Sacred Texts  Classics  Index  Previous  Next 

Section 5

5. How can we talk of it? How can it be the Matter of real things?

It is talked of, and it serves, precisely, as a Potentiality.

And, as being a Potentiality, it is not of the order of the thing it is to become: its existence is no more than an announcement of a future, as it were a thrust forward to what is to come into existence.

As Potentiality then, it is not any definite thing but the potentiality of everything: being nothing in itself- beyond what being Matter amounts to- it is not in actualization. For if it were actually something, that actualized something would not be Matter, or at least not Matter out and out, but merely Matter in the limited sense in which bronze is the matter of the statue.

And its Non-Being must be no mere difference from Being.

Motion, for example, is different from Being, but plays about it, springing from it and living within it: Matter is, so to speak, the outcast of Being, it is utterly removed, irredeemably what it was from the beginning: in origin it was Non-Being and so it remains.

Nor are we to imagine that, standing away at the very beginning from the universal circle of Beings, it was thus necessarily an active Something or that it became a Something. It has never been able to annex for itself even a visible outline from all the forms under which it has sought to creep: it has always pursued something other than itself; it was never more than a Potentiality towards its next: where all the circle of Being ends, there only is it manifest; discerned underneath things produced after it, it is remoter [from Real-Being] even than they.

Grasped, then, as an underlie in each order of Being, it can be no actualization of either: all that is allowed to it is to be a Potentiality, a weak and blurred phantasm, a thing incapable of a Shape of its own.

Its actuality is that of being a phantasm, the actuality of being a falsity; and the false in actualization is the veritably false, which again is Authentic Non-Existence.

So that Matter, as the Actualization of Non-Being, is all the more decidedly Non-Being, is Authentic Non-Existence.

Thus, since the very reality of its Nature is situated in Non-Being, it is in no degree the Actualization of any definite Being.

If it is to be present at all, it cannot be an Actualization, for then it would not be the stray from Authentic Being which it is, the thing having its Being in Non-Beingness: for, note, in the case of things whose Being is a falsity, to take away the falsity is to take away what Being they have, and if we introduce actualization into things whose Being and Essence is Potentiality, we destroy the foundation of their nature since their Being is Potentiality.

If Matter is to be kept as the unchanging substratum, we must keep it as Matter: that means- does it not?- that we must define it as a Potentiality and nothing more- or refute these considerations.