Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mind-body dualism

How mind and body are distinct but intertwined. 

See for reviews and articles about all kinds of theories.

Preliminary articles concerning mind-body dualism:

Discrete Degrees Within and Between Nature and Mind
Examining the role of dispositions  (potentials and propensities) in both physics and psychology reveals that they are commonly derivative dispositions, so called because they derive from other dispositions. Furthermore, when they act, they produce further propensities. Together, therefore, they appear to form discrete degrees within a structure of multiple generative levels. It is then constructively hypothesized that minds and physical nature are themselves discrete degrees within some more universal structure. This gives rise to an effective dualism of mind and nature, but one according to which they are still constantly related by causal connections. I suggest a few of the unified principles of operation of this more complicated but universal structure.
A new account of the role of mind in nature is based on several principles taken to be universal, some of which exist already in today’s science.
Swedenborg used Descartes as a symbol of his desired resolution of the mind-body problem in favour of ‘spiritual influx’, but we see that Descartes’ position was substantially different in a number of ways. We consider a number of modern objections and puzzles about dualism, and how Descartes and Swedenborg each might respond.
A suggestion is made how the mind and brain might fit together intimately while still maintaining distinct identities. The connection is based on the correspondence of similar functions in both the mind and the quantum-mechanical brain.
It is particularly valuable to discuss questions concerning quantum physics and spirituality together, in order to see the connection between them. There is an urgent reason for discussing this link, because there are people who want to identify these things, giving a monism rather than (at least) a dualism. There is a widespread feeling that somehow that they are connected, but some ‘new age’ people want to say that quantum physics tells us about spirituality. We have read in Swedenborg that any such connection could  not be quite so simple, so we need to understand in more detail what is going on.

Full details at 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Law and Divine Intervention

It is assumed by many people that religion should become accommodated to modern science, and that the best that can be hoped for from theology is that we have evidence that God created the world, and that the governing constants of the physical world are ‘fine tuned’ to make life probable. On this basis, we hope that thereby we can come to know that ‘we are wanted’, and that there exists a ‘plan for our lives’. In such a theology, divine intervention into the world is not strictly necessary, and may indeed be said to be ‘poor management’: as if God could not have set up the world to behave properly in the first place. Such ‘modern believers’ may yet admit that miracles were ‘once’ necessary, for example at the beginning of their religion in order to convince by means of miracles, but that now ‘we are mature adults’ and so miracles are no longer necessary. Divine intervention does not occur ‘in modern times, so they can follow with a clear conscience the principles and findings of those sciences which specify the causal closure of the physical world. This amounts in practice to deism, as distinct from theism.

Such a view misses the point of creation. We are not made for God either to ‘intervene’ or ‘not intervene’ in the world, but for God to reside in the world. The physical world provides the overall framework in which God can place his life, in order to infill and enliven us with the life (spiritual and mental) that comes only from God. It is like asking a resident: are you going to intervene in your house, or not intervene? Or asking a person, are you going to intervene in the world around you, or not intervene. In theism, it is not a question of intervention, but of presence and residence. And what is residence and presence, but constant contact; and how can there be constant contact except by persistence and bilateral causal connections. The purpose of the world, in theism by comparison with deism, is not just that we are in God’s plan (which is a thought), but that we are present and enlivened by God’s love (which, we have seen, means a substantial presence, and reciprocal causation). Presence in reality, rather than only in thought, is an essential part of our whole dynamic ontology, where, as proposed on Chapter 3, we follow the Eleatic Principle: that existence should only be given to that which has causal power. We lose nothing by applying this also to the Divine. We only have to then to reconsider science at the same time as theology, as science (especially empirical science) is concerned with whatever has effects in the world.

The reciprocal causation in theism, I have explained, is not equal on both sides. Rather, it follows the generation + selection pattern described in my book: on the side of God, it is generation; and on our side, it is selection. The result of this asymmetric conjunction is yet to render a workable whole, and yields an effective bilateral cooperation between God and the world. In this bilateral cooperation, both sides have important roles to play. God’s role is to produce and govern all the loves and life that comes from him. Our role is to select by our actions those loves and life that we wish to see become permanent within our own persons. There are many intermediate stages in this process, as will be explored in the next Part IV.

