Rationality and life. Life as knowledge. Intellect and emotions. Emotion as an organ of knowledge. The evolution of emotion from the standpoint of knowledge. Pure and impure emotions. Personal and impersonal emotions. Personal and super-personal emotions. The elimination of self-elements as a means of approach to true knowledge. "Be as little children. . . ." "Blessed are the pure in heart. . . ." The value of morals from the standpoint of knowledge. The defects of intellectualism. Dreadnaughts as the crown of intellectual culture. The dangers of morality. Moral esthetics. Religion and art as organized forms of emotional knowledge. The knowledge of God and the knowledge of Beauty.
THE MEANING OF LIFE—this is the eternal theme of human meditation. All philosophical systems, all religious teachings strive to find and give to men the answer to this question. Some say that the meaning of life is in service, in the surrender of self, in self-sacrifice, in the sacrifice of everything, even life itself. Others declare that the meaning of life is in the delight of it, relieved against "the expectation of the final horror of death." Some say that the meaning of life is perfection, and the creation of a better future beyond the grave, or in future lives for ourselves. Others say that the meaning of life is in the approach to non-existence: still others, that the meaning of life is in the perfection of the race, in the organization of life on earth; while there are those who deny the possibility of even attempting to know its meaning.
The fault of all these explanations consists in the fact that they all attempt to discover the meaning of life outside of itself, either in the future of humanity, or in some problematical existence beyond the grave, or again in the evolution of the Ego throughout many successive incarnations—always in something outside of the present life of man. But if instead of thus speculating about it, men would simply look within themselves, then they would see that in reality the meaning of life is not after all so obscure. IT CONSISTS IN KNOWLEDGE. All life, through all its facts, events and incidents, excitements and attractions, inevitably leads us TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF SOMETHING. All life-experience is KNOWLEDGE.
The most powerful emotion in man is his yearning toward the unknown. EVEN IN LOVE, the most powerful of all attractions, to which everything is sacrificed, is this yearning toward the unknown, toward the NEW—curiosity.
The Persian poet-philosopher, Al-Ghazzali, says: "The highest function of man's soul is the perception of truth." 1
In the very beginning of this book PSYCHIC LIFE and THE WORLD were recognized as existing. The world is everything that exists. The function of psychic life may be defined as the realization of existence.
Man realizes his existence and the existence of the world, a part of which he is. His relation to himself and to the world is called knowledge. The expansion and deepening of his relation to himself and to the world is the expansion of knowledge.
All the soul-properties of man, all the elements of his psyche—sensations, perceptions, conceptions, ideas, judgments, reasonings, feelings, emotions, even creation—all these are the INSTRUMENTS OF KNOWLEDGE which the I possesses.
Feelings—from the simple emotions up to the most complex, such as esthetic, religious and moral emotion—and creation, from the creation of a savage making a stone hatchet for himself up to the creation of a Beethoven, indeed are means of knowledge.
Only to our narrow HUMAN view do they appear to serve other purposes—the preservation of life, the construction of something, or merely pleasure. In reality all this conduces to knowledge..
Evolutionists, followers of Darwin, say that the struggle for existence and the selection of the fittest created the mind and feeling of contemporary man—that mind and feeling SERVE LIFE, preserve the life of separate individuals and of the species—and that beyond this they have no meaning in themselves. But it is possible to answer this with the same arguments before advanced against the mechanicality of the universe; namely, that if rationality exists, then nothing exists except rationality. The struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest, if they truly play such a rôle in the creation of life, are also not merely accidents, but products of a mind, CONCERNING WHICH WE DO NOT KNOW; and they also conduce, like everything else, TO A KNOWLEDGE.
But we do not realize, do not discern the presence of rationality in the phenomena and laws of nature. This happens because we study always not the whole but the part, and we do not divine that whole which we wish to study—by studying the little finger of a man we cannot discover his reason. It is the same way in our relation to nature: we study always the little finger of nature. When we come to realize this and shall understand that EVERY LIFE IS THE MANIFESTATION OF A PART OF SOME WHOLE, then only the possibility of knowledge of that whole opens to us.
In order to comprehend the rationality of a given whole, it is necessary to understand the character of the whole and its functions. Thus the function of man is knowledge; but without understanding "man" as a whole, it is impossible to understand his function.
