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The Triple Existence - a New Way of Looking at the World

by Bill McGaughey


The Triple Existence is a concept that expresses the diverse nature of our physical environment. So far as we know, this environment is quite unique in the universe. The universe itself consists of matter and energy distributed in various locations. Its matter is mostly hydrogen with a smattering of helium and other chemical elements. The materials on earth are more diverse. But this is still matter - a substance found everywhere.

So far as we know, the earth is the only place in the entire universe in which living creatures exist. A particular species of life, humanity, is able to think in ways that both mirror the surrounding environment and have the capacity to change it. This is accomplished through the agency of thought. Man is a thinking animal, uniquely able to express thought in words and so communicate in ways that facilitate collective action.

As human beings, we are born into families in which parents raise and teach their children. The most important object of teaching is the ability to speak and to understand speech. Right away then, infants are exposed to an environment in which life - their parents, siblings, etc. - is a major presence. It is also an environment in which the expression of thought becomes a major life skill.

Infants and children are exposed to these various influences in a seamless way. They do not differentiate between matter and life or between life and thought but experience everything at the same time. So we generally are unaware that certain objects experienced in life are fundamentally different than other objects. The purpose of this paper is to point out the differences.

Life is different than matter, or most material objects, in that it comes into being and passes out of existence in a predictable cycle, rising and falling at either end of the cycle. Living creatures are born, rise to maturity, exist as mature creatures, and then grow weaker, decline, and die during a certain period of time. Chemical structures change along the way. There is a mechanism within the creature’s DNA that controls this transformation.

Thought is a pattern of activity within the brain that determines how an animal will act. One such action is to communicate with others of the same species. The communication can also be an inner cognitive experience that becomes part of the thinker’s mental environment. Human beings, acting together through thought, also change the earth’s physical environment in planting crops, building roads or habitable structures, etc. Much of what we see within our realm of human habitation is the product of thought.

Taken together, then, we have a mixture of three things in our physical environment - matter, life, and thought. This is the Triple Existence. It is a world in which the three types of being are so intimately intertwined that we are unaware of the different components. Life is embedded in the world of matter, and thought is embedded in the conscious experience of a particular form of life, man. We see life and its various products, including those fashioned by thought, as part of a single package.

In splitting our world apart into its different components, I present the concept of the Triple Existence as a way to expand and focus human consciousness more concretely. Whether or not this exercise is useful is another question. If, however, one of life’s purposes is to be fully aware of itself, then this concept serves a useful function. I have written a book titled History of the Triple Existence that narrates in chronological order and in some detail how our tripartite world came to be. This brief writing is a companion to that work.

I hope that the present discussion will inspire you to look at the world in a different way. Just look around you and identify the various types of being. What do you see that is pure matter (having no trace of life or thought)? What do you see that embodies life? What do you see that is a product of human thinking? All visible or physical objects will incorporate matter but there are some in the other two categories of being that require explanation as to their relationship with life or with thought.

Therefore, think analytically. Think with concrete awareness. Stripped of its experiential overlay, what is it that you see in this world? In presenting the concept of the Triple Existence, I am proposing a mental exercise that could open up new forms of awareness and even become useful.


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About the Triple Existence: Some Additional Thoughts


The “triple existence” refers to the fact that the material conditions on the earth’s surface are comprised of three different types of being - matter, life, and thought. Most of the universe consists of matter alone. Earth, on the other hand, has produced living species. One species, man, is capable of thought. Thought has profoundly affected the earth’s environment.

The insight being expressed here is that we live in an environment in which these three types of being are so thoroughly enmeshed that we see them as a whole. However, it is possible to distinguish between the component elements. I would encourage this analytic exercise as a means of becoming more aware of the reality of human existence.

I have written a book, “History of the Triple Existence”, that explains how each type of being successively came to be. With the Big Bang came the existence of matter in the universe. Later, life appeared on earth. Then came human life and its civilization. Civilization is a complex of thoughts which, through their combined effect, also has a physical aspect. As human thought changes the earth’s environment, we are confronted with a new type of world compacting three different elements into a single realm of experience.

Wherever you may be (but especially outdoors) you can identify the different types of being. Rocks are pure matter. So is the water accumulated in puddles or lakes. In most landscapes upon the earth’s surface you see grasses and other plants covering the terrain. Occasionally you will see animals scurrying about. Life is here injecting itself into the picture. With respect to thought, I am referring less to the interior glimmering of awareness within the human brain and more to its product. Much of what we see in our living space is artificial, especially in cities. We see roads, buildings, automobiles, furniture, and other products of human thought. This, too, is part of the human experience.

How can it help to see the world this way? I am open to suggestions. We have taken the first step in being aware of differences in the physical objects that we encounter. But now is the time for something more. So I offer this commentary as a challenge to create your own mode of awareness as human beings are uniquely able to experience.


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The Triple Existence - a New Way of Looking at the World --- The only place we know in the universe where matter, life, and thought exist together -- triple existence, History of the Triple Existence, three different types of being