Aspects of Integrity
According to the fundamental principle of the integrity of the world, every philosophical category will reproduce this triplicate integrity in its being, first, a universal applying to the whole world, second, a hierarchy of special concepts and notions (that it, acting as their "local" universe), and third, a unity of all the possible partial definitions. In particular, the very idea of the world can be developed in that manner, resulting in a hierarchy of ontological categories. First, we take the idea of the world as the prerequisite for any thought at all, the most general framework of any philosophizing (and virtually for any human activity at all). Then we observe that this primary integrity can be approached in different respects and thus reveal its fundamental aspects, which can manifest themselves in many complementary ways; that is, we have to accept that the world can be somehow represented within itself. Finally, we need to restore the integrity indicating that all such partial manifestations come from the same source, thus admitting the world's ability to spontaneously unfold one hierarchical structure or another.
That is how we come to a most general categorical scheme representing the interdependent aspects of the world's integrity:
matter → reflection → substance.
Each category in this triad applies to the word in general as well as to any individual thing, or any particular way of connecting one thing to another. In different contexts, these categories can equally refer to individual things, their properties (attributes) or their inner organization. In any case, all the three are necessary for integrity, and none of them can be reduced to any other. Of course, starting from a different vision of integrity, we will come to a different scheme of philosophy; there is no need to always put forth ontological issues. But as soon as it comes to considering the origin of things and the principal directions of their development, the ontological triad is to be invoked in full, to ensure the universality and consistency of thought.
The world as matter
Taken in the most general sense, matter is the aspect of the world stressing its priority to any individual thing or manifestation. Things come and go, the world stays. No individual thing can exist outside the world; any kind of motion is nothing but an aspect of the world’s motion, and there is no other reason for anything than the inner development of the same world. In this way, the world can be considered as the common origin of all things (including the whole world as a kind of individual thing), their matter. Hence, the whole world is matter, and there is nothing in the world but matter.
On the other hand, at any level, the world is comprised of many coexisting things that move and interact according to the natural laws appropriate for that level. Everything that ever happens assumes a number of things interacting with each other in a specific way, which constitutes the material side of any event, process, state or feature. Everything is material, which is yet another expression of its belonging to the one and only world. In particular, any reflection must be material in that sense. This does not mean that reflection is identical to matter; this only means that there is no reflection without matter.
Finally, every individual thing occupies its own place in the hierarchy of the whole, being necessary for universal integrity. In this respect, things represent the whole world, and this means that individual things must be hierarchically organized in concordance with the organization of the world in general. Things are built of other things, and each individual thing requires some appropriate construction blocks, its material. On this level, the materiality of the world manifests itself as the material of an individual thing, a special kind of matter. Matter in general is thus understood as the multiplicity of all the possible special "matters" (materials).
It is important to stress that the thing's material does not need to be some physical carrier made of particles, atoms or physical fields (like solids, liquids, gases, or plasma). The idea of material is much wider, and it may be difficult to indicate the material, say, of a national mentality, though, as an individual thing, it must certainly be made of something. Virtually, we come to physical matter anyway, but the relation of higher level materials to lower levels can be rather complicated and indirect, involving both physical matter and a hierarchy of reflection.
The world as reflection
For every particular thing, being material does not mean that it contains nothing but matter. An idea like that would be incompatible with the very existence of different things; with sheer matter, one would not distinguish golden jewelry from sheer bar of gold, or a painting from a dirty rug.
The shapes and properties of material things, their arrangement and involvement in other things, their motion and interaction, their development—all such manifestations of things are different from their matter, though they would never come about without matter. Each thing is characterized by its place in the whole of the world, or in a system of things involved in a common motion, which determines the specific arrangement of matter within the thing as well. This individual organization of a material thing is called its form. In particular, the visible shape of the thing is a component of its form, but there are other, less obvious components, inherent regularities. Some things (like elementary particles or social relations) may have no visible form at all; still, they assume a quite definite organization, which determines the way this thing binds together its material and presents itself to the rest of the world.