To understand our psyche, the function of which is knowledge, it is necessary to clear up our relation to life.
In Chapter X an attempt was made—a very artificial one, founded upon the analogy with a world of two-dimensional beings—to define life as motion in a sphere higher in dimensionality in comparison with ours. From this standpoint every separate life is as it were the manifestation in our sphere of a part of one of the rational entities of another sphere. These rationalities look in upon us, as it were, in these lives which we see. When a man dies, one eye of the Universe closes, says Fechner. Every separate human life is a moment of the life of some great being, which lives in us. The life of every separate tree is a moment of the life of a being, "species" or "family." The rationalities of these higher beings do not exist independently of these lower lives. They are two sides of one and the same thing. Every single human psyche, in some other section of the world, may produce the illusion of many lives.
This is difficult to illustrate by an example. But if we take Hinton's spiral, passing through a plane, and the point running in circles on the plane (see 70), and conceive of the spiral as the psyche, then the moving point of intersection of the spiral with the plane will be life. This example illustrates a possible relation between the psyche and life.
To us, life and the psyche are different and separate from each other, because we are inept at seeing, inept at looking at things. And this in turn depends upon the fact that it is very difficult for us to step outside the frames of our divisions. We see the life of a tree, of this tree; and if we are told that the life of a tree is a manifestation of some psychic life, then we understand it in such a way that the life of this tree is the manifestation of the psychic life of this tree. But this is of course an absurdity resulting from "three-dimensional thinking"—the "Euclidian" mind. The life of this tree is a manifestation of the psychic life of the species, or family, or perhaps of the psychic life of the entire vegetable kingdom.
In exactly the same way, our separate lives are manifestations of some great rational entity. We find the proof of this in the fact that our lives have no other meaning at all aside from that process of acquiring knowledge performed by us. A thoughtful man ceases to feel painfully the absence of meaning in life only when he realizes this, and begins to strive consciously for that for which he strove unconsciously before.
This process of acquiring knowledge, representing our function in the world, is performed not by the intellect only, but by our entire organism, by all the body, by all the life, and by all the life of human society, its organizations, its institutions, by all culture and all civilization; by that which we know of humanity and, still more, by that which we do not know. And we acquire the knowledge of that which we deserve to know.
If we declare in regard to the intellectual side of man that its purpose is knowledge this will evoke no doubts. All agree that the human intellect together with everything subjected to its functions is for the purpose of knowledge—although often the faculty of knowledge is considered as serving only utilitarian ends. But concerning the emotions: joy, sorrow, rage, fear, love, hatred, pride, compassion, jealousy; concerning the sense of beauty, esthetic pleasure and artistic creation; concerning the moral sense; concerning all religious emotions: faith, hope, veneration, etc., etc.,—concerning all human activity—things are not so clear. We usually do not see that all emotions, and all human activity serve knowledge. How do fear, or love, or work serve knowledge? It seems to us that by emotions we feel; by work—create. Feeling and creation seem to us as something different from knowledge. Concerning work, creative power, creation, we are rather inclined to think that they demand knowledge, and if they serve it, do so only indirectly. In the same way it is incomprehensible how religious emotions serve knowledge.
Usually the emotional is opposed to the intellectual—"heart" to "mind." Some place "cold reason" or intellect over against feelings, emotions, esthetic pleasure; and from these they separate the moral sense, the religious sense, and "spirituality."
The misunderstanding here lies in the interpretation of the words intellect and emotion.
Between intellect and emotion there is no sharp distinction. Intellect, considered as a whole, is also emotion. But in every-day language, and in " conversational psychology" reason is contrasted with feeling; will is considered as a separate and independent faculty; moralists consider moral feeling as entirely distinct from all these; religionists consider spirituality separately from faith.
