UNIQUE QUALITY IN EVERYTHING
our point of view, the invention of the calendar is something we
take for granted, but for mankind at the dawn of civilization it
was a discovery of enormous proportions. We must try to imagine
a race of men who have only one foot out of the animal kingdom and
who are just beginning to acquire self-consciousness. Each piece
of new knowledge, even the smallest, comes at the cost of enormous
struggle, and the primitive state of language is not yet capable
of preventing the knowledge accumulated by individuals from being
lost for lack of a system of communicating his discoveries to others.
The simple idea that trees, animals wind and rocks were also conscious
beings was revolutionary in as much as man, for the first time,
questioned himself about the nature of things and explained these
things as beings similar to himself - "Just as I get up, I go, I
cat, I get angry, so do the trees, the lions, and the wind."
The man that reasons in this way is already at an advantage with
respect to the man that has no idea why the wind blows: he has entered
into a relationship with the world around him and has constructed
for himself an interpretative model that, as inadequate as it may
seem to us, nonetheless constitutes an investigative approach to
This is the kind of man who looks up at the sky, sees that the sun
always rises in the same part of the sky and notes that the moon
has a cycle of 28 days (or maybe it was a woman who made this discovery,
aided by the fact that the menstrual cycle also repeats itself fairly
regularly every 28 days.) (Knowledge of the passage of time, like
all subsequent acquisitions of Knowledge, obviously goes hand in
hand with the development of technical inventions and systems of
production to give rise to more complex social relations.)
become aware of time is to discover a law that governs all things
and which, for the first time, reveals the world to man as a unitary
In many primitive cultures we find traces of this same process.
Time became the object of ever more precise and accurate observations
and the passage of time came to be codified in various ways and
forms. We can recall, for example, the case of prehistoric northern
Europe where men constructed enormous monolithic structures of rough-hewn
stone, arranged in a circle, that served, apparently, to slow the
changes in the position of the sun during the course of the years.
The awareness that all things are subject to the existence of time
induced some primitive cultures to imagine that the world was subject
to the will of powers superior to that of the "beings" that inhabit
it; probably it was this way of thinking that influenced the transition
from animistic belief system to the idea of divine beings that govern
all things and events.
Thus were born the legends of the gods, with laws and principles
and their caprices, that governed the world according to their wishes.
Primitive man did not restrict himself to a line of investigation,
and some people tried to explain nature by continuing to make concrete
observations. The attention of these primitive philosophers was
drawn to the most striking phenomena that, like time, permeate all
Let's try to put ourselves in the place of a human being who, knowing
nothing, takes a look at the world around him and asks himself "What
is all of that stuff out there?" One obvious discovery is that everything
out there moves, "everything flows".
observation of Heraclitus, that the water in a river is never the
same, is, in its essence, perceivable also by primitive man. Another
easily perceived phenomenon is that reality is three dimensional
and that this fact determines, in a unifying way, the form of reality.
Everything has height, breadth, and thickness. Careful reflection
about the flow of time, the three dimensionality and the constant
movement of things leads us to see an important nexus between these
three aspects of reality.
There is no movement except that which takes place in a three dimensional
space which gives things a solid body (which moves) and an extended
space (in which things move) nor can the three dimensionality of
things exist without movement that moves throughout the three dimensions.
Finally, even movement and dimension are phenomena that exist only
because time exists.
Movement does not exist if it does not continue in time and a thing
does not have dimension if it does not endure in time. The relationship
between these forces demonstrates that the world is not simply an
arbitrary spirit but rather a complex machine whose various parts
are interrelated in precise ways, thus giving concreteness one to
idea suggested that there had to be a complete intelligence
that had created the universe in a given form according to its
own, unknown, reasons.
The Chinese developed a very materialistic idea of an original
force, the Tao, which manifested itself in the formation of
the universe; the Indians of India imagined a trinity of supreme
gods; the Hebrews believed in the existence of only one God
that created and commands the whole world. (Not a leaf moves
if God does not want it). With respect to animism, superstitious
spiritualism, and cults dedicated to divinities that were often
stupid and cruel, the recognition of a unitary and positive
force that carries the fate of the world was certainly a step
example, the Hebrew that believed in his God knew that, if he did
not sin, nothing could harm him, because other than God there was
no other force that could dominate Him. Thus, he had a great advantage
over his contemporaries who feared the unprovoked fury of the wind,
or that some god or other, while fighting with one of his colleagues,
might end up hitting the man by accident or for spite. The God of
Israel is infallible, just and rational, not a hysterical as Neptune
who sinks ships because of some love affair with a woman.
To understand the enormous impact of the concept of a single unique
God on the people of Israel we need only recall the recurrent Bible
stories of battles against the idolatry that continually insinuated
itself among the Jews, or the many battles fought by the Jews, against
the idolatrous peoples with which they came into contact.