A more thorough treatment of this topic (my comments are in blue):
Differentiation – not being all the same
[1. Why do you use a static characteristic to define a metaphysical process or cognitive act?]
[2. Why do you define difference by reference to what is accidental to its definition? That is, what actually makes two things different, in your view? When we talk about difference, we all assume that a) and are not completely the same. What actually makes a) and different or discernible from one another? Is difference a complete illusion, previously discussed according to some misunderstanding, or has it been defined without utility?]
Separation – varying levels or strengths of something
[Why don’t you just say “variance,” “variation,” or “gradation” here?]
Essence/Attribute – a property that might be applied, something that might vary
[This definition departs markedly from traditional (classical) metaphysics, namely, that of Aristotle, which distinguishes between essens and accidens. Essens is the essence of a substance, what it needs to be itself (the quality is necessary and sufficient). Accidens refers to a quality of a substance that results from it or its interaction with other substances, but are not essential to its identity (accidental properties, like a human who smells like roses). I’m not saying these are ultimately defensible, but it is very odd to use the definition you have when philosophers usually use the term “property” instead.]
Field – a non-uniform spread of something
[Why are you using the term “field” to exclude a planar field in which a uniform or non-uniform distribution or extension may occur (i.e., space or area containing matter or points)? It seems you actually mean chaotic distribution or emergence, referring more to the unpredictable pattern of creation than to the distinguishability of what already exists (though you may think that everything that exists actually is chaotic).]
Potential – that which is unactualized but can be template for something to be (in its image)
[You say “that which,” but you don’t actually answer “that what?” How can you define what is non-actual? It is like saying nothing is what does not exist. The definition is in some sense unsatisfactory because nothing isn’t actually anything to which a definition can be predicated. That said, you use a good definition for your discussion by giving the term a functional sense.]
Possibility – that which could be/exist
[Again, that what? The state of matter that…? The power of God to…? According to your definition, we could say that inverse gravity—gravity that exerts more outward force the more matter there is—is possibility. But the best we could say is that such a thing is possible, not that it is actually “possibility” (a lot of people do not consider inverse gravity conceivable, anyway).]
Exist – to actualize into form of some kind
[Predicating a finite verb form with a definition that uses only an infinitive actually obscures the term’s meaning. Let me illustrate the difficulty: “This computer exists.” According to your definition, the statement is actually false because a particular thing cannot exist unless it is in the process of actualizing. This definition is very ambiguous.]
Reality is not a clean orderly arrangement of stuff. Rather it is a hodgepodge. For purposes of conceptualizing and thinking about things, it is convenient to construct axis or spectrums in an orderly spread. While one can certainly find a part of reality that varies only in the slightest way from any other part of reality [Do you mean space or matter, or a kind of process?], that is not to say that two such bits of reality are ‘near’ to each other, nor that they are part of a continuum. Some parts of reality do seem to be arranged in a way to suggest relatively continuous varying properties. Given any random arrangement, there are going to be sections where ‘near’ things differ by only small increments. However, there are also a lot more ‘discontinuities’. It is not clear if the seemingly smooth variances in the properties in this part of reality are actual happenstance or if they are just some artifact of the way we conceptually arrange our model. Modeling ‘chaos’ is generally not very helpful to conscious beings and thus seldom done. [it would help to define “reality” since you are already using novel definitions for other words. Does the term denote a geometric explanation (e.g., planes and vectors in which matter occurs), or does it mean something broader? What is it a hodgepodge of, for example? Is its very nature a hodgepodge of conflicting essences? That would imply that reality is actually chaotic. Do you believe that?]
In the pursuit of spirituality, one of the most common axis [The plural form of “axis” is “axes.”] of examination is the from unity to the apparent separations that make it seem that there are distinct things. Religions usually narrow this down further to a part of this axis from ‘God’ (Unity end) to either ‘human’ or to ‘nature’.
[You have a good insight here, pointing to the question of identity in metaphysics. Why do you say the “pursuit of spirituality?” Do you mean that many people are just trying to become spiritual? If that is what you mean, then why is spirituality more elusive than living one’s life according to a religious doctrine? Do you mean to say that religion is narrower than spirituality? Do you mean one is more useful than the other, or that one is superior or more true? Why do you add the term “Unity end” as a predication of God? Do you just mean that God is frequently used as an heuristic in discussions of metaphysical identity and semantics (Kierkegaard), or are you adding something to that discussion?]