One often hears such expressions as: reason mastered feeling; will mastered desire; the sense of duty mastered passion; spirituality mastered intellectuality; faith conquered reason. But all these are merely the incorrect expressions of conversational psychology; just as incorrect as are the expressions "sunrise" and "sunset." In reality in the soul of man nothing exists save emotions. And the soul life of man is either a struggle or a harmonious adjustment between different emotions. Spinoza saw this quite clearly when he said that emotion can be mastered only by another more powerful emotion, and by nothing else. Reason, will, feeling, duty, faith, spirituality, mastering some other emotion, can conquer only by force of the emotional element contained in them. The ascetic who kills all desires and passions in himself, kills them by the desire for salvation. A man renouncing all the pleasures of the world, renounces them because of the delight of sacrifice, of renunciation. A soldier dying at his post through his sense of duty or habit of obedience, does so because the emotion of devotion, or faithfulness, is more powerful in him than all other things. A man whose moral sense prompts him to overcome passion in himself, does so because the moral sense (i.e., emotion) is more powerful than all his other feelings, other emotions. In substance all this is perfectly clear and simple, but it has become confused and confusing simply because men, calling different degrees of one and the same thing by diverse names, began to see fundamental differences where there were only differences in degree.
Will is the resultant of desires. We call that man strong-willed in whom the will proceeds on definite lines, without turning aside; and we call that man weak-willed in whom the line of the will takes a zig-zag course, turning aside here or there under the influence of every new desire. But this does not mean that will and desire are something opposite; quite the reverse, they are one and the same, because the will is composed of desires.
Reason cannot conquer feeling, because feeling can be conquered only by feeling. Reason can only give thoughts and pictures, evoking feelings which will conquer the feeling of a given moment. Spirituality is not opposed to "intellectuality" or "emotionality." It is only THEIR HIGHER FLIGHT. Reason has no limits: only the human, "Euclidian" mind, the mind devoid of emotions, is limited.
But what is "reason?"
It is the inner aspect of any given being. In the earth's animal kingdom, in all animals lower than man, we see passive reason. But with the appearance of concepts it becomes active, and part of it begins to work as intellect. The animal is conscious through his sensation and emotions. The intellect is present in the animal only in an embryonic state, as an emotion of curiosity, a pleasure of knowing.
In man the growth of consciousness consists in the growth of the intellect and the accompanying growth of the higher emotions—esthetic, religious, moral—which according to the measures of their growth become more and more intellectualized, while simultaneously with this the intellect is assimilating emotionality, ceasing to be "cold." .
Thus "spirituality" is a fusion of the intellect with the higher emotions. The intellect is spiritualized from the emotions; the emotions are spiritualized from the intellect.
The functions of the rational faculty are not limited, but not often does the human intellect rise to its highest form. At the same time it is incorrect to say that the highest form of human knowledge will not be intellectual, but of a different character; only this higher reason is entirely unrestricted by logical concepts and by Euclidian modes of thought. We are likely to hear a great deal concerning this from the standpoint of mathematics, which as a matter of fact transcended the reasoning of logic long ago. But it achieved this by the aid of the intellect. A new order of receptivity grows in the soil of the intellect and of the higher emotions, but it is not created by them. A tree grows in the earth, but it is not created by the earth. A seed is necessary. This seed may be in the soul, or absent from it. When it is there it can be cultivated or it can be choked; when it is not there it is impossible to replace it with anything else. The soul (if a soul it may be called) lacking that seed, i.e., inept to feel and reflect the world of the wondrous, will never put forth the living sprout, but will always reflect the phenomenal world, and that alone.
At the present stage of his development man comprehends many things by means of his intellect, but at the same time, he comprehends many things by means of his emotions. In no case are emotions merely organs of feeling for feeling's sake: they are all organs of knowledge. In every emotion man knows something that he could not know without its aid—something that he could know by no other emotion, by no effort of the intellect. If we consider the emotional nature of man as self-contained, as serving life and not serving knowledge we shall never understand its true content and significance. Emotions serve knowledge. There are things and relations which can be known only emotionally, and only through a given emotion.
To understand the psychology of play, it is necessary to experience the emotions of the player; to understand the psychology of the hunt, it is necessary to experience the emotions of the hunter; the psychology of a man in love is incomprehensible to him who is indifferent; the state of mind of Archimedes when he jumped out of the bath tub is incomprehensible to the staid citizen, who would look on such a performance as a sign of insanity; the feelings of the globe-trotter, delightedly breathing in the sea air and sweeping with his eyes the wide horizon, is incomprehensible to the sedentary stay-at-home. The feeling of a believer is incomprehensible to an unbeliever, and to a believer the feeling of an unbeliever is quite as strange. Men understand one another so imperfectly because they live always by different emotions. And when they feel similar emotions simultaneously, then and then only do they understand one another. The proverbial philosophy of the people knows this very well: "A FULL MAN DOES NOT UNDERSTAND A HUNGRY ONE," it says. "A drunkard is no comrade for a sober man." "One rogue recognizes another."
