The phenomenal and the noumenal side of man. "Man-in-himself." How do we know the inner side of man? Can we know of the existence of consciousness in conditions of space not analogous to ours? Brain and consciousness. Unity of the world. Logical impossibility of the simultaneous existence of spirit and matter. Either all spirit or all matter. Rational and irrational actions in nature and in the life of man. Can rational actions exist alongside irrational? The world as an accidentally self-created mechanical toy. The impossibility of reason in a mechanical universe. The irreconcilability of mechanicalness with the existence of reason. Kant concerning "hosts." Spinoza on the knowledge of the invisible world. Necessity for the intellectual definition of that which can be, and that which cannot be, in the world of the hidden.
WE know what man is only imperfectly; our conceptions regarding him are extremely fallacious and easily create new illusions. First of all, we are inclined to regard man as a certain unity, and to regard the different parts and functions of man as being bound together, and dependent upon one another. Moreover, in the physical apparatus, in man visible, we see the cause of all his properties and actions. In reality, man is a very complicated something, and complicated in various meanings of the word. Many sides of the life of a man are not bound together among themselves at all, or are bound only by the fact that they belong to one man; but the life of man goes on simultaneously on different planes, as it were, while the phenomena of one plane only at times and partially touch those of another, and may not themselves touch at all. And the relations of the same man to the various sides of himself and to other men are entirely dissimilar.
Man includes within himself all three of the above-mentioned orders of phenomena, i.e., he represents in himself the combination of physical phenomena with those of life and psychic phenomena. And the mutual relations between these three orders of phenomena are infinitely more complex than we are accustomed to think. Psychic phenomena we feel, sense and are conscious of in ourselves; physical phenomena and the phenomena of life we observe and make conclusions about on the basis of experience. We do not sense the psychic phenomena of others, i.e., the thoughts, feelings and desires of another man; but the fact that they exist in him we conclude from what he says, and by analogy with ourselves. We know that in ourselves certain actions, certain thoughts, and feelings proceed, and when we observe the same actions in another man, we conclude that he has thought and felt like us. Analogy with ourselves—this is our sole criterion and method of reasoning and drawing conclusions about the psychic life in other men if we cannot communicate with them, or do not wish to believe in what they tell us about themselves.
Suppose that I should live among men without the possibility of communicating with them and having no way to make conclusions based upon analogy; in that case I should be surrounded by moving and acting automatons, the cause, purpose and meaning of whose actions would be perfectly incomprehensible to me. Perhaps I would explain their actions by "molecular motion," perhaps by the "influence of the planets," perhaps by "spiritism," i.e., by the influence of "spirits," possibly by "chance" or by a haphazard combination of causes—but in any case I should not and could not see the psychic life in the depth of these men's actions.
Concerning the existence of thought and feeling I can usually only conclude by analogy with myself. I know that certain phenomena are connected in me with my possession of thought and feeling. When I see the same phenomena in another man I conclude that he also possesses thought and feeling. But I cannot convince myself directly of the existence of psychic life in another man. Studying man from one side only I should stand in the same position in relation to him as, according to Kant, we stand with relation to the world surrounding us. We know merely the form of our knowledge of it. The world-in-itself we do not know.
Thus the psyche, with all its functions and with all its contents—I have two methods—analogy with myself, and intercourse with him by the exchange of thoughts. Without this, man is for me a phenomenon merely, a moving automaton.
The noumenon of a man is his psyche together with everything this psyche includes within itself and that with which it unites him.
In "man" are opened to us both worlds, though the noumenal world is open only slightly, because it is cognized by us through the phenomenal.
Noumenal means apprehended by the mind; and the characteristic property of the things of the noumenal world is that they cannot be comprehended by the same method by which the things of the phenomenal world are comprehended. We may speculate about the things of the noumenal world; we may discover them by a process of reasoning, and by means of analogy; we may feel them, and enter into some sort of communion with them; but we can neither see, hear, touch, weigh, measure them; nor can we photograph them or decompose them into chemical elements or number their vibrations.
Thus, the psyche, with all its functions and with all its contents—thoughts, feelings, desires, will—does not relate itself to the world of phenomena. We cannot know even a single element of the psyche objectively. Emotion as such is a thing which it is impossible to see, just as it is impossible to see the value of a coin. You can see the stamp upon a coin, but you will never see its value. It is just as impossible to photograph thought as it is to imagine "Egyptian darkness" in a vial. To think otherwise, to experiment with the photographing of thought, simply means to be unable to think logically. On a phonographic record are the tracings of the needle, elevations and depressions, but there is no sound. He who holds a phonographic record to his ear, hoping to hear something, will be sure to listen in vain.
Including within himself two worlds, the phenomenal and the noumenal, man gives us the opportunity to understand in what relation these worlds stand to one another everywhere throughout nature. It is necessary however to remember, that defining a noumenon in terms of the psyche, we take but one of its infinity of aspects.