What follows is a description of the key part of this axis from Unity to the local universe humans inhabit. [Do you want to describe the relation of God to physical, finite things? The relationship of unity and difference? Is there a non-local universe? Are you using possible world semantics to imply that there are other possible universes, or that there are other actual universes?] Choosing the local universe as a point on this axis is arbitrary but makes it more relevant to the audience. [i don’t see how this follows from the above discussion I know the Eastern philosophy includes the wild assertion that “I am God,” but God does not need to write to figure out who he is, either (and we do)! Are you supposing that humanity is a false identity, somehow dissociated from truth or self-consciousness? The fact that we are human is relevant to choosing what we talk about. It’s a fact that may not limit what we talk about to humanity, but it is prima facie relevant (and in my opinion, ultimately relevant).] Any of the infinite other universes could have been used without affecting the rest of the description. [What about a universe in which humans, language, or descriptions cannot or do not exist?] It might not be obvious that each step along this axis ignores an infinite number of other possible valid choices for inclusion when making an axis. [What is involved in making an axis? Do you mean this to be just a geometrical term, or do you want it to mean a point of metaphysical reference, a point of semantic reference (as in philosophy of language), or as denoting a commonly discussed or apprehended pattern or thought? You should define this term. Also, validity refers to the quality of a deductive argument’s success; the argument is either valid (the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises), or it is invalid (it does not follow from the premises). Aristotle catalogued the totality of valid syllogisms (there are other kinds of deductive arguments besides these); given a finite set of terms, the possible number of valid arguments (that is, inferences) is itself finite (you would just have a large set).But there is debate on this issue. For example, the emergentists think that a sufficiently large, complex set begets new properties. So with regard to validity, the nature of a term’s meaning would be important to determining if an infinite set is indeed possible from a finite relation of terms.] Indeed this is but one of an infinite number of possible axis one might utilize and certainly not the only valid [Do you mean useful, relevant, or acceptable? In what way?] way to arrange these specific ideas to create a valid axis. Further it is not even close to the only way to transverse between its end points. Note that there are parts of reality that lack any or all the separations required to make up the layers described. Those parts of reality are equally real but don’t conceptually ‘fit’ between our experience of reality on Earth as we look towards Unity. There is nothing to prevent us from including most of those other parts of reality in our experience, it’s just that the human form is not viable there. The conscious and aware parts of ourselves however are far less restricted and can travel reasonably freely to parts of reality very different than ‘here’.
This axis is divided into layers divided by marks of separation. Layer descriptions would seem to conflict or invalidate descriptions of other layers. For instance there being differences would seem to destroy unity, however this is not the case. How it can be that way is a paradox and mystery. [You seem to be saying that delineation of any sort, that is, stating the actual state of affairs with regard to anything, including your having a discussion and using definitions, is actually senseless. Is that what you think? That supposition intractably mires us in nihilism, a real pitfall to systems of universalist, metaphysical speculation (including Eastern and Western esotericism). Then again, axiomatic, highly precise, analytical systems fail to establish meaning across their specialized areas. For example, particle physics cannot be explained within the context of Newtonian physics, and vice versa. In fact, there is no theory or explanation to unify the sum of their assertions at all. These questions of explanation were raised by the logical positivists in the early 20th century, namely, whether systems of explanation were “reducible” to one another, and if there were “bridge laws” to unify the laws in between theories.] These layers are not actual things per se. [Are ideas that define things themselves real, or do they have reality only as fictions (practical fictions or otherwise)?] They don’t represent any real division in reality. Rather they are conceptual thresholds used for convenience of think and communicate about different ‘parts’ of reality. It’s no different than putting mile markers on a freeway or naming certain sections of land. The road and land are not in any way affected by these labelings. Yet for the users of the road and land they are assigned a meaningful significance. One can also think of layers are generalized descriptions of certain parts of reality. Depending on your usage, these divisions might be helpful, problematic or irrelevant. [You are basically denying the thesis of nominalism (that names or labels and practical meaning are ultimately real, as opposed to general ideas), which was argued against universalism in the Middle Ages.]
Unity to Manifest reality axis, separations accumulate as one moves away from unity:
Layer UNITY: undifferentiated sameness, without feature, attribute, potential, or property
[You are essentially agreeing with Brahmanic literature as espoused in the Upanishads by maintaining that reality (whatever it is: they claim it is the imperishable and immutable Brahman) is ultimately undifferentiated. The drawback is that such a nature eludes any definition, like “nothing,” discussed above. We cannot even say that God and the world is undifferentiated, or that reality and falsehood are really undifferentiated (or not). Hence, philosophers have used negations to allude to the ultimate nature of reality (which is the consummate question of metaphysics), never actually able to limit it with concepts. Even Brahman’s being immutable and imperishable only says what does not happen to it or occur according to its nature. In fact, you could not even say that it exists at all, since that would be positively characteristic and manifest; we must say equally that it is everything and not anything (This is why the poet feels entitled to give Krishna such elaborate descriptions in the Gita). Anything without property is without definition, yes—since definitions are things that are predicated upon a term or a thing. In addition, if a unity of all things is ultimately real, then whence arises potential, the ability of something to produce something else or to do something? Is such a potential unreal, a trick of the light? Is reality static, immutable, and unchanging? The eleatic philosophers, Parmenides and Zeno, thought so.]
Primary separation: That there can be separation, that unity could not all the same, that unity can be differentiated [The primary “separation” is actually an essential potency (power) of God.]
Secondary separation: That there is actually separation, unity is not the same everywhere [You refer to the actual (merely physical or gross?) separation of things, which is impossible, since the actual is unreal, according to your prior assertion (that reality is actually an undifferentiated unity).]