In this mutual understanding or in the illusion of mutual understanding—in this immersion in similar emotions—lies one of the principal charms of love. The French novelist, de Maupassant, has written very delightfully about this in his little story Solitude. The same illusion explains the secret power of alcohol over the human soul, for alcohol creates the illusion of a communion of souls, and induces similar fantasies simultaneously, in two or several men.
Emotions are the stained-glass windows of the soul; colored glasses through which the soul looks at the world. Each such glass assists in finding in the contemplated object the same or similar colors, but it also prevents the finding of opposite ones. Therefore it has been correctly said that a one-sided emotional illumination cannot give a correct perception of an object. Nothing gives one such a clear idea of things as the emotions, yet nothing deludes one so much.
Every emotion has a meaning for its existence, although its value from the standpoint of knowledge varies. Certain emotions are important and necessary for the life of knowledge and certain emotions hinder rather than help one to understand.
Theoretically all emotions are an aid to knowledge; all emotions arose because of the knowing of one or another thing. Let us consider one of the most elementary emotions—say THE EMOTION OF FEAR. Undoubtedly there are relations which can be known only through fear. The man who never experienced the sensation of fear will never understand many things in life and in nature; he will never understand many of the controlling motives in the life of man. (What else but the fear of hunger and cold forces the majority of men to work?) He will never understand many things in the animal world. For example, he will not understand the relation of mammals to reptiles. A snake excites a feeling of repulsion and fear in all mammals. By this repulsion and fear the mammal knows the nature of the snake and the relation of that nature to its own, and knows it correctly, but strictly personally, and only from its own standpoint. But what the snake is in itself the animal never knows by the emotion of fear. What the snake is in itself—not in the philosophical meaning of the thing-in-itself (nor from the standpoint of the man or animal whom it has bitten or may bite) but simply from the standpoint of zoölogy—THIS CAN BE KNOWN BY THE INTELLECT ONLY.
Emotions unite with the different I's of our psyche. Emotions apparently the same may be united with the very small I's and with the very great and lofty I's; and so the rôle and meaning of such emotions in life may be very different. The continual shifting of emotions, each of which calls itself I and strives to establish power over man, is the chief obstacle to the establishment of a constant I. And particularly does this interfere when the emotions are manifesting in and passing through the regions of the psyche connected with a certain kind of self-consciousness and self-assertion. These are the so-called personal emotions.
The sign of the growth of the emotions is the liberation of them from the personal element, and their sublimation on the higher planes. The liberation from personal elements augments the cognizing power of the emotions, because the more there are of pseudo-personal elements in emotion the greater the possibility of delusion. Personal emotion is always partial, always unjust, by reason of the one fact that it opposes itself to all the rest.
Thus the cognitive power of the emotions is greater in proportion as there is less of self-elements in a given emotion, i.e., more consciousness that this emotion is not the I.
We have seen before in studying space and its laws, that the evolution of knowledge consists in a gradual withdrawing from oneself. Hinton expresses this very well. He says that only by withdrawing from ourselves do we begin to comprehend the world as it is. The entire system of mental exercises with colored cubes invented by Hinton aims at the training of consciousness to look at things from other than the pseudo-personal standpoint.
When we study a block of cubes, writes Hinton, (say a cube consisting of 27 lesser cubes) we first of all learn it by starting from a particular cube and axis, and learning how 26 others come with regard to that cube. . . . We learn the block with regard to this axis, so that we can mentally conceive the disposition of every cube as it comes regarded from one point of view. Next we suppose ourselves to be in another cube at the extremity of another axis; and looking from this axis, we learn the aspect of all the cubes, and so on.
Thus we impress on the feelings what the block of cubes is like from every axis. In this way we get a knowledge of the block of cubes.
Now, to get the knowledge of humanity, we must study it from the standpoint of the individuals composing it.
The egotist may be compared with the man who knows a cube from one standpoint only.
Those who feel superficially with a great many people, are like those learners who have a slight acquaintance with a block of cubes from many points of view.