We have already arrived at the conclusion that the noumenon of a thing consists in its function in another sphere—in its meaning which is incomprehensible in a given section of the world. Next we came to the conclusion that the number of meanings of one and the same thing in different sections of the world must be infinitely great and infinitely various, that it must become its own opposite, return again to the beginning (from our standpoint), etc., etc., infinitely expanding, contracting again, and so forth.
It is necessary to remember that the noumenon and the phenomenon are not different things, but merely different aspects of one and the same thing. Thus, each phenomenon is the finite expression, in the sphere of our knowledge through the organs of sense, of something infinite.
A phenomenon is the three-dimensional expression of a given noumenon.
This three-dimensionality depends upon the three-dimensional forms of our knowledge, i.e., speaking simply, upon our brains, nerves, eyes, and finger-tips.
In "man" we have found that one side of his noumenon is his psychic life, and that therefore in the psyche lies the beginning of the solution of the riddle of the functions and meanings of man which are incomprehensible from an outside point of view. What is the psyche of man if it is not his function—incomprehensible in the three-dimensional section of the world? Truly, if we shall study and observe man by all accessible means, objectively, from without, we shall never discover his psyche and shall never define the function of his consciousness. We must first of all become aware of the existence of our own psyche, and then either begin a conversation (by signs, gestures, words) with another man, begin to exchange thoughts with him, and from his answers deduce the conclusion that he possesses the same thing that we do—or come to the conclusion about it from external indications (actions similar to ours in similar circumstances). By the direct method of objective investigation, without the help of speech, or without the help of conclusions based upon analogy, we shall not discover the psyche in another man. That which is inaccessible to the direct method of investigation, but exists, is NOUMENAL. Consequently we shall not be in a position to define the functions and meanings of man in another section of the world than that world of Euclidian geometry, solely accessible to the "direct methods of investigation." Therefore we have a perfect right to regard "the psyche of man" as his function in some section of the world different from that three-dimensional section wherein "the body of man" functions.
Having established this much we may ask ourselves the question: Have we not the right to make a reverse conclusion, and regard as a psyche of its own kind the to us unknown function of the "world" and of "things" outside of their three-dimensional section?
Our usual positivistic view regards psychic life as a function of the brain. Without a brain we cannot imagine rationality.
Max Nordau, when he wanted to imagine the world's consciousness (in Paradoxes), was obliged to say that we cannot be certain that somewhere in the infinite space of the universe is not repeated on a grandiose scale the same combination of physical and chemical elements as constitutes our brains. This is very characteristic and typical of "positive science." Desiring to imagine the "world's consciousness" positivism is first of all forced to imagine a gigantic brain. Does not this at once savor of the two-dimensional or plane world? Surely the idea of a gigantic brain somewhere beyond the stars reveals the appalling poverty and impotence of positivistic thought. This thought cannot leave its usual grooves; it has no wings for a soaring flight.
Let us imagine that some curious inhabitant of Europe in the seventeenth century should try to foresee the means of transportation in the twentieth century, and should picture to himself an enormous stage-coach, large as an hotel, harnessed to one thousand horses; he would be pretty near to the truth, but also at the same time infinitely far from it. And yet even in his time some minds which foresaw along correct lines already existed: already the idea of the steam engine had been broached and models were appearing.
The thought expressed by Nordau reminds one of a favorite concept of popular philosophy relating to an accidentally caught idea, that the planets and satellites of the solar system are merely molecules of some tremendous organism, an insignificant part of which that system represents.
"Perhaps the entire universe is located on the tip of the little finger of some great being," says such a philosophizer, "and perhaps our molecules are also worlds." The deuce! Perhaps on my little finger there are several universes too! And such a philosophizer gets frightened. But all such reasonings are merely the gigantic stage-coach over again. 1 This is the way a little girl thought, about whom I was reading, if I mistake not, in The Theosophical Review. The girl was sitting near the fireplace, and beside her slept a cat. "Well, the eat is sleeping," the girl reflected, "perhaps she sees in a dream that she is not a cat, but a little girl. And maybe I am not a little girl at all, but a cat, and only see in a dream that I am a little girl. . . ." The next moment the house resounds with a violent cry, and the parents of the little girl have a hard time to convince her that she is not a cat but really a little girl.
All this shows that it is necessary to philosophize with a certain amount of skill. Our thought is encompassed by many blind alleys, and positivism, always attempting to apply the rule of proportion, is in itself such a blind alley.
Our analysis of phenomena, the relation which we have shown to exist between physical phenomena and those of life and of the psyche, permits us to assert quite definitely that psychic phenomena cannot be a function of physical phenomena—or phenomena of a lower order. We established that the higher cannot be a function of the lower. And this division into higher and lower is also based upon the clear fact of the different potentialities of various orders of phenomena—of the different amount of latent force contained in them (or liberated by them). And of course we have the right to call those phenomena the higher which possess immeasurably greater potentiality, immeasurably more latent force; and to call those the lower which possess less potentiality, less latent force. The phenomena of life are the higher in comparison with physical phenomena.