In the meantime, we might reflect on the role of physical laws in describing the processes that occur in the physical world, and whether the actions of God in that world might not after all be described as ‘divine intervention’. Do occasional interventions ‘suspend’ or even ‘violate’ those laws of physics? Think, for example, of conservation of energy and momentum in closed systems. Are those conservation laws in fact broken by God when there occur what some would call miracles?

To answer this question, we have to note that the true law that governs the world of theism is one that describes the multiple generative levels that start from God, and eventually end up with the definite physical actions that beings perform in the world. Any so-called miracle that actually occurred or occurs must follow that true law. Anything that appears to be ‘inexplicably miraculous’ means that we do not understand the true laws of the universe, or the true intentions of the persons (including God) who may be acting within the structure of those laws. Even given that understanding, however, what we still might not understand would be the occasion or speed of operation of those laws.

The other remaining paradox, however, is that many people today believe in physical laws (such as the conservation of energy), since they appear to be held without exception. Much of modern science is built in the assumption that these laws hold universally and without exception, but, according to theism, this is not correct. Rather, these (apparently universal) laws are held only locally within those physical systems whose purpose within theism is to provide an overall container or enduring structure that can persistently select a rather complicated set of internal dispositions. In theism, therefore, we should expect that there are complex organic bodies with a large amount of ‘physical autonomy’. The bodies are never entirely autonomous within theism - only to a large part - but have the purpose of sustaining (by corresponding generation + selection relations) equally-complex internal mental and spiritual bodies. The existence and dynamics of these internal bodies will be discussed in Part IV. Each kind of body (physical, mental or spiritual) is nearly autonomous, and purely-physical laws are nearly but not completely universal: that is the pattern that should be expected within a theistic universe.

Slightly edited from Section 20.5 of my book Starting Science From God

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chapter Synopsis of the new book "Starting Science From God"

 Brief outline of the structure of the book and its arguments:

    The status of theism, and current debates

I. Preliminaries

    General discussion about the possibility of scientific theism today.

    2. History
    Brief(!) discussions of historical philosophical treatments of theism, and of theories of connection between God and the world, and between mind and nature.

    3. A Way Forward
    Describing the 'minor' changes necessary for science for science and for religion, in order to form together a way forward.

II. Ontology

    4. Power and Substance
    We must distinguish between form, substance and potentiality (like Aristotle), in order to make a realist ontology based on process logic. I give a general introduction to the realist ontology that will be used throughout this book. The ontology of form and substance, united in nature and distinguishable only by the mind, is one that dates from Aristotle and was still held by Descartes and Leibniz.

    5. Multiple Generative Levels
    Exposition concerning multiple generative levels, based on the asymmetric processes of generation from cause to effect, and selection from previous effects to future causes. Simple examples from classical & quantum physics and psychology.

    6. A Dynamic Ontology
    Summary of philosophical viewpoint of Part II, where substances are defined in terms of underlying dispositions, and also exist and operate within a generative structure of levels.

III. A Scientific Theism

    7. Plan of Approach
    Start from specific postulates of theism (just as physics theories start from their own a-theistic postulates), and see what can be deduced concerning minds and nature that is consistent with those postulates, as listed within Chapters 8-19.

    8. The ‘I am’
    That God exists, and that God is One, are the basic starting postulates of any theism.

    9. God is Not Us
    Nor are we part of God. To be loved, we must be other from God. The most distinctive feature of theism is that God is distinct from the world, in particular that there is something essential to humans that is distinct from God. The reason for this is that God’s love is unselfish, and unselfish love cannot love itself.

    10. Images of God
    In the Genesis story, man was made ‘in his image, according to his likeness’. The creation story leading up to this suggests that plants and animals were partial contributions to this making, and from biology we know that there are a great many internal similarities of plants and animals with humans. Although somewhat controversial, this implies that plants and animals are also in the image and likeness of God, but to a lesser extent.