The form of a thing as a specific arrangement of its material is not material itself; in this sense, the material aspect of every individual thing is complemented by its ideal aspect. Of course, this does not necessarily involve any conscious activity, and the word "ideal" does not refer here to any mystical entities "outside" or "prior" to matter. This is just an indication of the presence of at least two complementary aspects in everything, concerning either being a manifestation of the same world or being different from the world in general. The ubiquity of the ideal implies a hierarchy of its possible manifestations, with consciousness and subjectivity at some higher levels. Subjective ideas do not appear from nothing; they are related to more primitive forms, which, in their turn, are related to some lower level phenomena, and virtually to some most general attributes of matter. To develop consciousness, non-conscious matter must have something in common with it. Thus we come to comprehending a thing's material and form as its material and ideal aspects that cannot exist without each other.
Any relation of a thing to other things and the world in general means that there is something in that thing that represents the rest of the world, as well something in the world that represents this particular thing. That is, the thing and the world are mutually reflected. Two interacting things will reflect each other in accordance with the character of their interconnection within the whole of the world; any relation, motion or interaction is nothing but a kind of reflection. As a philosophical category, reflection refers to the universal way of connecting one thing to another.
Since the world is unique, it cannot be related to anything else, and any relation of material things is a special case of the world's universal relation to itself, which is the primary form of reflection. Any distinction within the whole is an instance of reflection; any change can only happen within the same world, being a kind of reflection too; any interaction is a kind of self-interaction, the world's action upon itself. The integrity of the world implies the universality of reflection, which is as ubiquitous as matter; there is no matter that would not be subject to reflection, and no reflection outside matter (something to reflect). In this sense, matter and reflection are identical, referring to the different aspects of the same.
The world is reflected in itself, and it "returns" to itself with every act of interaction, reproducing itself in every instance of development. This reflexivity is the "glue" that binds the infinite variety of the world's manifestations into a whole.
The world as substance
With every individual thing being made of some material and taking some form, we have to face the question why this particular form should require a quite definite material, and why that material should be shaped in that particular way. The simple answer could just state that, with a different material or in a different form, it would be a different thing. Still, to say that, we need to take the thing as a whole, in its relation to the rest of the world rather than its inner organization. In other words, we need a category to describe the aspects of the world included in the definition of each particular thing; this category could be conventionally referred to as the thing's content, the unity of its material and its form.
While the material aspect of a thing stresses that the thing belongs to the one and only world, and the form as the thing's ideal aspect indicates the place of the thing in the whole, the content of a thing can be said to represent its reality, both as its necessity in the world and as the history of its development. In a real thing, its material and ideal sides are intertwined; they can transform into each other, which results in a new instance (shape, state of motion, phase of development) of the same thing. The idea of content is to express the mutability of things within the whole and their inner mutability. Real things change; but, within certain limits, they still remain the same, preserving their content. Thus any individual thing becomes similar to the world in general, a kind of a mini-world.
Considering the reality of a thing, we do not need to seek for any additional reasons for the thing's existence and motion. The thing behaves that way simply because it is that very thing, and not another. There is no need for any creator, or observer, or a motive force. The world is organized that way. All we can is to study the possible kinds of things, and possibly invent new things that could further proceed without our interference. Any real thing is, in this sense, self-sufficient, self-reflected and self-contained.
A thing can become a material constituent of a higher level formation —but this would not remove its ideal aspect; the distinction of the material and the ideal is hence relative, depending on the level of consideration—which, however, does not make them any less opposite to each other. One could observe that what is matter for a higher-level formation is ideal in a different respect than what is made of it. There is a hierarchy of both matter and reflection, and any reality is hierarchical as well, the levels of hierarchy reproducing the phases of development. In other words, this hierarchy could be understood as matter becoming reflection, and reflection becoming matter, and it is this mutual penetration that constitutes hierarchical reality.
The very distinction between the material and the ideal will only refer to a definite position of the hierarchy of the whole, as it unfolds itself under certain conditions. Applying the idea of content to the whole world, we come to comprehending it as substance, the unity of matter and reflection. As substance, the world is both reflected (reflecting) matter and materialized (materializing) reflection. This aspect of its unity refers to the self-reproduction of the world. Nothing else is needed to create it, or to trigger its movement and development.
Like the general idea of matter becomes comprehended as many specific "matters" (materials), we can also consider different substances. However, in this special meaning, the word "substance" still retains its active connotation. One could think of a specific substance as something like material, but with no relation to any particular thing, an ideal material. That is, substance can as well be considered as a kind of form taking an independent (material) existence. Because of this inherent duality, individual substances can, in certain respects, behave as things.