Psychic phenomena are the higher, in comparison with the phenomena of life and physical phenomena.
Which must be the function of which is clear.
Without making a palpable logical mistake we cannot declare life and the psyche to be dependent functionally upon physical phenomena, i.e., to be a result of physical phenomena. The truth is quite the opposite of this: everything forces us to recognize physical phenomena as the result of life, and life (in a biological sense) as the result of some form of psychic life, which is perhaps unknown to us.
But of which life, and of which psyche? Here lies the question. Of course it would be absurd to regard our planetary sphere as a function of the vegetable and animal life proceeding upon it—and the visible stellar universe as a function of the human psyche. But nothing of this sort is meant. In the occult understanding of things we speak always of another life and another psyche, the particular manifestation of which is our life and our psyche. It is important to establish the general principle that physical phenomena, being the lower, depend upon the phenomena of life and of the psyche, which are higher.
If we admit this principle as established, then it is possible to proceed further.
The first question which arises is this: In what relation does the psychic life of man stand to his body and his brain?
This question has been answered differently in different times. Psychic life has been regarded as a direct function of the brain ("Thought is the motion of brain substance"), thus of course denying any possibility of thought without the existence of a brain. Then followed an attempt to establish a parallelism between psychic activity and the activity of the brain. But the nature of this parallelism has always remained obscure. Yes, evidently, the brain works parallel to thinking and feeling: an arrestment or a disorder of the activity of the brain brings as a consequence a visible arrestment or disorder of psychic activity. But after all the activity of the brain is merely motion, i.e., an objective phenomenon, whereas the activity of the psyche is a phenomenon objectively undefinable, and at the same time more powerful than anything objective. How shall we reconcile all this?
Let us endeavor to consider the activity of the brain and the activity of the psyche from the standpoint of the existence of those two data, the "world" and "consciousness," accepted by us at the very beginning.
If we consider the brain from the standpoint of consciousness, then the brain will be part of the "world," i.e., part of the outer world lying outside of consciousness. Therefore the psyche and the brain are different things. But the psyche, as experience and observation shows, can act only through the brain. The brain is that necessary prism, passing through which, part of the psyche manifests itself to us as intellect. Or to put it a little differently, the brain is a mirror, reflecting psychic life in our three-dimensional section of the world. This last means that in our three-dimensional section of the world not all of the psyche (the true dimensions of which we do not know) is acting, but only so much of it as can be reflected in a brain. It is clear that if the mirror be broken, then the image will be broken too, or if the mirror be injured or imperfect, then the reflection will be blurred or distorted. But there is absolutely no reason to believe that when the mirror is broken the object which it reflects is thereby destroyed, i.e., psychic life in the given case.
The psyche cannot suffer from any disorder of the brain, but the manifestations of it may suffer very much or may even disappear from the field of our observation altogether. Therefore it is clear that a disorder in the activity of the brain causes an enfeeblement or a distortion, or even a complete disappearance of the psychic faculties manifesting in our sphere.
The idea of the comparison between a three-dimensional body and a four-dimensional one enables us to affirm that not all the psychic activity goes through the brain, but a part of it only. 1
Each of us is in reality an abiding physical entity far more extensive than he knows—an individuality which can never express itself completely through any corporeal manifestation. The self manifests through the organism; but there is always some part of the self unmanifested.
The "positivist" will remain unconvinced. He will say: prove to me that thought can act without a brain, then I will believe it.
I shall answer him by the question: WHAT, in the given case, will constitute a proof?
There are no proofs and there can not be any. The existence of the psyche without a brain (without a body), if that be possible, is for us a fact which cannot be proven like a physical fact.
And if my opponent will reason sincerely, then he will be convinced there can be no proof, because he himself has no means of being convinced of the existence of a psyche acting independently of a brain. Let us assume that the thought of a dead man (i.e., of a man whose brain has ceased to act) continues to function. How can we convince ourselves of this? By no possible means whatever. We have means of communication (speech, writing) with beings which are in conditions similar to our own—i.e., acting through brains; concerning the existence of the psyche of those same beings we can conclude by analogy with ourselves; but concerning the existence of the psychic life of other beings, whether they do or they do not exist is immaterial, we can not by ordinary means convince ourselves that they exist.
It is exactly this that gives us a key to the understanding of the true relation of psychic life to the brain. Our psyche being a reflection from the brain, we can observe only those reflections which are similar to itself. We have before established that we can make conclusions concerning the psychic life of other beings from the exchange of thoughts with them and from analogies with ourselves. Now we may add to this, that for this very reason we can know only about the existence of psychic lives similar to our own, and we cannot know any other at all, whether they exist or not, unless we ourselves enter their plane.
