Plato’s student Aristotle also believed that Ideas or Forms exist, but that Forms “are not outside of and above things, but are in things …. here form and matter are one” and that the world we live in is the real world. Aristotle believed that the “first cause or the unmoved mover” is “pure form without any matter”.
This doctrine of forms of Plato and Aristotle had very high respect for many centuries. Many great philosophers patterned their work after them. Philo, the great Jewish philosopher living about the time of Christ, taught that “everything in the universe is a copy of an idea in the mind of God.” Plotinus, third century, taught that “soul is the form of all things”. All these early philosophers proposed that “the world is, a combination of an idea or form and matter.”
Thereafter the early Christian thinkers “sought to reconcile Christianity with Greek philosophy”, especially after Plato, since he emphasized the difference between the divine world and matter. Saint Augustine said that “the forms which he impressed upon matter were in God’s mind from the beginning of time”. Saint Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus both taught that “God is pure form”. About this time an opposing school of philosophy arose to propose that ideas or forms are not existent and the only real things are material objects. Thus the great early school of form began to recede. The last to speak of it was Francis Bacon of the sixteenth century who said that “by careful study man could discover the laws, causes or forms of objects in the universe”.
S.E. FROST JR. Basic teachings of the Great Philosophers
NEW SCHOOLS OF FORM
The Old School of Form generally emphasized that spiritual form and matter are two separate things, that objects made of matter are patterned after spiritual forms. This arose with Plato and was adopted by the early Christian church because it fitted in nicely with the early Christian doctrine of “contempt for the world”. However Aristotle taught that Form and matter are not separate and that this world we live in is the real world. That is why I say the New School of Form is philosophically more like Aristotle than Plato.
The “New School” takes this one step further by saying that physical forms ARE the spiritual forms, that spiritual forms became physical forms and will become spiritual forms again. In the old school Forms were conceived as spiritual objects or patterns which are somehow impressed on lifeless matter, and that material objects are mere copies, imperfect copies at that. But the New School would say that the original spiritual forms themselves descended and became material forms. That is why matter always becomes form, it was form, and it will always strive to become perfect form. And THAT is why the terms Form and Matter are used interchangeably.
Futhermore, Form, or matter is only one-fifth of the universe. The universe is made out of form, space, powers, forces and energies. Each is one fifth of the universe.
The New School of Form strives to see the Ultimate Reality as all these things, pure form, pure energy, pure void.