The primordial philosophy

A great philosophy, as witnessed by the writings of the great philosophers in their history, has in each one a single, deep idea, always the same, and born of the one mind which holds it. Great or not, I have always had only a single idea, which it is necessary to say many times, many ways, and never precisely. It expresses something very difficult to say, and yet also very well known. That is not to say very well understood. I expressed it to Galya one afternoon at Erddig Hall's grounds, near Wrexham. We were walking along the bank of the river Clywedog at the time, and I explained that I used to compose essays here for my Master of Arts degree, back when I studied at the University of Liverpool, and worked at the TA most days of the year. It is a place where I have found thinking easy.

My view is that we are alone, I said. Not that each person is alone. But that you, the reader, are the sole existing being. Other people may or may not exist: it is impossible to tell. The world may go on when you are dead (and will do so), but not as you know it. I believe this because it is first of all, impossible to let another being see or think what you feel, see, etc., Second, it is clear that we do make the world up as we want it to be; and what an individual sees of it is determined by them alone. Ask somebody else how they live, exist, or understand the world…

But this is superficial proof for this view. I don’t really demand a proof for this philosophical vision. Being the core ‘vision’ of my ‘philosophy’, I know that it is without the possibility of proof. It is metaphysics, or everything which comes after those things which can be proven. It is not as trivial a view as it at first sight might appear. For instance, I would still be the origin of existence and all the universe even were I to lose my sight, my arms, my mind, etc., and be taken to another type of existence. Effectively, what would have to remain, what is fundamental is: awareness, intellect, self-reflection. That is, perhaps, thought. Where there is no thought, there is no world, or existence at all. And this is what everything else is built on. So, being able to decide, to think, to reflect on the fact that there is existence, is what constitutes both me; and, without it, I would exist in the same way that a computer exists, or a rock exists: that is, with no initiative of any kind. Being able to think, and that freedom and awareness, is exactly where all of existence arises from.

[I suppose one could go further with this, and insist that in the heart of hearts, I don't believe in the possiblity of other people 'at all'. That there is simply 'this' existence here, and no other living existing being other than the one which I myself incontrovertibly experience and know. And that nobody at all can ever live in any universe besides me... and this would be a logical conclusion, the reductio ad absurdum. And, if I were, or you were, to allow that anyone else has any meaning or value for you, in a situation where you were adamant about throwing logic aside, then this other person's reality would need to be so valuable to you, that you simply are forced to insist that they too are alive and worth your affection. Effectively, you would be denying your own truth and reality in order to affirm them. Because, assuredly, you definately are entirely alone here. But let us not go down that road in this essay... ]

2. Some points:

1. Leibniz stated, on mathematical grounds, that the individual resides in a single, entirely separate existence. He called it a monad. We ask, how can different individuals then meet each other, and interact? The answer is that God brings them together and gives them the guarantee that they seem to live in the same world, though they do not.

2. Kant held something basically the same: that the principle of individuation gathers a world of knowledge around itself; the principia individuationis is the origin of space and time, and imagination and ratiocination.

3. And Schopenhauer, more blatantly, said we are locked in this condition, as in a nightmare.

4. Because thought and intellect are the basis of everything, we also consider, at the most pure and most intrictate view of God, that he is essentially an intellectual principle. He is the source as it were, of the logos: the idea, the word. Dante held this view about God.


1. Why bother to take other people seriously, if this idea is true? To which I answer: you should not take other people seriously.

2. And yet, why create, write, express ideas? To which I answer: other people do exist, but at an infinitely great, unbreachable distance. And, if there is contact, then God allows it to be so. You could call this the essence of love, and what ‘love’ is in religion, and in erotic and family matters. From an infinite distance, with no possibility of sharing our self with others, we are yet able to do so, to varying degrees. And the highest degree of closeness from across this unbridgeable distance is obviously the condition of love.

