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Ontogeny


Ontogeny means the origin and development of the individual being.  In biology this is paired with phylogeny.  Ontogeny is the history of the individual organism, phylogeny the history of the race or lineage (the linnean taxa or cladistic tree).

This is a valid approach, which I do not refute, but I would take also ontogeny further.

Ontogeny can be the history of the universe, or the development of the psyche, or even, as indicate by the above Theosophical diagram, the evolution of the soul, spanning many lifetimes.

In this latter context ontogeny is also evolution.  Ontogeny, phylogeny, evolution and metamorphosis are all related, all different aspects of the same larger process.  Ontogeny refers to the development of the whole entity, or holon to use Arthur Koestler's term becuse each whole is also a part of a larger whole,.  Apart from the Absolute ("God" if you want to sue a religious term) itself!  The Absolute then can be considered the totality of all the parts, and the ontogeny of the Absolute is the Phylogeny of those parts or aspects or modes of the Absolute.

On a somewhat smaller scale, the ontogeny of the universe is the totality of the phylogenies of the each and all of the parts of the universe - atoms, molecules, stars and planets, rocks and bacteria and plants and animals and genes and memes and all the rest.  Even on the scale of our physical bodies, the ontogeny of the body as a whole involves a phylogeny of cells, all descended from the original fertilised zygote.  Between person and cosmos is the planet, in our case Gaia, the home of life on Earth, and the totality of life on Earth.  And here we return to biology because the ontogeny of Gaia is the totality of the phylogenies of all the biotic lineages that make up Gaia, as well as the ontogeny of the atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, etc.

As I said, ontogeny, phylogeny, evolution and metamorphosis are all tied in together as different perspectives of the same whole.  For every stage of growth or transformation in the ontogenic life history, which is the same as saying every stage of mutation or novelty or speciation in the phylogeny of each of the ontogenic components, is a transmutation, a metamorphosis.  And this whole process, whether one considers it directional or random, is what is known as evolution, a curiously apt term from the metaphysical perspective - and inappropriate from the biological, because it implies the unravelling of all that is already pre-existent at the start (the word literally refers to the unrolling of a fern frond).  Hence the Theosophical diagram, the evolution of the soul, shown in terms of an unfolding spiral.  But because it is the same soul through many life times, it is also the ontogeny of the soul.


Transcendence Involution/Emanation Metamorphosis Evolution Divinisation

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