Those who have a few deep attachments are like those who know them well from only one or two points of view.
And after all, perhaps the difference between the good and the rest of us, lies rather in the former being aware. There is something outside them which draws them to it, which they see, while we do not. 1
Just as it is incorrect in relation to oneself to evaluate everything from the standpoint of one emotion, contrasting it with all the rest, so is it correspondingly incorrect in relation to the world and men to evaluate everything from the standpoint of one's own accidental I, contrasting oneself of a given moment with the rest.
Thus the problem of correct emotional knowledge consists in the fact that one shall feel in relation to the world and men from some standpoint other than the personal. And the broader the circle becomes for which a person feels, the deeper becomes the knowledge which his emotions yield. But not all emotions are of equal potency in liberating from self-elements. Certain emotions from their very nature are disruptive, separative, alienating, forcing man to feel himself as individualized and separate; such are hatred, fear, jealousy, pride, envy. These are emotions of a materialistic order, forcing a belief in matter. And there are emotions which are unitive, harmonizing, making man feel himself to be a part of some great whole; such are love, sympathy, friendship, compassion, love of country, love of nature, love of humanity. These emotions lead man out of the material world and show him the truth of the world of the wondrous. Emotions of this character liberate him more easily from self-elements than those of the former class. Nevertheless there can be a quite impersonal pride—the pride in an heroic deed accomplished by another man. There can even be impersonal envy, when we envy a man who has conquered himself, conquered his personal desire to live, sacrificed himself for that which everyone considers to be right and just, but which we cannot bring ourselves to do, cannot even think of doing, because of weakness, of love of life. There can be impersonal hatred—of injustice, of brute force, anger against stupidity, dullness; aversion to nastiness, to hypocrisy. These feelings undoubtedly elevate and purify the soul of man and help him to see things which he would not otherwise see.
Christ driving the money-changers out of the temple, or expressing his opinion about the Pharisees, was not entirely meek and mild; and there are cases wherein meekness and mildness are not virtues at all. Emotions of love, sympathy, pity transform themselves very readily into sentimentality, into weakness; and thus transformed they contribute of course to nescience, i.e., matter. The difficulty of dividing emotions into categories is increased by the fact that all emotions of the higher order, without exception, can also be personal and then their action partakes of the nature of this class.
There is a division of emotions into pure and impure. We all know this, we all use these words, but understand little of what they mean. Truly, what does "pure" or "impure" mean with reference to feeling?
Common morality divides, a priori, all emotions into pure and impure according to certain outward signs, just as Noah divided the animals in his ark. All "fleshly desires" fall into the category of the "impure." In reality indeed, "fleshly desires" are just as pure as is everything in nature. Nevertheless emotions are pure and impure. We know very well that there is truth in this classification. But where is it, and what does it mean?
Only an analysis of emotions from the standpoint of knowledge can give the key to this.
Impure emotion—this is quite the same thing as impure glass, impure water, or impure sound, i.e., emotion which is not pure, but containing sediments, deposits, or echoes of other emotions: IMPURE—MIXED. Impure emotion gives obscure, not pure knowledge, just as impure glass gives a confused image. Pure emotion gives a clear pure image of that for the knowledge of which it is intended.
This is the only possible decision of the question. The arrival at this conclusion saves us from the common mistake of moralists who divide arbitrarily all emotion into "moral" and "immoral." But if we try for a moment to separate emotions from their usual moral frames, then we see that matters are considerably simpler, that there are no in their nature pure emotions, nor impure in their nature, but that each emotion will be pure or impure according to whether or not there are admixtures of other emotions in it.
There can be a pure sensuality, the sensuality of the Song of Songs, which initiates into the sensation of cosmic life and gives the power to hear the beating pulse of nature. And there can be an impure sensuality, mixed with other emotions good or bad from a moral standpoint but equally making muddy the fundamental feeling.
There can be pure sympathy, and there can be sympathy mixed with calculation to receive something for one's sympathy. There can be pure love of knowledge, a thirst for knowledge for its own sake, and there can be an inclination to knowledge wherein considerations of utility or profit assume the chief importance.