    11. God is Love
    That God is love, as asserted by most traditional and modern theisms, has rarely been understood properly from the philosophical point of view. The nature of love is to want and then to achieve more than what is already obtained. God as Love wants to share its own with all of creation for the longest time possible, so all objects in creation are given the capacity to make something different in their future. Since God is Love, according to theism, divine love is the substance or being of which God is formed. Then, because created objects are a kind of image of God, we can conclude that something like love is the substance of all things in the world.

    12. God is Life Itself
    All our life is provided by God, and there is no life apart from God. If we could use the principle that ‘one is at least where one acts’, God would be immanent in His creation. Being eternal Life Itself, He is also transcendent of His creation.

    13. God is both Simple and Complex
    God is a unity in which there is no limit to the infinity of what may be intellectually distinguished, but what is not in fact separated.

    14. God is Wisdom, and Action
    That God is also Wisdom itself, and proceeding Action, so we have triad within God. This wisdom is the source of our own wisdom, understanding & knowledge.

    15. God is Transcendent and Immanent
    The distinction between the transcendent God and the finite creation depends on the distinction between the actual forms of created things and their received life. Thus we have neither pantheism nor deism, but what is a thorough-going theism: ‘God in everything, but distinct from everything’. Note that the ‘in’ here is not that of constitution, but of being hidden from the outside.

    16. We Act Sequentially
    That, in us, love and wisdom choose when to act. God may have foreknowledge of our free decisions, but time exists for us, and we still must will our own actions according to our understanding: with our own freedom.

    17. We are Composite, as Spiritual, Mental and Physical
    That God is Love, is Wisdom, and is also Life or Action in himself are what we can intellectually distinguish. Because what is unified and continuous in God is imaged in creation with what are distributed discretely, and these distributions function similarly by images of the God-world relation, we conclude that creation must have three realms, the first a reduced and distributed image of divine love, the second a reduced and distributed image of divine wisdom, and the third a reduced and distributed image of divine power and action.
    The spiritual realm contains the separate loves in creation, including desires, loves, affections, motivations, purposes, dispositions, etc. The mental realm contains the separate carriers of wisdom, namely thoughts, ideas, understandings, rationality, plans, ideologies, beliefs, etc. The physical realm deals with all the separate final actions and effects, including the entire sets of things we know from external observations and physics.

    18. We are Sustained by Influx From God, Directly and Indirectly
    The traditional view of God creating the world is by fiat, taking literally the commands ‘fiat lux: let there be light’ and so on. The creation of substantial objects, still, involves God giving them their being (since he is being itself). Furthermore, in process logic, there is no power without substance. Or without (some kind) of presence.

    19. God is Equally Present in All Subparts
    Thus God must be immanent in every part of creation, and in every part of that part. And in every realm that influences each part and each sub-part. God must therefore be imaged (in some way) in each thing of love, and each thing of thought, and each physical thing, as well as in the interior realms of all of these.

    Taking an overall view of the universe from the above theistic principles. 

IV. Theistic Science

    21. Methods
    The previous Part III outlined an abstract structure of degrees and sub-degrees. Now in Part IV is the time to work out what these are in terms of the language and sciences that we already know, if possible. I call this the process of ‘identification.’ This is now longer deduction from theistic premises, not the least because now I call on meanings in ordinary languages and in the sciences, and these will have historical and contemporary overtones that certainly cannot be called deductive conclusions!

    22. Discrete Degrees in the Mind
    Discuss generic operation of sub-degrees in the mind, namely thought of loves, thought about thoughts, and thought about sensations & actions. These are identified as ‘higher rational’, ‘scientific rational’ and ‘external mind’ respectively. The sub-sub-degrees within these, and relation to the levels of cognition and affection discussed by Piaget, Gowan and Erikson.