Should we ever realize our psychic life, not only as it is reflected from a brain, but in a condition more universal, simultaneously with this the possibility would open up of discovering beings with a psychic life independent of the brain analogical to ourselves, if such exist in nature.
But do such beings exist or not? How can we gain information on this point with our thought such as it is now?
Observing the world from our standpoint, we perceive in it actions proceeding from rational conscious causes, such as the work of a man seems to us; and other actions proceeding from the unconscious blind forces of nature, such as the movement of waves, the ebbing and flowing of the tide, the descent of great rivers, etc., etc.
In such a division of observed actions into rational and mechanical there is something naive, even from the positivistic standpoint. For if we have learned anything from the study of nature, if the positivistic method has given us anything at all, then it is the assurance of the necessity for the uniformity of phenomena. We know, and with great certainty, that things basically similar cannot proceed from dissimilar causes. Our scientific philosophy knows this too. Therefore it also regards the foregoing division as naive, and conscious of the impossibility of such dualism—that one part of observed phenomena proceeds from rational and conscious causes and another part from unreasoned and unconscious ones—positivistic philosophy finds it possible to explain everything as proceeding from mechanical causes.
Scientific observation holds that the seeming rationality of human actions is an illusion and a self-deception. Man is a toy in the hands of elemental forces. He is merely a transforming station of forces. All that which as it seems to him, he is doing, is in reality done instead by external forces which enter him through air, food, sunlight. Man does not perform a single action by himself. He is merely a prism in which a line of action is refracted in a certain manner. But just as the beam of light does not proceed from the prism, so action does not proceed from the reason of man.
The "theoretical experiment" of certain German psycho-physiologists is usually advanced in confirmation of this. They affirmed that if it were possible, from the time of his birth, to deprive a man of ALL EXTERNAL IMPRESSIONS: light, sound, touch, heat, cold, etc., and at the same time preserve him alive, then such a man would not be able to perform EVEN THE MOST INSIGNIFICANT ACTION.
From this it follows that man is an automaton, like that automaton projected by the American inventor Tesla, which, obeying electric currents and vibrations coming from a great distance without wires, was calculated to execute a whole series of complicated movements.
It follows from this that all the actions of a man depend upon outer impulses. For the smallest reflex, outer irritation is necessary. For more complex action a whole series of preceding complex irritations is necessary. Sometimes between the irritation and the action a considerable time elapses, and a man does not feel any connection between the two. Therefore he regards his actions as voluntary, though in reality there are no voluntary actions at all—man cannot do anything by himself, just as a stone cannot jump voluntarily: it is necessary that something should throw it up. Man needs something to give him an impulse, and then he will develop exactly as much force as such an impulse (and all pre-ceding impulses) put into him and no trifle more. Such is the teaching of positivism.
From the STANDPOINT OF LOGIC such a theory is more correct than the theory of two classes of actions—REASONED AND UN-REASONED. It at least establishes the principle of NECESSARY UNIFORMITY. It is really impossible to suppose that in an immense machine certain parts move according to their own desire and reasoning; there must be something uniform—either all parts of the machine possess a consciousness of their function and act according to this consciousness, or all are worked from one motor and are driven by one transmission. The enormous service per-formed by positivism is that it established this principle of uniformity. It is left to us to define in what this uniformity consists.
The positivistic hypothesis of the world considers that the basis of everything is unconscious energy, which arose from unknown causes at a time that is not known. This energy, after it has passed through a whole series of invisible electro-magnetic and physico-chemical processes, is expressed for us in visible and sensed motion, then in growth, i.e., in the phenomena of life, and at last in psychic phenomena.
This view has been already investigated and the conclusion reached that it is impossible to regard physical phenomena as the cause of PSYCHIC PHENOMENA, while on the other hand, psychic phenomena serve as an undoubted cause for a great number of the physical phenomena observed by us. The observed process of origination of psychic phenomena under the influence of outside mechanical impulses does not at all mean that physical phenomena create psychic phenomena. Such do not constitute the cause, but are merely a shock, disturbing the balance. In order that outer shocks may evoke psychic phenomena an organism is necessary, i.e., a complex and animated life. The cause of psychic life lies in the organism, its animatedness, which can be defined as a potential of psychic life.
Then, from the very essence of the idea of motion—which is the foundation of the physico-mechanical world—was deduced the conclusion that motion is not an entirely obvious truth, that the idea of motion arose in us because of the limitation and in-completeness of our sense of space (a slit through which we observe the world). And it was established, not that the idea of time is deduced from the observation of motion, but that the idea of motion results from our "time-sense"—and that the idea of motion is quite definitely the function of the "time-sense," which in itself is a limit or boundary of the space-sense belonging to a being of a given psyche. It was also established that the idea of motion could arise out of a comparison between two different fields of consciousness. And in general, all analysis of the fundamental categories of our knowledge of the world—space and time—showed that we have absolutely no data whatever for accepting motion as the fundamental principle of the world.
