since fossil reproduction cannot be examined. While these definitions may seem adequate, when looked at more closely they represent problematic species concepts. For example, the boundaries between closely related species become unclear with hybridisation, in a species complex of hundreds of similar microspecies, and in a ring species. Also, among organisms that reproduce only asexually, the concept of a reproductive species breaks down, and each clone is potentially a microspecies.

All species (except viruses) are given a two-part name, a "binomial". The first part of a binomial is the genus to which the species belongs. The second part is called the specific name or the specific epithet (in botanical nomenclature, also sometimes in zoological nomenclature). For example, Boa constrictor is one of four species of the genus Boa.

None of these are entirely satisfactory definitions, but scientists and conservationists need a species definition which allows them to work, regardless of the theoretical difficulties. If species were fixed and clearly distinct from one another, there would be no problem, but evolutionary processes cause species to change continually, and to grade into one another.

Species were seen from the time of Aristotle until the 18th century as fixed kinds that could be arranged in a hierarchy, the great chain of being. In the 19th century, biologists grasped that species could evolve given sufficient time. Charles Darwin's 1859 book The Origin of Species explained how species could arise by natural selection. That understanding was greatly extended in the 20th century through genetics and population ecology. Genetic variability arises from mutations and recombination, while organisms themselves are mobile, leading to geographical isolation and genetic drift with varying selection pressures. Genes can sometimes be exchanged between species by horizontal gene transfer; new species can arise rapidly through hybridisation and polyploidy; and species may become extinct for a variety of reasons. Viruses are a special case, driven by a balance of mutation and selection, and can be treated as quasispecies.

Spiritual evolution

Spiritual evolution is the philosophical, theological, esoteric or spiritual idea that nature and human beings and/or human culture evolve: either extending from an established cosmological pattern (ascent), or in accordance with certain pre-established potentials. The phrase "spiritual evolution" can occur in the context of "higher evolution", a term used to differentiate psychological, mental, or spiritual evolution from the "lower" or biological evolution of physical form.The concept of spiritual evolution is also complemented by the idea of a creative impulse in human beings, known as epigenesis.Within this broad definition, theories of spiritual evolution are very diverse. They may be cosmological (describing existence at large), personal (describing development of an individual), or both. They can be holistic (holding that higher realities emerge from and are not reducible to the lower), idealist (holding that reality is primarily mental or spiritual) or nondual (holding that there is no ultimate distinction between mental and physical reality). One can regard all of them as teleological to a greater or lesser degree.

Philosophers, scientists, and educators who have proposed theories of spiritual evolution include Schelling (1775-1854), Hegel (1770-1831), Carl Jung (1875-1961), Max Théon (1848-1927), Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891), Henri Bergson (1859-1941), Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), Jean Gebser (1905-1973), Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), Owen Barfield (1898-1997), Arthur M. Young (1905-1995), Edward Haskell (1906-1986), E. F. Schumacher (1911-1977), Erich Jantsch (1929-1980), Clare W. Graves (1914-1986), Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), Terence McKenna (1946-2000), and P. R. Sarkar (1921-1990). As of 2015 William Irwin Thompson (born 1938), Victor Skumin (born 1948), Ken Wilber (born 1949), and Brian Swimme (born 1950) work in this field.

Subtle body

A subtle body is one of a series of psycho-spiritual constituents of living beings, according to various esoteric, occult, and mystical teachings. According to such beliefs each subtle body corresponds to a subtle plane of existence, in a hierarchy or great chain of being that culminates in the physical form.

The subtle body (Sanskrit: sūkṣma śarīra) is important in several Indian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, mainly in the forms which focus on Tantra and Yoga. According to Bhagavad Gita, one of the most sacred texts of Hinduism, the subtle body is composed of mind, intelligence and ego, which controls the gross physical body. In Buddhist Tantra, it is also called the ‘innate body’ (nija-deha) or the ‘uncommon means body’ (asadhdrana-upayadeha).Other spiritual traditions teach similar ideas of a mystical or divine body, such as: "the most sacred body" (wujud al-aqdas) and "true and genuine body" (jism asli haqiqi) in Sufism, the meridian system in Chinese religion, and "the immortal body" (soma athanaton) in Hermeticism. The various attributes of the subtle body are frequently described in terms of often obscure symbolism: Tantra features references to the sun and moon as well as various Indian rivers and deities, while Taoist alchemy speaks of cauldrons and cinnabar fields.

Vascular plant

Vascular plants (from Latin vasculum: duct), also known as tracheophytes (from the equivalent Greek term trachea), form a large group of plants (c. 308,312 accepted known species) that are defined as those land plants that have lignified tissues (the xylem) for conducting water and minerals throughout the plant. They also have a specialized non-lignified tissue (the phloem) to conduct products of photosynthesis. Vascular plants include the clubmosses, horsetails, ferns, gymnosperms (including conifers) and angiosperms (flowering plants). Scientific names for the group include Tracheophyta, Tracheobionta and Equisetopsida sensu lato. The term higher plants should be avoided as a synonym for vascular plants as it is a remnant of the abandoned concept of the great chain of being.

Von Baer's laws (embryology)

Von Baer's laws of embryology (or laws of development) are four rules proposed by Karl Ernst von Baer to explain the observed pattern of embryonic development in different species.Von Baer formulated the laws in the book Über Entwickelungsgeschichte der Thiere ("On the Developmental History of Animals"), published in 1828, while working at the University of Königsberg. He specifically intended to rebut Johann Friedrich Meckel's 1808 recapitulation theory. According to that theory, embryos pass through successive stages that represent the adult forms of less complex organisms in the course of development, and that ultimately reflects scala naturae (the great chain of being). von Baer believed that such linear development is impossible. He posited that instead of linear progression, embryos started from one or a few basic forms that are similar in different animals, and then developed in a branching pattern into increasingly different organisms. Defending his ideas, he was also opposed to Charles Darwin's 1859 theory of common ancestry and descent with modification, and particularly to Ernst Haeckel's revised recapitulation theory with its slogan "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny".

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.