    23. Spiritual Discrete Degrees
    When identifying the three main degrees of spiritual, mental and physical, I deliberately placed a spiritual degree above that of our normal mental life. That is because I read a great many reports of ‘peak experiences’, including those called visionary, mystical, out-of-body, near-death and spiritual, and I am convinced that there does indeed exist a realm about which we are normally unaware. I claim that this is the spiritual realm, and I have therefore identified this as ‘love’, the principal degree 1 of the three degrees. These must constitute some kind of heavenly states. An extensive discussion of misconceptions concerning the nature of the spiritual.

    24. Discrete Degrees in Nature
    The divine source does not produce all physical effects directly, but it produces via spiritual and natural stages what we see as natural dispositions or natural propensities. It is these dispositions or propensities, also known as causes, forces, potentials, quantum propensities) which lead to the ultimate physical interactions and events. The physical dispositions are a very limited ‘remnant' of Divine Power, and they operate in a way which corresponds to the characteristic operation of the Divine.
    The stages and substages are directly related to problems in pregeometric gravity, quantum field theory, and in ordinary quantum mechanics. Prediction that there exists some actual selection processes in nature, in order to solve the (generalized) measurement problem.

    25. Mind-body Connections
    We derive a theory of mind and brain connection that establishes in intimate relation between them. It is not a relation of identity, or a relation of aspects or points of view. It is more a relation of inner and outer, or cause and effect: propensities in the brain are the causal product of mental actions. The mind and brain fit together by approximate analogy with hand and glove, or, better, with tissue and skin. The analogy is most precisely with thefunctions of tissue & skin, and not so much with their material shape. The mind provides all the directed activity of the brain, just as the tissue of the hand provides all the directed activity of the skin of the hand.
    There are continual relations between minds generating brain dispositions, and brain events selecting which mental powers can act. This reciprocity means that the longest-lasting psychophysical structures have similar functional patterns in the mind and they body, and these similar functions we call 'correspondences’.

V. Applications

    26. Evolution
    That God cannot create self-sustaining organisms immediately, and neither can God instantaneously create robust receivers of divine love, since they need a history of their own actions in order to live as if from themselves. This implies that God needs evolution: descent by modification. Argue that this essentially the same as for mental and for spiritual (re)generation. That is, God has to manage external and internal changes in a gradualist manner: ab initio creationism is impossible. There is ‘theistic selection’ in addition to Darwinist natural selection.

    27. Consciousness
    In this framework, we are conscious of our actions when love and wisdom come together to make those actions. We are not directly conscious of our loves, and we are conscious of our thoughts only by reflective awareness at some upstream level.

    28. Spiritual Growth
    That we want permanent spiritual growth, and that this does not come quickly, but by cumulative joint actions of our own loves and wisdom. Not from one by itself, or from suffering alone, or from ‘elevated consciousness’. Look at stages of spiritual growth that starts in our higher rational, and continues in with our spiritual loves, especially in relation the sequence described in Genesis chap. 1.

    29. Errors and Evils
What can we say about the problem of evil? Only some preliminaries: that Divine omnipotence is not absolute (since persons have love as their being, so cannot be arbitrarily remade): love always overrules omnipotence. That God can indeed create a stone he cannot (in practice) lift: that stone is us! Preliminary discussion of the real questions concerning freedom and evil.

VI. Discussion

    30. Metaphysics
    Responses, in the light of this book, to the philosophers and their queries as discussed in Chapter 2. Discussing in particular relations to ideas of Aquinas, Descartes and Whitehead (the leading ontologists who include mind and God in their theories).

    31. Formal Modeling
    The possibility of formal modeling of physical structures, and of limited modeling of mental structures. Dispositions can be partially modeled as procedures or functions, but not every aspect of them.

    32. Possible Objections
    Collection of frequently asked objections, and my responses.

    33. Conclusions
    Brief summary.

    A. Theistic Postulates
    A convenient summary

    B. Further Resources
      Some relevant websites.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Does Nondualism allow us to Love Others?