And if this is so—if it is impossible to assume behind the scenes of the creation of the world the presence of an unconscious mechanical motor—then it is necessary to consider the world as living and rational. Because one or the other of two things must be true: either it is mechanical and dead—"accidental"—or it is living and animated. There can be nothing dead in living nature and there can be nothing living in dead nature.
Nature exhibits a continual progress, starting from the mechanical and chemical activity of the inorganic world, proceeding to the vegetable, with its dull enjoyment of self, from that to the animal world, where intelligence and consciousness began at first very weak, and only after many intermediate stages attaining its last great development in man, whose intellect is nature's crowning point, the goal of all her efforts, the most perfect and difficult of all her works.
So writes Schopenhauer in his Counsels and Maxims, and indeed it is very effectively expressed, but we have no foundation whatsoever for regarding man as the summit of that which nature has created. This is only THE HIGHEST THAT WE KNOW.
Positivism would be absolutely correct in its picture of the world, there would not be even one deficiency, if there were no reason in the world, anywhere or at any time. Then it would be necessary, nolens volens, to regard the universe as an accidentally self-created mechanical toy in space. But the fact of the existence of psychic life "spoils all the statistics." It is impossible to exclude it.
We are either forced to admit the existence of two principles—"spirit" and "matter"—or to select one of them.
Then dualism annihilates itself, because if we admit the separate existence of spirit and matter, and reason further on this basis, it will be inevitably necessary to conclude, either that spirit is unreal and matter real; or that matter is unreal and spirit real—i.e., either that spirit is material or that matter is spiritual. Consequently it is necessary to select some one thing—spirit or matter.
But to think really MONISTICALLY is considerably more difficult than it seems. I have met many men who have called themselves "monists," and sincerely considered themselves as such, but in reality they never departed from the most naive dualism, and no spark of understanding of the world's unity ever flashed upon them.
Positivism, regarding "motion" or "energy" as the basis of everything, can never be "monistic." It is impossible to annihilate the fact of psychic life. If it were possible not to take this fact into consideration at all, then everything would be splendid, and the universe could be something like an accidentally self-created mechanical toy. But to its sorrow, positivism cannot deny the existence of the psyche. It can only try to degrade it as low as possible, calling it the reflection of reality, the substance of which consists of motion.
But how deal with the fact that the "reflection" possesses in this case an infinitely greater potentiality than the "reality"? How can this be? From what does this reality reflect, or what is it refracted in, that in its reflected state it possesses infinitely greater potentiality than in its original state?
The consistent "materialist-monist" will be forced to say that "reality" reflects from itself, i.e., "one motion" reflects from another motion. But this is merely dialectics, and fails to make clear the nature of psychic life, for it is something other than motion.
No matter how hard we may try to define thought in terms of motion, we nevertheless know that they are two different things, different as regards our receptivity of them, belonging to different worlds, incommensurable, capable of existing simultaneously. Moreover, thought can exist without motion, but motion cannot exist without thought, because out of the psyche comes the necessary condition of motion—time: no psychic life—no time, as it exists for us; no time—no motion.
We cannot escape this fact, and thinking logically, we must inevitably recognize two principles. But if we begin to consider the very recognition of two principles as illogical, then we must recognize THOUGHT as a single principle, and motion as AN ILLUSION OF THOUGHT.
But what does this mean? It means that there can be no "monistic materialism." Materialism can be only dualistic, i.e., it must recognize two principles: motion and thought.
Here a new difficulty arises.
Our concepts are limited by language. Our language is deeply dualistic. This is indeed a terrible obstacle. I showed previously how language retards our thought, making it impossible to express the relations of a being universe. In our language only an eternally becoming universe exists. The "Eternal Now" cannot be expressed in language.
Thus our language pictures to us beforehand a false universe—dual, when in reality it is one; and eternally becoming when it is in reality eternally being.
And if we come to realize the degree to which our language falsifies the real view of the world, then the understanding of this fact will enable us to see that it is not only difficult, but even absolutely impossible to express in language the correct relation of the things of the real world.
This difficulty can be conquered only by the formation of new concepts and by extended analogies.
Later on the principles and methods of this expansion of what we already have, and what we can extract from our stores of knowledge will be made clear. For the present it is only import-ant to establish one thing—THE NECESSITY FOR UNIFORMITY: the monism of the universe.
As a matter of principle it is not important which one we regard as first cause, spirit or matter. It is essential to recognize their unity.
—But what then is matter?
From one point of view, it is a logical concept, i.e., a form of thinking. Nobody ever saw matter, nor will he ever—it is possible only to think matter. From another point of view it is an illusion accepted for reality. Even more truly, it is the incorrectly perceived form of that which exists in reality. Matter is a section of something; a non-existent, imaginary section. But that of which matter is a section, exists. This is the real, four-dimensional world.
