Macrocosms and Microcosms: Discovering the Satan Particle
The myth of the poet, and the argument of the philosopher, are media (logoi) through which Intellect makes manifest a single cosmos. Much as Plato’s ideal political constitution (Politeia) is also a blueprint for the well-constituted soul, this cosmos can be viewed, as a mathematical fractal, as identical at all orders of magnitude, from the astronomic to atomic level. Establishing this pattern of eternal recursion is necessary to achieving a mystical union with the One, of annihilating the apostate ego in an act of total conversion. The word conversion, after all, means a turning-around, in Greek epistrophe. Cephalus in Republic 329d alleges that the cause of most men’s suffering is none other than their own character (tropos). Tropos (related to epistrophe) means literally “orientation,” and thus a conversion, a reorientation of one’s thoughts and of one’s soul is necessary to harmonize it within the macrocosm of which it is a microcosm. To do so, continues Cephalus, one must be “well-ordered” (kosmios) and live “moderately” (metrios). A mathematical proportion must be imposed within that is consistent with the harmony of the heavenly spheres.
Let us now map out this intelligible cosmos by means of a dialogue between two texts, Dante’s Divina Commedia and William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. As scientists have recently discovered the Higgs Boson, the “God Particle,” by the collision of two charged particles, so the convergence of these two seemingly opposing texts will help us discover just what gives mass to our metaphysical framework: the Satan Particle.
Let us start with the enigmatic, proto-romantic Blake.
Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
In this passage Blake inaugurates his program, true to the title of the work, to shatter the illusory boundary between Subject and Object, between Soul and Body, arguing it as an error of perception. The five bodily senses limit us to perceiving just that, the bodies of ourselves and others. He attributes this handicap to the times (“in this age”), as the Enlightenment sought to understand the cosmos as a lifeless, mechanical contraption. Yet in truth, this view is merely the projection onto reality of an intellect desperate to reduce all nature to calculable quantities.
To live according to reason is to subject even oneself to such a calculus, playing the cunning fox rather than the courageous lion. By drawing mathematical boundaries, we teach ourselves never to cross them, imprisoning ourselves within scientific definitions.
But there still remains the status of Reason as “the outward circumference of Energy,” implying that Energy does not only precede Reason, but is also its source. Here I will assume Blake’s knowledge of Greek, that by Reason he means logos (the ordering principle) and by Energy (energeia – pure activity). We may recall Aquinas’ definition of God as actus purus (pure activity), from which proceeds the Holy Spirit via the Son (logos). Yet according to the Gospel of John, logos was not only the first principle but also identical to God (en arkhēi ēn ho Logos…Theos ēn ho Logos). To solve this puzzle we must disregard cause (Energy) as distinct from effect (Reason) in the same way we combine Subject and Object (i.e. Intellect and the One). The One is magnified and good insofar as it has achieved total emanation, with the infinity of all possible infinities realized no longer as potential (dynamis) but as actual (energeia).
Think of the geometrical circle. It is defined not by its center, but by its circumference. In Platonic terms, it receives its essence by its form. Since the 1-dimensional line that forms the circle’s circumference has no start or endpoint, it is simultaneously beginning and end (A and Ω).
The greater glory of God (maior Dei gloria) is realized in His outermost circumference, for it is at that extent that the cosmic order is fully realized. The outermost layer of our sovereign Sun, the aptly named corona (Latin for crown) is much hotter than its superficial photosphere. We cannot appreciate the fullest glory of this God simply by looking at it, but by observing what emanates from it. A microcosm analogous to the solar system, to which the same principle of divine emanation applies, is Democritus’ primordial particle, the atom, whose “outermost circumference,” the outermost energy level of its electron cloud, is the most active in the bonding and construction of molecules, the building-blocks of matter. The power of the atom is appreciated not in its nucleus, but in its emanations. When stars explode in supernova, they act as gods sacrificing themselves to renew the cosmos by forging heavier elements.
The visible sphericity of such solar and atomic macro- and microcosms can be read in the cosmology of Dante’s Divina Commedia. Here we find our Satan particle, the nucleus of the atom that is the perceivable universe. The further Dante ascends from the pit of Hell at the terrestrial center, the closer he comes to God, reaching Aristotle’s primum mobile, the Prime Mover so far beyond the material, elemental cosmos of earth, water, air and fire, that its substance can only be called the quintessence, literally the fifth element.
Dante’s ascent through the celestial spheres away from Earth is the same as an ascent through the energy levels of the electron cloud away from the nucleus, into the outermost circumference of energy that is itself the cosmos-ordering Reason (logos). Satan as the nucleus represents potential energy, while the electrons in the outermost orbit are the most active (energeia). Sin is the void, the gap between potential and actual, and thus Satan is in his rightful place.
When Dante transcends the bounds of the physical cosmos he enters the after-physical, the metaphysical cosmos, beyond space and time, into what is no longer perceivable, but only what is intelligible. Here our perspective undergoes a total inversion, a polar shift. It is now Earth below (matter) that seems the outermost emanation from the sovereign principle of Being itself, that which is beyond, above Being and the source of all Reality.
To cast out Satan, to cast out Desire (quoth Blake: “the history of this is written in Paradise Lost”), is to free the self (by annihilating the self – Satan) from servitude to the material. Human society, under the banners of progress (vexilla regis prodeunt inferni – “on progress the banners of the king of Hell – Inferno XXXIV.1) is increasingly enslaving itself to what is, whereas what could be, that infinite spring of possibilities, is falling out of favor. To quote Boethius (De Consolatione Philosophiae III):
Felix, qui potuit boni
Fontem visere lucidum.
Felix, qui potuit gravis
Terrae solvere vincula.
Happy, who has been able
To behold the shining fountain of the Good.
Happy, who has been able
To break the chains of Earth.
To quote Blake once more, “men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast.” Reason as the outward circumference is the furthest projection of our own prophetic spirit onto the cosmos, and the march of science is causing that outward circumference to recede back into its singularity, to collapse upon its own ignorance, to reduce us to the mechanized automata of Newton’s lifeless macrocosm.