In their outer manifestation pure and impure emotions may differ very little. Two men may be playing chess, acting outwardly very similarly, but in one will burn self-love, desire of victory, and he will be full of different unpleasant feelings toward his rival—fear, envy of a clever move, spite, jealousy, animosity, or schemes to win, while the other will simply solve a complex mathematical problem which lies before him, not thinking about his rival at all.
The emotion of the first man will be impure, if only because it contains much of the mixed. The emotion of the second will be pure. The meaning of this is of course perfectly clear.
Examples of a similar division of outwardly similar emotions may be constantly seen in the esthetic, literary, scientific, public and even the spiritual and religious activities of men. In all regions of this activity only complete victory over the pseudo-personal elements leads a man to the correct understanding of the world and of himself. All emotions colored by such SELF-ELEMENTS are like concave, convex, or otherwise curved glasses which refract rays incorrectly and distort the image of the world.
Therefore the problem of emotional knowledge consists in a corresponding preparation of the emotions which serve as organs of knowledge.
Become as little children . . . and
Blessed are the pure in heart. . . .
In these evangelical words is expressed first of all the idea of the purification of the emotions. It is impossible to know through impure emotions. Therefore in the interests of a correct understanding of the world and of the self, man should undertake the purification and the elevation of his emotions.
This last leads to an entirely new view of morality. That morality the aim of which is to establish a system of correct relations toward the emotions, and to assist in their purification and elevation, ceases in our eyes to be some wearisome and self-limiting exercise in virtue. Morality—this is a form of esthetics.
That which is not moral is first of all not beautiful, because not concordant, not harmonious.
We see all the enormous meaning that morality may have in our life; we see the meaning morality has for knowledge, for the reason that there are emotions by which we know, and there are emotions by which we delude ourselves. If morality can actually help us to analyze these, then its value is indisputable from the standpoint of knowledge.
Current popular psychology knows very well that malice, hatred, anger, jealousy BLIND a man, DARKEN his reason; it knows that fear DRIVES ONE INSANE, etc., etc.
But we also know that every emotion may serve either knowledge or nescience.
Let us consider such an emotion—valuable and capable of high development—as the pleasure of activity. This emotion is a powerful motive force in culture, and of service in the perfection of life and in the evolution of all higher faculties of man. But it is also the cause of an infinite number of his delusions and faux pas for which he afterwards pays bitterly. In the passion of activity man is easily inclined to forget the aim that started him to act; to accept the activity itself for the aim and even to sacrifice the aim in order to preserve the activity. This is seen with especial clearness in the activity of various spiritual movements. Man, starting out in one direction, turns in the opposite one without himself noticing it, and often descends into the abyss thinking that he is scaling the heights.
There is nothing more contradictory, more paradoxical than the man who is enticed away by activity. We have become so accustomed to "man" that the strange perversions to which he is sometimes subject fail to startle us as curiosities.
Violence in the name of freedom; violence in the name of love; the Gospel of Christianity with sword in hand; the stakes of the Inquisition for the glory of a God of Mercy; the oppression of thought and speech on the part of the ministers of religion—all these are incarnated absurdities of which humanity only is capable.
A correct understanding of morality can preserve us in some degree from such perversions of thought. In our life in general there is not much morality. European culture has gone along the path of intellectual development. The intellect invented and organized without considering the moral meaning of its own activity. Out of this arose the paradox that the crown of European culture is the "dreadnaught."
Many people realize all this, and on account of it assume a negative attitude to all culture. But this is unjust. European culture created much other than dreadnaughts that is new and valuable, facilitating life. The elaboration of the principles of freedom and right; the abolition of slavery (though these are indeed nominal); the victory of man in many regions where nature presented to him a hostile front; the methods for the distribution of thought, the press; the miracles of contemporary medicine and surgery—all these are indisputably real conquests, and it is impossible not to take them into consideration. But there is no morality in them, i.e., there is no truth but too much of falsehood. We are satisfied with mere principles as such; we are content to think that eventually they will be introduced into life, and we neither marvel nor are disturbed at the thought that we ourselves (i.e., cultured humanity), developing beautiful principles, continually deny and controvert them in our lives. The man of European culture invents with equal readiness a machine gun and a new surgical apparatus. European culture began from the life of the savage, taking this life as an example as it were and starting to develop all its sides to the uttermost without thinking of their moral aspects. The savage crushed the head of his enemy with a simple club. We invented for this purpose complicated devices, making possible the crushing of hundreds and thousands of heads at once. Therefore such a thing as this happened: aerial navigation, toward which men had looked forward for millenniums, finally achieved, is used first of all for purposes of war.