Wood, the substance from which this table (for example) is made, exists; but the true nature of its existence we do not know. All that we know about it is just the form of our receptivity of it. And if we should cease to exist, it would continue to exist, but only for a receptivity acting similarly to ours. But in itself this substance exists in some other way—HOW, we do not know. Certainly not in space and time, for we ourselves impose these forms upon it. Probably all similar wood, of different centuries, and different parts of the world, constitutes one mass—one body—perhaps one being. Certainly that substance (or that part of it) of which this table is made, has no separate existence apart from our receptivity. We fail to understand that a particular thing is merely an artificial definition by our senses, of some indefinable cause infinitely surpassing that thing.
But a thing may acquire its own individual and unique soul; and in that case the thing exists quite independently of our receptivity. Many things possess such souls, especially old things—old houses, old books, works of art, etc.
But what ground have we for thinking that there is psychic life in the world other than our human one, that of animals and of plants?
First of all, of course, the thought that everything in the world is alive and animated and that manifestations of life and animatedness would naturally exist on all planes and in all forms. But we can discern the psychic life only in forms analogous to ours.
The question stands in this way: how could we know about the existence of the psychic life of other sections of the world if they exist?
By two methods: through COMMUNICATION, EXCHANGE OF THOUGHTS, and through CONCLUSIONS BY ANALOGY.
For the first, it is necessary that our psyche should become similar to theirs, should transcend the limits of the three-dimensional world, i.e., it is necessary to change the form of receptivity and perception.
The second may result as a consequence of the gradual expansion of the faculty of drawing inferences by analogy. By trying to think out of the usual categories, by trying to look at things and at ourselves from a new angle and simultaneously from many sides, by trying to liberate our thinking from its accustomed categories of perception in space and time, little by little we begin to notice analogies between things which we did not notice before. Our mind grows, and with it grows the power to discover analogies. This ability, with each new step attained, expands and enriches the mind. Each minute we advance more rapidly, each new step makes the next more easy. Our psyche becomes different. Then, applying to ourselves this expanded ability to construct analogies, and looking about we suddenly perceive all around ourselves a psychic life the existence of which we were previously unaware. And we understand the reason for this unawareness: this psychic life belongs to another plane, and not to that to which our psychic life is native. Thus in this case the ability to discover new analogies is the beginning of changes, which translate us into another plane of existence.
The thought of a man begins to penetrate into the world of noumena, which is in affinity with it. Then his point of view changes likewise with regard to the things and events of the phenomenal world. Phenomena may suddenly assume, to his eyes, quite a different grouping. As already said, similar things may be different from one another in reality, different things may be similar; quite separate, disconnected things may be part of one great whole, of some entirely new category; and things which appear inextricably united in one, constituting one whole, may in reality be manifestations of different beings having nothing in common among themselves, even knowing nothing whatever about the existence of one another. Such indeed may be any whole of our world—man, animal, planet, planetary system—i.e., consisting of different psychic lives, a battle-field as it were of warring entities.
In each whole of our world we perceive a multitude of opposing tendencies, aspirations, efforts. Each aggregate is as it were an arena of struggle for multitudes of opposing forces, each of which acts by itself, is directed to its own goal, usually to the disruption of the whole. But the interaction of these forces represents the life of the whole; and in everything something is always acting which limits the activity of separate tendencies. This something is the psychic life of the whole. We cannot establish the existence of such a life by analogy with ourselves, or by intercourse with it, or by exchange of thoughts, but a new path opens before us. We perceive a certain separate and quite definite function (the preservation of the whole) . Behind this function we infer a certain separate something. A separate something having a definite function is impossible without a separate psychic life. If the whole possesses its own psychic life then the separate tendencies or forces must also possess a psychic life of their own. A body or organism is the point of intersection of such lines of forces, a place of meeting, perhaps a battle-field. Our "I" is also that battle-field on which this or that emotion, this or that habit or inclination gains an advantage, subjecting to itself all of the rest at every given moment, and identifying itself with the I. Our I is a being, having its own life, imperfectly conscious of that of which it itself consists, and identifying itself with this or another portion of itself. Have we any warrant for supposing that the organs and members of a body, thoughts and emotions, are BEINGS also? We have, because we know that there exists nothing purely mechanical; and any something, having a separate function, MUST BE animated and can be called a being.
