It may sound odd to say that matter is the first occurrence of Spirit in the real world because gravity is the most elementary feature of matter. But actually, this is the sense of Hegel’s words when he says: ‘Initially, matter is the form in which the self-externality of nature attains its first being-in-self. It is the abstract being-for-self which, in that it is exclusive, is a plurality which has its unity within itself and at the same time outside itself, as the plural being-for-self included within universal being-for-self. It is in fact gravity.(Hegel, 2020, p. 218-219; Emphasis added.).
Matter is the first ‘positing’ of the Notion. It is the feature that we encounter necessarily in each real – i.e., ‘material’ – body in this world. When I say that something exists as a real thing, I must immediately add that it exists as a material thing. I cannot think of any way of existence of a thing without adding the feature of materiality.
Hegel endeavors to show that my rules of thought are embodied in the real world. Except that ‘my thoughts’ are not exactly my thoughts insofar as we speak about metaphysics. They are what I must necessarily think of as reality, and, as a consequence, they somehow take sway from outside my own thought.
Thus, there is a no-man’s-land here in my mind, where I cannot really say either that I was the one who created this thought, or that it has simply built itself without my participation. Something similar happens with the proposition ‘I am I.’ In this proposition, I cannot distinguish between the I, the subject who thinks, and the I, the object that is thought of. The necessity of thought is like a revelation: you cannot know how you have it, but you are forced to take it into account.
Hegel’s philosophy is a story about how these necessary thoughts take shape as a reality beyond and independent of my mind and how they slowly develop as reality and then are actualized as parts of human thought.
It may seem naive – to say the least – for a philosopher to think that reality is an anticipation of his thought: a sort of personal mythology but of bad taste. But we must consider that Hegel speaks here about metaphysical thoughts. What are such metaphysical thoughts?
They are thoughts that I cannot avoid thinking, in the same way in which, in a logical deduction, I cannot avoid deducing the conclusion from the given premises. Such a compelling thought is, for example, that reality must be a plurality of entities in order to exist. You cannot imagine or think of a universe made of a single entity, like a single cosmic block without any different parts within itself. The difference and the differentiation are essential features of any possible reality.
Now, why is it so? Why must I think in this way? Can I answer this question? It seems that an answer lies beyond my thought capacity. The Big Bang is considered a singularity, meaning it cannot be thought of. We can think only about what happened after the Big Bang when we already have diversity, namely at least space and elementary particles or waves. Even theories that endeavor to go beyond the Big Bang cannot avoid the singularity of the Big Bang.
For example, when Penrose imagines that the present universe was preceded by eons or a previous collapsing universe that, in such a collapse, transforms suddenly into a dimensionless point that afterward explodes, creating the basic elements and laws of the universe as we see it today, he explains the multiplicity of this world not through the singularity of the Big Bang, but still through another multiplicity: that of the previous eons.
Multiplicity is a necessity of thought, or, as philosophers call it habitually, a category. Now, unlike other explanations of nature, categories cannot be changed. Whatever scientific theory of the world we develop, whatever worldview such theories exhibit, they will never be able to avoid the same categories as the past abandoned scientific theories.
Of course, we can have a multitude of forms of multiplicities, but a single understanding or meaning of it, that is to say, a set of things that are somehow different from each other. We can even have a multiplicity made up of identical entities, like a group of clones of the same being. Although identical, they are different entities, be it only because they occupy different places in space.
(We could add that in the case of such categories, there are no family resemblances. For example, whenever I speak of whatever multiplicity, the core meaning of this category that grounds my language stays unchanged. I could not even use language if the meaning of the category changed.)
Later, in his philosophy, Heidegger suggested that, because of this feature of our thought, the human being is called by ‘Being’ to think, or he is awakened by It to thought and understanding.
We use categories at every step. For us, each thing must be a single entity, different from any other thing. This is called the principle of identity. Perhaps only God can see the universe in its continuity, not us. Whatever we perceive and think of must start somewhere and end somewhere and therefore be what it is, different in itself from other (however much) similar things.
Because it started to exist, certainly it must have been produced somehow: in this case, we use another category, that of causality. Things are related to each other in the universe through a cosmic network of causal relationships. Does causality only belong to my mind? Did humans invent it without it having real objective support for this idea? I don’t think so. Causality is what they see everywhere but also what controls their thoughts, brains, muscles, blood, and cells.
Matter, or if you like materiality, is such a necessary feature of reality. Indeed, matter can have an infinite number of forms, and no one has ever seen pure matter. In fact, the idea of matter occurred in antiquity, when philosophers understood that things have shape and consistency. And they called this consistency matter.
Because a tree is something hard and has consistency, its matter is the wood. Because the stone is hard also, it also has consistency and therefore matter, too. Even the fluid water or the hovering gas have specific consistencies and therefore possess their own forms of matter. The matter of an organism is its organic body, which is internally specified. Perhaps even ghosts have a kind of matter, a specific one, as much as they are meant to be disembodied as entities.
And we speak about the matter that is spread throughout the infinity of the universe. How could we do this? – Nowadays, one speaks about ‘dark matter;’ but matter must exist even within black holes. Everything that exists has its own form of matter, its own form of consistency, and thus its own form of being kept together or, as Hegel puts it, ‘gravity.’
Gravity is the force that binds the parts of things together, building things. From this point of view, since a wave exists in a specific form, it must have both a kind of ‘matter’ and a sort of ‘gravity,’ a sort of immanent force keeping this wave together in the form in which it exists and separating it from other waves.
Although a great scholar, Jung was not very familiar with Hegel. He appreciated Kant more. However, his idea that archetypes have a psychoid nature – producing both the external material reality and the internal mental or spiritual content corresponding to that external reality – is exactly what Hegel has in view, only at a much, much broader scale. Jung meant this correlation only for individuals.
Hegel thought it for the whole of human history as an unfolding material reality, incorporating into objective matter what later would also emerge as a category in the human mind. However, before being in the human mind and before being incorporated into matter, these categories are in God’s mind.
And God speaks to man through the mediation of nature, the world, and history, in that, first, he sets into the material flesh of the universe the categories of His infinite mind in order to, secondly, let the human mind recognize them.
This is why matter is the first occurrence of the Spirit in reality.