The human person occupies a certain position among an indefinite number of other degrees of Being, and so it behooves us to situation ourselves properly in this hierarchy before we proceed any further. In order to do this, we begin by making a series of distinctions, the first of which is between two orders: the Universal and the individual. When it is said that the Self cannot be individualized, this is due to the fact that it belongs to the Universal. The Universal is often confused with what is, in reality, the individual domain. This is due mostly to the lack of any conception of the Universal in the mind of those responsible for the confusion. What we mean is that they apply the name ‘Universal’ to what is really the general, and the general is nothing but an extension of the individual. One more step away from the truth is taken when the general is not even meant, but merely the collective, which is even less universal than the individual, and belongs properly to the particular. At this point we can perhaps gain clarity by saying that the Universal and individual are not what Aristotle called ‘categories,’ which were but the most general of the genera, principles only applicable ‘within’ the individual order itself, and which cannot be used to describe it, much less the Universal. The most appropriate term drawn from Western thought would be the Scholastic idea of ‘transcendentals,’ since these transcend both genera and category, reaching into the Universal. Yet the transcendentals are nonetheless not properly metaphysical, in the sense that they are coextensive with Being and do not go beyond it, which is expected since this is the extent of the doctrine in which they are found. We could say that the transcendentals belong to ‘ontology,’ which pertains to metaphysics but does not attain to a complete metaphysics, ‘stopping short,’ as it were, at Being, when in fact what lies beyond Being is far more important, being the principle from which Being itself proceeds. To refer back to the previous distinction, we can say that it is Brahma which is the Supreme Principle, and Ishvara, Ishvara being assimilable to the first of Brahma’s determinations, or to Being.
To clarify matters, we offer the following table, showing the correct hierarchy of these conceptions:
Although we set the two side-by-side as if they were correlatives, it is critical to understand that there is no commensurability between the individual and the universal orders. The individual is a limitation, while the Universal represents a negation of that limitation and exceeds the former as its principle.