All the beings assumed by us to exist in the world of many dimensions, cannot know one another, i.e., cannot know that we are binding them together in different wholes in our phenomenal world, just as in general they cannot know our phenomenal world and its relations. But they must know themselves, although it is impossible for us to define the degree of clearness of this consciousness. It may be clearer than ours, and it may be more vague—dreamlike, as it were. Between these beings there may be a continuous but imperfectly perceived exchange of thoughts, analogous to the exchange of substance in a living organism. They may experience certain feelings in common, certain thoughts may arise in them spontaneously as it were, under the influence of general causes. Upon the lines of this inner communion they must divide themselves into different wholes of some categories to us entirely incomprehensible, or only guessed at. The essence of each such separate being must consist in its knowledge of itself and its nearest functions and relations; it must feel things analogous to itself, and must have the faculty of telling about itself and them, i.e., this consciousness must always behold a picture of itself and its conditioning relations. It is eternally studying this picture and instantly communicating it to another being coming into communion with it.
Whether these consciousnesses in sections of the world other than ours exist or not, we, under the existing conditions of our receptivity, cannot say. They can be sensed only by the changed psyche. Our usual receptivity and thinking are too absorbed by the sensations of the phenomenal world, and by themselves, and therefore do not reflect impressions coming to them from other beings, or reflect them so weakly that they are not fixed there in any intelligible form. Moreover we do not recognize the fact that we are in constant communion with the noumena of all surrounding things, near and remote, with beings like ourselves and others entirely different, with the life of everything in the world and of all the world. But if the impressions coming from other beings are so forceful that the consciousness feels them, then our mind immediately projects them into the outer world of phenomena and seeks for their cause in the phenomenal world, exactly in the same manner that a two-dimensional being, inhabiting a plane, seeks in its plane for the cause of the impressions which come from a higher world.
Our psyche is limited by its phenomenal receptivity, i.e., it is surrounded by itself. The world of phenomena, i.e., the form of its own perception, surrounds it as a ring, or as a wall, and it sees nothing save this wall.
But if the psyche succeeds in escaping out of this limiting circle, it will invariably see much that is new in the world.
If we will separate self-elements in our perception, writes Hinton [A New Era of Thought, pp. 36, 37], then it will be found that the deadness which we ascribe to the external world is not really there, but is put in by us because of our own limitations. It is really the self-elements in our knowledge which make us talk of mechanical necessity, dead matter. When our limitations fall, we behold the spirit of the world as we behold the spirit of a friend—something which is discerned in and through the material presentation of a body to us.
Our thought means are sufficient at present to show us human souls; but all except human beings is, as far as science is concerned, inanimate. Our self-element must be got rid of from our perception, and this will be changed.
But is the unknowableness of the noumenal world as absolute for us as it sometimes seems?
In The Critique of Pure Reason and in other writings, Kant denied the possibility of "spiritual sight." But in Dreams of a Ghost-seer he not only admitted this possibility, but gave to it one of the best definitions which we have ever had up to now. He clearly affirms:
I confess that I am very much inclined to assert the existence of immaterial natures in the world, and to put my soul itself into that class of beings. These immaterial beings . . . are immediately united with each other, they might form, perhaps, a great whole which might be called the immaterial world. Every man is a being of two worlds: of the incorporeal world and of the material world . . . and it will be proved I don't know where or when, that the human soul also in this life forms an indissoluble communion with all immaterial natures of the spirit-world, that, alternately, it acts upon and receives impressions from that world of which nevertheless it is not conscious while it is still man and as long as everything is in proper condition . . .
We should, therefore, have to regard the human soul as being conjoined in its present life with two worlds at the same time, of which it clearly perceives only the material world, in so far as it is conjoined with a body, and thus forms a personal unit. . . .
It is therefore, indeed, one subject, which is thus at the same time a member of the visible and of the invisible world, but not one and the same person; for on account of their different quality, the conceptions of the one world are not ideas associated with those of the other world; thus, what I think as a spirit, is not remembered by me as a man, and, conversely, my state as a man does not at all enter into the conception of myself as a spirit.
Birth, life, death are the states of soul only . . . Consequently, our body only is perishable, the essence of us is not perishable, and must have been existent during that time when our body had no existence. The life of the man is dual. It consists of two lives—one animal and one spiritual. The first life is the life of man, and man needs a body to live this life. The second life is the life of spirit; his soul lives in that life separately from the body, and must live on in it after the separation from the body.
In an essay on Kant in The Northern Messenger (1888, Russian), A. L. Volinsky says that both in Vorlesungen, and also in Dreams of a Ghost-seer, Kant denied the possibility of one thing only—the possibility of the physical receptivity of spiritual phenomena.
Thus Kant admitted not only the possibility of the existence of a spiritual conscious world, but also the possibility of communion with it.
Hegel built all his philosophy upon the possibility of a direct knowledge of truth, upon spiritual vision.
Approaching the question of two worlds from the psychological standpoint, from the standpoint of the theory of knowledge, let us firmly establish the principle that before we can hope to comprehend anything in the region of noumena, we must define everything that it is possible to define of the world of many dimensions by a purely intellectual method, by a process of reasoning. It is highly probable that by this method we cannot define very much. Perhaps our definitions will be too crude, will not quite correspond to the fine differentiation of relations in the noumenal world: all this is possible and must be taken into consideration. Nevertheless we shall define what we can, and at the outset make as clear as possible what the noumenal world cannot be; then what it can be— show what relations are impossible in it, and what are possible.