3. There is an objective world. That is what is commonly believed amongst people, in the light of the common day; it is reaffirmed by ‘science’, generally. Although, it is possible to do science and to understand its method and results while also understanding that, essentially, the world is ‘not real’. They will say, that everything comes to mind, and is in the mind, because of the brain. I reply that the brain is an object within the world. Truly, my enduring here depends on my brain being healthy, and the mind has some largely unspecified relation to the brain. They will say: if we damage your brain, your thoughts will be damaged. But that applies to most of my body: if you damage my blood, my thoughts will be damaged; if you damaged my skin, etc. To be brief, I think that it is possible for a mind to exist without a body; and that the higher forms of prayer and meditation, or communion with God make this evident (to me, at any rate).

And this is important: a striking and primitive early version of Christianity, which was classed as heresy by the orthodox church, was that the entire physical world is unreal, and that the mental, spiritual world only is real. This was the view of the heretics known as Gnostics. In its simplicity, it is alluring. It makes it easier to think and to live when there is a simple kind of belief like this, where just about anything which takes place, outside us, or done by us, is illusory and sinful. But it is my view that although the world as I know it depends on my own being here for its existence; but I think that the thinker comes with the world, co-eternally. The world, or existence comes with the one who exists. And, I don’t recognise a firm distinction between physical and non-physical.

Because the mind comes with the world, we can see the value of Hegel’s philosophy, where the spirit or mind develops as the higher form of the world. The very heart or being of the world is its being spiritual, and is connected to the thinker. God as Spirit is in every part of existence.

Because we are fundamentally, irreduciably alone, such that the hand on the shoulder placed by a loved one can do nothing at all, forever, to bridge this distance, this essential loneliness, then our world can be demented, or upset, and ruined, and also we can be subject to despair or depression, mental illness, and evil.

But, we are not essentially alone as above in one single respect: we are with God. And, we have God’s mind. The Orthodox Christian tradition has recognised this in the concept of theosis; it is possible to refer to the Hindus, and the like, also. The saints of the Church state as part of Orthodoxy, that the individual must find himself in God; see his mind, fundamentally, as God’s mind. Thus, when we harm another, or ourselves, we harm God. And, furthermore, the Church’s idea of theosis entails that we can become part of God, Godlike. Indded, this is the chief point of our being here.

Further considerations

Leibniz, the most celebrated exponent of my view, expressed it in his Monadology. But it is signfificant for me that Leibniz was also, famously, the last man who knew everything. That is: he considered himself and every other person to be a world to himself, and also, he knew all of the arts, sciences, technologies, and facts which it was possible to know, exhaustively, at his given point of historical time. For me, that aim of knowing everything applies still. A person with any dignity and awareness of himself as the source of Godliness, and knowing himself as the creator of the world, without whom the world would not exist, should seek to know everything, and experience all the arts, sciences, etc. Indeed, the tradition of philosophy has from time to time insisted on this, too. From Aristotle, to Aquinas, to Hegel. Needless to say, it was easy to know everything in the time of Plato, more difficult at the time of Dante, and very difficult at the time of Leibniz. When we come to Heidegger, we begin to dismiss many areas of enquiry as simply pointless, if not harmful (e.g., Technologie). The dream of knowing everything nevertheless persists in any true philosopher: because the world around us, and what we know of it, is what we essentially are, because it is God and his ‘creation’.


The relationship with God is silent, prayerful, submissive. The world and our being within it is a thing of variety, thinking, decision. Paradoxically, to become closer to God, we do need to move further from the world and from our own self. We do this in prayer. But we need to pray because we are engrossed in the world as if we were players inside it. To see life like this is a mistake: actually, each one of us is the space of the theatre for the drama – not an actor inside it. That is why we err, and become sinners, and why we eventually need to go back to God and meditate towards him. If it were possible, we should aim to live as if we were God’s host here. And let Him live through us. In essence, it is not the ultimate aim of life to leave it and despise it. But to live it in a certain completely selfless and God-involved way.

Design Jason Powell, 2020.