Every culture, every human being has an understanding of the metaphysical laws that rule our planet. Some thinkers have put them down on paper. Let's see what European philosophers, especially since the time of the presocratics, have said about these laws.

Western philosophy came in contact with cosmosemantics. Thales is said to have traveled to Khemit (ancient Egypt) and to have thence brought back to Greece the science of geometry. He seems to have discovered how to calculate the distance of a ship at sea from observations taken at two points on land, and how to estimate the height of a pyramid from the length of its shadow. According to Aristotle, he thought that water is the original substance, out of which all is formed, that the magnet has a soul because it moves the iron (ATTRACTION); further, that all things are full of gods.

Anaximander held that all things come from a single primal substance, infinite, eternal, neutral in the cosmic strife, ageless, and "it encompasses all the worlds." He made this remarkable statement: "Into that from which things take their rise they pass away once more, as is ordained, for they make reparation and satisfaction to one another for their injustice according to the ordering time." Doesn't that sound like he is talking about PROPORTIONAL COMPENSATIONS, an idea of justice, both cosmic and human?

He spoke of an eternal MOTION, in the course of which was brought about the origin of the worlds. According to him, the worlds were not created, as in the judeo-christian theology, but evolved (EVOLUTION).

Mathematics, in the sense of demonstrative and deductive argument, begins in Europe with Pythagoras. Pythagoras is believed to have taught "first, that the soul is an immortal thing, and that it is transformed into other kinds of living things (EVOLUTION); further, that whatever comes into existence is born again in the revolutions of a certain CYCLE, nothing being absolutely new."

Heraclites regarded fire as the fundamental substance. Everything, like flame in a fire, is born by the death of something else. "Mortals are immortals, and immortals are mortals, the one's living the other's death and dying the other's life," he wrote. There is UNITY in the world, but it is a unity formed by the combination of opposites (COMPLEMENTARY CONTRADICTIONS). All things come out of the one, and the one out of all things. But the many have less reality than the one, which is God (COMPLEMENTARY CONTRADICTIONS BETWEEN THE ONE AND THE MANY). He talked of the world as the mingling of opposites. "Men do not know how what is at variance agrees with itself. It is an attunement of opposite tensions, like that of the bow and the lyre." His belief in strife is connected with this theory, for in strife opposites combined to produce a MOTION which is a harmony. There is UNITY in the world, but it is a unity resulting from DIVERSITY.

He said: "Couples are things whole and things not whole.
What is drawn together and what is drawn asunder;
The harmonious and the discordant.
The one is made of all things,
And all things issue from the one."

Sometimes he spoke as if the unity were more fundamental than the diversity:

"Good and ill are one.
To God all things are fair and good and right,
but men hold some things wrong and some right.
The way up and the way down is one and the same.
God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace,
surfeit and hunger; but He takes various shapes,
just as fire, when it is mingled with spices,
is named according to the savour of each.
Nevertheless, there would be no unity
if there were no opposites to combine:
It is the opposite which is good for us."

This exploration of Khemitic wisdom (where Umics really began) contains the germ of Hegel's philosophy which proceeds by a synthesis of opposites.

For Parmenides, the only true being is "THE ONE", the plenum, which is infinite and indivisible. It is not, as in Heraclitus, a union of opposites, since there are no opposites: "cold" means only "not hot" and "dark" means only "no light" or "not bright".

Empedocles is the one who established earth, air, fire and water as the four elements for Western doctrine. Each of these was everlasting, but they could be mixed in different proportions, and thus produce the changing complex substances that we find in the world (CHEMISTRY, HIERARCHY). They were combined by Love and separated by Strife. There were periods when Love was in the ascendant and others when Strife was the stronger. This introduced the CYCLE: when the elements have been thoroughly mixed by Love, Strife gradually sorts them out again; when Strife has separated, Love gradually reunites them. Thus every compound substance is temporary; only the elements, together with Love and Strife, are everlasting. - There is a similarity to Heraclitus, but a softening, since it is not Strife alone, but Strife and Love together, that produce change. The doctrine of Empedocles, outside science, consists in the theory of the four elements and in the use of the two principles of Love and Strife to explain change.

Anaxagoras held that everything is infinitely divisible, and that even the smallest portion of matter contains some of each element. He taught that mind is the source of all MOTION. It causes a rotation (MOTION, CYCLE) which is gradually spreading throughout the world.

The founders of atomism were Leucippus and Democritus. The latter, a much more definite figure, spent a considerable time in Egypt in search of knowledge. Leucippus, if not Democritus, was led to atomism in the attempt to mediate between MONISM and PLURALISM, as represented by Parmenides and Empedocles respectively. They believed that everything is composed of atoms which are physically, not geometrically, indivisible; that between the atoms, there is empty space, that atoms are indestructible, that they always have been, and always will be, in MOTION.

The atomists, unlike Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, sought to explain the world without introducing the notion of purpose (or final cause). The "final cause" of an occurence is an event in the future for the sake of which the occurence takes place. Why does the baker make bread? Because people will be hungry. Things are explained by the purpose they serve. When we ask "why?" concerning an event, we may mean either of two things: "What purpose did this event serve?" or "What earlier circumstances caused this event?" The answer to the former question is a teleological explanation (explanation by the final cause) and the answer to the latter question is a mechanistic explanation. Experience has shown that the mechanistic question leads to scientific knowledge, while the teleological question does not. The atomists asked mechanistic questions and gave mechanistic answers.

If you have been reading this discourse closely, you may have noticed that each of these presocratic characters bumped into one metaphysical law or another, and sought to explain the world by it. It has always been so in Western philosophy. Hegel believed that complementary contradictions, dialectics, could alone explain everything and lead man to the knowing. Darwin came and made much noise with evolution. All he did was to masterfully prove that evolution exists and is a true law of nature. For those who already knew, Darwin was a complete waste of time.

The existence or not of God is important in Western philosophy. It's vital in the world of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. With the advent and growth of Christianity, God became central. Until Nietzsche killed Him. And Karl Marx buried Him. Western philosophy these past 50 years is a discussion with Nietzsche. Western politics these past century is a debate with Karl Marx.

Personally I see in both the discussion with Nietzsche and the debate with Karl Marx the angst of a people begging for God to provide guidance by performing a miracle. They like the idea of God's death (or God's murder) and His replacement by Man but when they, and we all, see Man's (polluting) work in only two centuries of industrial revolution, they, and we all, shiver.