The Consolation of Ontology – On the Substantial and Nonsubstantial Models. Written by Egon Bondy, Translated by Benjamin. B. Page. Published by: Lexington Books, 4720 Boston Way, Lanham, Maryland 10706, USA and 12 Hid’s Copse Road, Cumnor Hill, Oxford, OX2 9JJ, UK
This is not a book for the faint-hearted, the text is dense and sometimes Bondy seems to rely more on assertion than rigorous argument. However, it is a very rewarding read for anyone who is interested in the nature of reality and quite often the technical language is lightened by lovely touches of humour. The work provides refreshing insights into the old debate about what it is for things to exist. However it also, as the translator’s introduction records, ‘…deals with the question of the purpose of human life.’ There are very many interesting resonances between Bondy’s work and the ideas expressed on this web site.
First, Bondy examines what he calls ‘the substantial model’ of existence; that is, the notion that there is a ‘hard’ reality which persists, regardless of whether or not it is perceived by sentient beings. Bondy makes his repugnance towards the substantial model very evident but he admits that he cannot refute it, for the same reason that he cannot disprove the existence of griffins. The implication is that the ‘hard’ approach to reality is somehow intrinsically unreal. Bondy points out that belief in such a substrate leads to all manner of metaphysical problems. He examines various ideas of the god who might be, or have created, such a substrate and comes to the conclusion that all such accounts are inherently self-contradictory. He goes on to argue that belief in the substantial model is seriously detrimental to creativity and the good ordering of human relationships.
In the second part of the book, Bondy explains the advantages of a ‘non-substantial’ approach. This formulation has self-conscious beings as central. He acknowledges that there are many problems associated with the alternative approach but suggests that, unlike the case with the rival system, they are all ultimately solvable. Bondy proposes that a huge advantage of adopting the nonsubstantial model is that all limitations to human activity are removed. He acknowledges that this is a frightening prospect, especially for those powerful people who have vested interests in curtailing individual freedoms, but pleads that fear should be no deterrent.
What follows is a by no means exhaustive summary of ways in which Bondy’s development of the nonsubstantial model foreshadows the ideas expressed in the Alphomist web site.
Life after death
Though he does not make a very specific claim, Bondy seems to concur with the notion that the creation of life after death will be the work of conscious beings. He writes: ‘For death is not invincible for those who control the evolution of the universe. Even today this problem of death is not just a fairy tale but a matter for systematic scientific work…..will a way not be found to ‘transfer’ memory and other contents of the brain into some specially prepared synthetic moulds?’
With apparent approval, he also writes: ‘Manicheans had the deeply human belief that those in paradise would never be fully happy until all who had previously died had been restored to life and united with them, regardless of how they had lived…’
This latter sentiment is very much in line with Alphomist thinking.
‘Regretfully we must confess that we have no idea what ‘spirit’ is…I should be delighted to have some instruction on this point, provided that it be more adequate than that of St. Augustine and his successors.’
‘From a purely practical viewpoint belief in reincarnation is totally unnecessary (this is so even if we disregard its deadening fatalistic consequences). If after death I reappear again as XY who has not the least recollection of me, then this XY can be an object of complete indifference to me.’
‘In the nonsubstantial model, determinism is impossible (I am still thinking of rigorous, mechanistic, ‘100%’ determinism – i.e. I am not confusing determinism with causality!)’
‘Determinism as a ‘quality’ of matter or of ontological reality is simply a mystery without explanation – and obviously without any reason for having been postulated.’
The fundamental alteration of energy through organisation
‘..sooner or later the molecules, atoms, electrons etc that pass through the organisation of living matter are permanently changed thereby…..Even should humankind during its existence fail to take control of the universe into its hands, it would still have contributed to the realisation of this stage in two ways; on the one hand…. it can leave its experience to other humankinds; and, on the other hand, our humankind will have ‘enriched’ the material substrate of the universe.’
The existence of god
‘The nonsubstantial model excludes the possibility of any sort of privileged being.’
‘The system we are dealing with is thus not immersed in the flow of absolute time…for in the nonsubstantial model such a flow of time cannot be assumed.’
The reference here is not entirely clear but Bondy’s comment could be taken to allude to the two-phase system of time proposed in Alphomism.
The future of the universe
‘The appearance of ‘beings’ capable of (taking the direction of the universe into their own hands) is not and will not be ‘the work of chance,’ the result of some ‘miraculous mixture’ of molecules; it is and will be prepared by the whole process of the articulated cosmos.’
‘When the existence and movement of the galaxies come to be directed, controlled, created and led by man, sooner or later their very existence will become dependent on him…..Cosmologically, the trend towards the control of the universe by humankind is undeniable.’
‘Ultimately, the whole fate and solution of the existence of humankind, and along with it the existence of all of reality will not depend on anything more than on the value judgements which humankind makes about its own existence and about all of reality.’
Touching, in an incidental way, on morality, Bondy writes; ‘I am announcing that humankind…has an absolute right to everything and to do anything.’ And: ‘Since there is no intrinsic value in things, there is no appeal from the judgement of man.’
This sounds alarming perhaps but Bondy softens the effect by writing of the essential ‘human-ness’ of mankind and alluding to the potency of love.
The origin of the universe and eternity
This is perhaps the least convincing section of the book. Bondy deals at some length with the idea of self-origination of the universe. He writes; ‘In the nonsubstantial model it is not only possible but even consistent to assume the ‘primordial’ self-origination of ontological reality.’ About eternity, he comments: ‘….the concept of eternity as nonorigination seems to be nothing more than a totally empty statement…..To say that a system toward which nothing is external is ‘eternal’ is only to say – stammeringly – that it exists.’
He seems to be implying that ‘eternity’ is a meaningless notion, as Alphomism maintains, but wishes still to cling to the idea that the universe emerged out of nothing, seemingly as a result of pure thought. But of course, there cannot be thought where there is nothing.
Perhaps Bondy would have reached a yet more radical position on origination had he not been so rooted in the dialectical tradition. The very subtitle of his book suggests that he is bent on finding absolute answers to fundamental dilemmas. The Alphomist position on this is different and is outlined in a recently added supplement to this web site (see the ‘Why the notion of ‘trinity’ is so pervasive’ pages in the ‘Explanations’ section)
It is, perhaps, highly significant in this context that Bondy writes; ‘…the triadic form (of dialectics) Hegel elaborated is only an infantile schema of one of its types of regularity, relatively the simplest at that.’ It is as though Bondy recognises the severe limitations of the basic thesis/antithesis/synthesis approach but has nothing to put in its place
Despite the reservations about absolutism and origination, and the caveat about the density of some of the prose, this book is very much to be recommended to anyone who feels that something along Alphomist lines is the closest to the truth we can get at this stage of evolution. Bondy reaches the crucial conclusion that it is conscious beings who will decide the fate of the universe and bring about the prize of a blissful life after death. He is right to draw attention to the frightening nature of the shift from ‘father god’ to total responsibility and right again to insist that it is up to conscious beings to overcome this fear and thereby find true freedom.