Primordial consciousness: Transcendental monism in
So far, we have observed two aspects of human beings’ separation from natureGoodman Brown’s disconnection from the body and Loren Eiseley’s materialist assumption that only what can be measured by science exists, though he seems to yearn for a higher alternative. Both positions are heavy with psychological implications that stymie individuation and spiritual life. We turn now to Paradise Lost where John Milton’s monist “Scale of Being” offers a vastly different perspective on materialism.1 As Dean Radin explains, there are two relevant types of monism. “Materialistic monism says that matter causes mind, that the mind is essentially a function of the activity of matter in the brain. The basic stuff of the universe is matter and energy.” “Transcendental monism says that the mind is primary, and in some sense causes matter. The ultimate stuff of the universe is consciousness” (emphases in the original).2 Milton’s monism is materialistic insofar as everything proceeds from “one fi rst matter” (5.472; my emphasis),3 but he applies that concept not only to Adam, Eve, and Eden but also to the nonphysical world of angels and spirits. The primordial source of all things has “substance” (5.474); but for the purposes of this chapter, it is understood as consciousness.