We know from theism  that the Divine is the source of all being (indeed Being itself), is also that from which every thing else proceeds. However, this does not imply that He is All There Is, just that he continually sustains the being of all creatures derived from him. This is necessary for the Lord loving us, since he cannot love himself:
"It is the essential of love not to love self, but to love others, and to be conjoined with others by love. " and "Love consists in this, that its own should be another's; to feel the joy of another as joy in oneself, that is loving.But to feel one's own joy in another and not the other's joy in oneself is not loving; for this is loving self, while the former is loving the neighbour. These two kinds of love are diametrically opposed ..", as Swedenborg reminds us in DLW 47.
It would appear that if the Lord is all there is, then when He loves us, He is loving part of Himself. Don't you see that this is the love which He cannot have? There must be something in creation which is distinct from the Lord, although created and sustained by Him.

We read of the many (wonderful!) experiences of unity of the One Life that all mystics (and many others!) have had over the millenia. That is the way the world is!

I suspect that the desire to say that the Lord is 'all there is', comes from wanting to interpret the experiences of the One Life as 'non-dualism', following the advaita approach. You also want unity with that approach too.

However, a common meaning of 'dual' (which should be opposed) is one of a very fragmented world. We all know that this cannot be true! (i.e. should know!). Therefore often we need to replace everywhere 'non-dual' by 'non-fragmented', and 'dual' by 'fragmented'. This conveys the common meaning much more precisely, as often the explanation of 'duality' is fragmentation.

Then, we are able to find that in creation which is distinct from the Lord, which (whom) he can love without being selfish, and in whose joy he can delight. All of the wonderful mystical words describe these delights, and it would be a great shame for any presentation, if 'non-dual' were taken as the 'non-Distinct' nature of the Life from creation! The One Life is the lifeof creation, but is not equal to creation.

This is the reason for there being a creation, that all the delights of spiritual live and love become possible! This requires a supreme doctrine of 'non-fragmentation'  (sometimes confusingly called 'non-dualism'), along with an equally-supreme doctrine of 'Distinctness': what we call Discrete Degrees.

More details in the book at Starting Science From God, especially chapter 9.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Pernicious Influence of Immanuel Kant

Here is a good critique of the influence of Immanuel Kant, from a Christian perspective. The errors are the same from any theistic perspective.

The article's conclusion section starts as
Kant posits three questions regarding the ultimate issues of life: “All the interests of my reason, speculative as well as practical, combine in the three following questions: 1. What can I know? 2. What ought I to do? 3. What may I hope?” How a Christian answers these basic questions may serve as an aid in evaluating whether he is more influenced by Kant or Christ. With Kant there is no confidence in objective divine knowledge, no confidence in objective divine guidance or empowerment, and no confidence in objective hope. This stands in stark contrast to those under the influence of Christ who brings confidence in objective divine truth to discover and grow in, confidence in objective divine knowledge and empowerment “to do” (Rom. 7:23), and confidence in divine hope. In fact, Christ is the Blessed Hope (Titus 2:13). Only Christ promises objective truth, enablement, and hope. All Kant offers is doubt and agnosticism which precludes confidence in the arguments of natural revelation or confidence in special revelation. What hope can there be when such revelation is precluded by Kant? What cure could possibly exist for an agnostic who precludes really gaining objective knowledge and truth in natural theology or sacred theology? What a useless and protracted “Kantian revolution”!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Can we conceive of mind-body dualism?

In trying to understand the nature of the connections between mind and body, or between ordinary and spiritual minds, many different ideas have been proposed to explain how they are different. Only if we have a serious scientific proposal for this can we give proper evidence for the fact of a difference, as (almost always in science) new kinds of evidence need a related theory in order to justify taking them seriously.
Many people have realized that there are some differences here, but are reluctant to call that a 'dualism', and so produce many analogies for understanding those differences.  Let us, nevertheless, call the relation between minds and body 'a dualism', and then simply seek to understand its nature.