Layer Essences: properties or attributes that might be applied to something. This layer is still so close to unity that there are no actual something to apply anything to yet. Separations upon separations make unity less and less the same (everywhere). Think of each as a non-uniform field with varying strength. Each attribute is independent of the others. There are essences like consciousness, life, awareness, exist, dimensions, beingness, creatures, mind, processing, representation, location, change, gradients. However there is not yet any way for them to ‘be’ nor any way for these essences to interact. They remain homeless concepts [but doesn’t a concept—to have the characteristic of being a concept at all—require meaning and sense? Otherwise, there is nothing of sense to speak of here (nothing to which we could sensibly refer to having no home). I believe that these concepts, like love, compassion, forgiveness, thought, representation, and error, are meaningful. Human life is meaningful. Human struggle and thought are meaningful. Human beauty is meaningful; it reflects God’s glorious divinity.]
Combination separation: this allows attributes to combine with each other, but there is still no way for them to ‘be’. [it is an interesting question as to how contingency (being or becoming by accident, per accidens, can occur at all. Some theologically-oriented thinkers have said everything is essentially meaningful and perfect (Leibniz, Spinoza), while more atheistic thinkers have said that nothing is meaningful (Schopenhauer, Sartre). I find that the question prompts an urgent matter of faith.]
Layer Potentials: With essences combining in varying strengths fields of potential are created
Interaction and alteration separations: this allows parts of a potential field to change based the field somewhere [Lucretius, in his Latin poem, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), posits that, following the atomism of Democritus, all particles were in an aligned state of falling within a void until there was a “swerve” introduced. Aristotle picks this up later as one of his four causes, namely, efficient cause (being affected by an external source).]
Layer Unmanifest: the distribution of essences is no longer ‘static’ and can be altered. What was previously just a potential now becomes an infinite set of possibilities (based on the essences present) These things are still purely conceptual without substance or form. The interactions are holistic yielding all possible interactions given a combination of attributes. In other words, all possible outcomes of an interaction are there. [What governs the limits of these interactions? Can an essence contain the possibility that it is itself altered? Can an essence be altered at all? Are there limits to the distribution of essences in the world? If so, how?] An important feature is that arrangements of attributes can be reflected in other parts of the potentials field creating ‘information’ in the unmanifest. [Kant speaks of the unmanifest as the “noumenal” or the noumena: God, freedom, and imortality (a Greek derivative from the work for “thing,” if I remember correctly), only realized through judgment, action, and beauty. Husserl takes up this notion in his phenomenological (phenomena is derived from the Greek, phainesthai, meaning “to appear or be perceived.”) project of experiential and universal description of all essences of human experience. He concerned himself with the thing-in-itself, but he failed in his project when his publication of the Cartesian Meditation (named after Descartes, who formalized modern discussion of the notion that mind and bodies were separate according to God’s nature in his Meditations) failed to prove the existence of other minds. The project was abandoned by his students, most notably, Heidegger, and devolved into mysticism (Heidegger was also a Nazi). The theosophists were also active in similar exploits, taking their inspiration from Nietzsche and discussions in the Bhagavad Gita and other obscure texts (like the Buddhist Diamond Sutra and the Chinese I-Ching), although they were ultimately exposed as wayward and superstitious.] Attributes like consciousness and awareness have a way to have effect. Also something one might call a ‘being’ is now possible.
Individual separation: specific possibilities can be separated from each other. This makes it easy for awareness to follow singular possibilities without all the possibilities clouding the ‘view’.
Manifestation separation: possibilities can take form or be actualized into existence, things can play out (happen) in a spectrum that can be observed(sampled)
Layer Manifest reality: This is the reality of the human vehicle. Singular possibilities play out while conscious beings can use their awareness to observe it doing so. [Physical organisms]
Vast numbers of separations: millions of attributes are required to adequately account for material reality as we know it. [i assume you mean atoms and subatomic particles here.]
The ‘Earth Plane’ is but one tiny, tiny fraction of manifest reality. Other parts of manifest reality lack many of these other separations that we take for granted as part of daily experience. [How do you come to this conclusion? You have not demonstrated it.]
Thank you for writing this essay. While my comments are certainly critical, I have to say this is a really thought-provoking essay on religious metaphysics, and I commend you for sharing it. These are not easy questions to answer. People have been at it for a long time. Where does it all lead us?
That’s been my question through my education in philosophy and two year foray into paganism, esotericism, and Eastern mysticism. I admit that at some times the nihilism, combined with suffering, was nearly too much to bear. But the stoics have a good mantra, if you will: “bear and forbear.” But we have to “share and forbear” because through the reception and love of Christ and His body, we are unified in earthly and divine meaning. Possibility may be infinite, but opportunity is not. And besides, what about the importance and meaning of this life and this world?
I will tell you that I come across more starry-eyed mystics in this town than I can shake a stick at. A lot of the movement started in the 60s and 70s with the momentum of feminism and sexual liberation. It was a time of great change, but the change will have to slow soon. Think of it as a mighty sprint that will need a lengthy rest. Each period is good, in its own way.
One thing that I do no hear much about among the more educated mystics is God. I come to wonder where all the ideation leads them. Are they rebelling from the Lord like I did? He is gracious and merciful, surely.