This is necessary in order that we, coming in contact with the real world, may discriminate between it and the phenomenal world, and what is more important, that we may not mistake simple reflections of the phenomenal world for the noumenal. We do not know the world of causes; we are confined in the jail of the phenomenal world simply because we do not know how to discern where one ends and where the other begins.
We are in constant touch with the world of causes, we live in it, because our psyche and our incomprehensible function in the world are part of it or a reflection of it. But we do not see or know it because we either deny it—consider that everything existing is phenomenal, and that nothing exists except the phenomenal—or we recognize it, but try to comprehend it in the forms of the three-dimensional phenomenal world; or lastly, we search for it and find it not, because we lose our way amid the deceits and illusions of the reflected phenomenal world which we mistakenly accept for the noumenal world.
In this dwells the tragedy of our spiritual questings: we do not know what we are searching for. And the only method by which we can escape this tragedy consists in a preliminary intellectual definition of the properties of that of which we are in search. Without such definitions, going merely by indefinite feelings, we shall not approach the world of causes or else we shall get lost on its borderland.
Spinoza understood this, saying that he could not speak of God, not knowing his attributes.
When I studied Euclid, I learned first of all that the sum of three angles of a triangle was equal to two right angles, and this property of a triangle was entirely comprehensible to me, although I did not know its many other properties. But so far as spirits and ghosts are concerned, I do not know even one of their attributes, but constantly hear different fantastic tales about them in which it is impossible to discover any truth.
We have established certain criteria which permit us to deal with the world of noumena or the "world of spirits." These we shall make use of now.
First of all we may say that the world of noumena cannot be three-dimensional and that there cannot be anything three-dimensional in it, i.e., commensurable with physical objects, similar to them in outside appearance, having form—there cannot be anything having extension in space and changing in time. And most important, there cannot be anything dead or inanimate. In the world of causes everything must be alive, because it is life itself: the soul of the world.
Let us remember also that the world of causes is the world of the marvelous; that what appears simple to us can never be real. The real appears to us as the marvelous. We do not believe in it, we do not recognize it; and therefore we do not feel the mysteries of which life is so full.
The simple is only that which is unreal. The real must seem marvelous.
The mystery of time penetrates all. It is felt in every stone, which perhaps might have witnessed the glacial period, seen the ichthyosaurus and the mammoth. It is felt in the approaching day, which we do not see, but which possibly sees us, which per-chance is our last day; or on the other hand is the day of some transformation the nature of which we do not ourselves now know.
The mystery of thought creates all. As soon as we shall understand that thought is not a "function of motion," but that motion itself is only a function of thought—and shall begin to feel the depth of THIS MYSTERY—We shall perceive that the entire phenomenal world is some gigantic hallucination, which fails to frighten us, and does not drive us to think that we are mad simply because we have become accustomed to it.
The mystery of infinity—the greatest of all mysteries—it tells us that all the visible universe and its galaxies of stars have no dimension: that in relation to infinity they are equal to a point, a mathematical point which has no extension whatever, and that points which are not measurable for us may have a different extension and different dimensions.
In "positive" thinking we make the effort TO FORGET ABOUT ALL THIS: NOT TO THINK ABOUT IT.
At some future time positivism will be defined as a system by the aid of which it was possible not to think of real things and to limit oneself to the region of the unreal and illusory.
178:1 The expression "section of the world" is taken as an indicator of the unreality of the forms of each section. The world is infinite, and all forms are infinite, but to grasp them with the finite brain-consciousness, i.e., by consciousness reflected in the brain, we must imagine the infinite forms as being finite, and these are "sections of the world." The p. 179 world is one, but the number of possible sections is infinite. Let us imagine an apple: it is one, but we may imagine an infinite number of sections in all directions and these sections will differ from one another. If instead of an apple we take a more complicated body, for instance the body of some animal: then the sections taken in different directions will be even more unlike one another.
181:1 The incorrectness here is not in the idea itself, but in a literal analogy. The thought itself, that molecules are worlds and worlds are but molecules, deserves attention and study.
183:1 Frederick Myers, "Essay on the Subliminal Consciousness," as quoted in William James' "The Varieties of Religious Experience," Longmans, Green & Co., New York, p. 512.
183:2 In all the above it would be more correct to substitute for the word brain the word body—organism. The present trend of scientific psychology leads to an understanding of the psychic importance of diverse physiological functions, previously unknown and even p. 184 now but little investigated. The psychic life is connected not with the brain only, but with the entire body, all its organs, all its tissues. The study of the activity of glands, and of many other things with which science is now concerning itself, shows that the brain is by no means the only conductor of the psychic activity of man.
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