One way to answer the question of dualism is if we have a clear idea about what have been called 'discrete degrees'. Emanuel Swedenborg wrote in his 1763 book Divine Love and Wisdom that this concept is central to answering many questions:

"Without a concept of discrete degrees ... one can know nothing of the difference between the interior faculties in people which are those of the mind, thus nothing of their state in regard to reformation and regeneration; ... and nothing at all of the difference between something spiritual and something natural." [1]
In everyday life, we have formed our own ideas about these discrete degrees, by means of which we attempt to understand what Swedenborg is suggesting here, especially about what is mental, or spiritual, in comparison with what is natural. However, many people have rather individual ideas about the nature of discrete degrees, and some have ideas that are not in fact dual or discrete.
My purpose here is to look at some common suggestions, to challenge various motives that favour some particular misconceptions, and to try to demonstrate some more realistic (and fruitful) ways of thinking about discrete degrees. This should give us a clearer formulation about how to conceive dualism. In the process we will compare and contrast them with continuous degrees of various kinds, such as occur within a monistic framework.
Our need to think in discrete or continuous degrees touches on some broader desires for certain kinds of explanation. We are much more satisfied, for example, by an integrated view of all the natural and spiritual worlds, compared, say, with a fragmented account. Similarly, scientists and philosophers are much happier with a unified theory which sees everything as part of some continuous whole, compared, say, with a theory with unexplained gaps. We might favor an integrated ‘nondual’ world view compared with an account with dual substances whose relation is more hierarchical and somehow less ‘democratic’.
Our initial desires and kinds of knowledge we can accept are typically based on ideas that we can obtain from our senses, and from logical reasoning from sensual ideas. Contemporary science is a rather full development starting from this approach. However, from our senses and logic, it is rather difficult to have a proper idea of discrete degrees. This is our problem! Most of our starting ideas are based on images obtained from sensations of space and time, and Swedenborg tries to persuade us how our these spatial and temporal images ‘attach’ themselves to many of our attempts to think about discrete degrees. One aim here is to help see how spatial ideas attach themselves to our ideas of discrete degrees, and hence of our ideas of what is (or should be) dual. We will see how spatial images (may) correspond, or be analogous, to discrete degrees, but are not identical with them.
Let us look at some ideas that have been used to describe discrete degrees, and examine each in turn to see whether it is discrete or continuous, and whether it is a means for understanding any dualism about what is mental or spiritual:
  1. We may imagine as discrete degrees those natural things with discrete units, such as a ladder, as a multi-storied house, even as earth + plants/animals + the heavens, etc. Religious and spiritual literature often uses such images. We may use the body, with head+neck+body+legs +feet to represent different discrete degrees, but from looking at human bodies, as from biology alone, we do not thereby understand what are mental or spiritual degrees.
  2. Similarly, the whole and its parts may be imagined as discrete degrees and in a relation of duality. The cells, nerves, muscles, skin and whole body of a person may be called discrete degrees. However, the whole body, however it may be controlled by a mental degree, is itself an aggregation of its parts. It is therefore not itself of a different degree to its parts.
  3. We may think of discrete degrees as another dimension, even the fourth (or fifth) dimension of space and time. It is true that dimensions can be counted, and so are discrete in some sense, but they can still be continuously transformed into each other, for example by rotations. It is clear that rotating or expanding does not, by that fact, take you to a new spiritual discrete degree.
  4. Infinite space, or Space Itself. Spinoza, for example, saw matter and space as the twin aspects of an infinite divinity, from which matter and space are themselves infinite in their details and in their extents. However, space is not mental, but is in a discrete degree distinct from all mental and spiritual degrees.
  5. We may think of discrete degrees as new frequencies of vibration. Entering the mental realm has been called, for example,  ‘entering a new vibrational level’. However, frequencies can also be continuously transformed into each other, since time in nature is on a continuous numerical scale. It is clear that vibrating faster does not, by that fact, take us to a new discrete degree, and does not describe a dualist ontology.
  6. Some natural objects have discrete harmonic modes of operation. A guitar or cello string, for example, has fundamental and harmonic vibrational modes, and these resonate among themselves. Electrons in atoms have discrete levels of different energies. However, if we look in detail, we see that all intermediate vibrations and energies are still possible, but just do not last very long. I have above mentioned the possible roles of different frequencies, and in physics, vibrational energy is proportional to frequency.
  7. Series of successive processes, such as waterfalls or other emanations, or the stages of a person's life, are often used to represent ‘successive discrete degrees’. We may often represent discrete degrees as ‘successive’, but we should be aware that this is another representation using ‘time’. Discrete degrees (such as mental/spiritual and natural) are still ‘simultaneous’ in many important senses!
  8. Infinite time, or the denial of time, as being eternity. Encompassing all time is sometimes seen as a degree above all us ‘time bound’ individuals. However, any mind or spirit is presumed to be the source of life and activity, and certainly not the freezing of time. We may imagine that Divine Wisdom does see all time together (past, present and future) in an eternity, but note that the accomplishment of Divine Love still requires enacting that time successively.
  9. Natural States
  10. Solids, liquids and gases are discrete phases of many substances in nature. Ice, water and steam are discrete manifestations of the one chemical H2O. However, these multiple phases of water can be continuously transformed one into another, and back again, so not describe dualities in a sense from which we can learn about mind and nature.
  11. A related suggestion is to use the classic quartet of earth, water, air and fire, especially to identify a mental or spiritual degree as fire.
  12. Sometimes we imagine mind or spirit as a fine or subtle substance that pervades and influences ‘coarse matter’. This may be true, but unless we have an independent idea of the mental or spiritual degrees, we cannot properly describe it merely from the idea of ‘fineness’ or ‘subtlety’.
  13. Various polarities in nature, such as positive and negative electric charge, or male and female in biology. Opposite electric charges, such as of electrons and its antiparticle the positron, however, are exact mirror images at exactly the same natural level. Male and female organisms, by contrast, have internal complexities that are very similar, differing in particular in the way some of these are ordered. Furthermore, we cannot say that only positive charges, or only females, are connected to (or are) a dual degree.
    Inside and Outside
  14. We may think of discrete degrees as the internal and the external of bodies, or of persons. The  words inmost, inner, and outer may be often used to describe discrete degrees in practice, and many of us use these adjectives to contrast spiritual with natural things. However, if we examine the specific meanings of these words, we see that they are essentially spatial images that must be interpreted metaphorically if they are to indicate spiritual and natural as distinct discrete degrees.
  15. Connected with the previous suggestion, sometimes the mental or spiritual degree is seen as the ‘first person’ inside view of nature, so physical matter is the ‘outside’ or ‘third person’ view. This is a popular belief among those trying to reconcile science and spirituality, but it does not help, for example, in trying to understand the possibility of life after separation from the physical body. How can there be a life from a coherent inside view if the outside view is of matter broken into pieces?
  16. A recent suggestion is based on chaos theory, where we see self-similarity: a similarity of behavior patterns when we compare the whole and the parts. But the whole and the parts, again, are not ontologically dual.
Many of the above distinctions have been adopted in popular culture as sufficient for defining the distinctness of degrees that lead to the mental or spiritual, and there is some satisfaction, for example, with imagining the spiritual as 'higher resonant states in higher dimensions' of reality as yet undiscovered by physics. However, all the above classifications are continuous, not discrete or dual. The desires for continuous spiritual degrees, though widespread in many contemporary and Eastern philosophies today, are what we should call ‘natural’ or even ‘sensual’.
We need to separate our understanding, in some way, from natural and sensual images. This separation may never be complete on earth, but let us at least be aware of the way we presently think.
But let us try to form some more positive accounts. My immediate problem here is that you may be most happy if I produce a new picture which I claim shows discrete degrees most accurately. However, we have just seen that all pictures are based on spatial and temporal images, and by that fact should be called into question! What can we do?
This is a problem that modern quantum physics has faced for much of the last century. Modern physicists have realized that pictures based on ‘particles’, or on ‘waves’, are no longer satisfactory, but have nothing satisfactory to replace them with. Some among them have (wisely) said that ‘we can no longer rely on naive pictorial thinking’. Thus, for minds as well as for physics, we have to rely on some different kind of thinking. Quantum physics can use its mathematical equations, but what can we use?
To understand in a specific way discrete degrees, and the possibility of a real dualism, we can either
  1. build on and extrapolate whatever discrete degrees physics and philosophy have discovered, or
  2. rely on our own intuitive understandings of causes and effects in ourselves.
A description of those discrete degrees that physics has discovered is given separately, so I will merely mention some of the more obvious discoveries here. Let me first describe some of the discrete degrees and dualities that Swedenborg has described: two from general philosophy, and one from simple physics:
Degrees in Philosophy and Simple Physics
  1. Form and substance are a pair of discrete degrees. For a given thing, such as this chair, the form is its position, orientation and shape. And not just the overall shape, but also the shapes and arrangements of all its constituent parts. The substance of the chair is that of which the constituent parts are forms of, are made of. This physics can give us some idea of, namely some kind of energy or propensity to interact. Form and substance cannot be continuously transformed into each other.  Yet they are not ontological dual, in the sense of independently existing.
  2. End, cause and effect are a triplet of discrete degrees. The end is the original principle according to which a process starts, the cause is the formulation of means that is poised to act, and the effect is the resulting action. End, cause and effect produce each other in sequence, but cannot be reversibly transformed.
  3. Heat and Light, strictly, are radiation in the same electromagnetic spectrum: making them a pair of continuous rather discrete degrees. However, ‘heat’ has a more general meaning: that of energy in general, and light has a more specific meaning: as a form of radiation that can be encoded with very much information. Energy and information do form a discrete pair of degrees, but similar therefore to 'form and substance' above. Thus ‘light’ is a particular form of energy, so light is like form and heat is like substance.
    Other discrete degrees, even within nature, have been discovered by science:

    Degrees in Modern Physics
  4. Force and motion are discrete degrees. This was in fact realised in the 18th century by Boscovich and by Kant, Forces may be present even if no movement of matter occurs.
  5. Potential energy and force are discrete degrees. This was made clear with the discovery of electromagnetic fields by Faraday and Maxwell. Electric energy fields, for example, only produce forces if a charged particle is present within the field. Similarly, the gravitational fields of the earth and sun are not themselves forces, but only produce forces on planets and satellites should these be present. Physicists often conflate potential energy and force, by saying that forces are simply a description of the gradient of the potential energy surface, but the 'force' here is the force actually operating, not that of a 'force field' that is still waiting to have any effect.
  6. Waves and particles, or (better) waves and events are discrete degrees. This is the best way of understanding quantum physics: waves are a description of causes, and specific particle positions (or events) are the actual effects of those causes.
  7. Virtual and actual processes are discrete degrees. Electric fields, for example, are generated by a prior degree of virtual photons. I discuss this a little more separately.These dualisms within physics are described elsewhere in more detail.
    Other discrete degrees are seen by our intuitive understanding of causes and effects, for example within ourselves, within our own minds.
    Degrees as suggested by Swedenborg
  8. End, cause and effect are a triplet of discrete degrees. The end is the original impetus which motivates us, the cause is that motivation when it has formulated the means and is poised to act, and the effect is the resulting action. End, cause and effect produce each other in sequence, but cannot be reversibly transformed.
  9. Affection, understanding and action are discrete degrees. These are analogous to the previous set, but generalised os as to be applicable to processes also of the mind.
  10. Soul, mind and nature, are the three discrete degrees, according to Swedenborg [1], describing the production of creation via affections and thoughts to nature.
  11. Love, Wisdom and Use are, according to Swedenborg [1], again analogous to discrete degrees, and are applicable even to the Divine.
The classifications 19-22 do describe discrete degrees, but only in nature. By themselves they do not indicate any spirituality, but nevertheless they reflect the true spiritual discrete degrees (23-26) more accurately than the continuous degrees (1-15) since they are themselves discrete and not continuous.
Trying to understand any kind of discrete degree is a useful education toward understanding dualism, and hence to begin to understand what is mind, and what is spiritual.

[1] Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Love and Wisdom, 1763. (online)