Morality should be the co-ordination and the necessity for the co-ordination of all sides of life, i.e., of the actions of man and humanity with the higher emotions and the higher comprehensions of the intellect. From this point of view the statement previously made, that morality is a form of esthetics, becomes clear. Esthetics—the sense of beauty—is the sensation of the relation of parts to a whole, and the perception of the necessity for a certain harmonious relation. And morality is the same. Those actions, thoughts and feelings are not moral which are not coördinated, which are not harmonious with the higher understanding and the higher sensations accessible to man. The introduction of morality into our life would make it less paradoxical, less contradictory, more logical and—most important—more civilized; because now our vaunted civilization is much compromised by "dreadnaughts," i.e., war and everything that goes with it, as well as many things of "peaceful" life such as the death penalty, prisons, etc.
Morality, or moral esthetics in such a sense as is here shown, is necessary to us. Without it we too easily forget that the word has after all a certain relation to the act. We are interested in many things, we enter into many things, but for some strange reason we fail to note the incongruity between our spiritual life and our life on earth. Thus we create two lives. In one we are preternaturally strict with ourselves, analyze with great care every idea before we discuss it; in the other we permit with extreme ease any compromises, and easily keep from seeing that which we do not care to see. Moreover, we reconcile ourselves to this division. We do not find it necessary seriously to introduce into our lives our higher ideals, and almost accept as a principle the division of the "real" from the "spiritual." All of the indecencies of our life have arisen as a result of this; all of those infinite falsifications of our life—falsifications of the press, art, drama, science, politics—falsifications in which we suffocate as in a fetid swamp, but which we ourselves create, because we and none other are servants and ministers of those falsifications. We have no sense of the necessity to introduce our ideals into life, to introduce them into our daily activity, and we even admit the possibility that this activity may go counter to our spiritual quests, in accordance with one of those established standards the harm of which we recognize, but for which no one holds himself responsible because he did not create them himself. We have no sense of personal responsibility, no boldness, and we are even without the consciousness of their necessity. All this would be very sad and hopeless if the concept "we" were not so dubious. In reality, the correctness of the very expression "we" is subject to grave doubt. The enormous majority of the population of this globe is engaged in effect in destroying, disfiguring, and falsifying the ideas of the minority. The majority is without ideas. It is incapable of understanding the ideas of the minority, and left to itself it must inevitably disfigure and destroy. Imagine a menagerie full of monkeys. In this menagerie a man is working. The monkeys observe his movements and try to imitate him but they can imitate only his visible movements; the meaning and aim of these movements are closed to them; therefore their actions will have quite another result. And should the monkeys escape from their cages and get hold of the man's tools, then perhaps they will destroy all his work, and inflict great damage on themselves as well. But they will never be able to create anything. Therefore a man would make a great mistake if he referred to their "work," and spoke of them as "we." Creation and destruction—or more correctly, the ability to create or the ability only to destroy—are the principal signs of the two types of men.
Morality is necessary to "man": only by regarding everything from the standpoint of morality is it possible to differentiate unmistakably the work of man from the activity of apes. But at the same time delusions are nowhere more easily created than in the region of morality. Allured by his own particular morality and moral gospel, a man forgets the aim of moral perfection, forgets that this aim consists in knowledge. He begins to see an aim in morality itself. Then occurs the a priori division of the emotions into good and bad, "moral" and "immoral." The correct understanding of the aim and meaning of the emotions is lost along with this. Man is charmed with his "niceness." He desires that everyone else should be just as nice as he, or as that remote ideal created by himself. Then appears delight in morality for morality's sake, a sort of moral sport—the exercise of morality for morality's sake. A man under these circumstances begins to be afraid of everything. Everywhere, in all manifestations of life, something "immoral" begins to appear to him, threatening to dethrone him or others from that height to which they have risen or may rise. This develops a preternaturally suspicious attitude toward the morality of others. In an ardor of proselytism, desiring to popularize his moral views, he begins quite definitely to regard everything which is not in accord with his morality as hostile to it. All this becomes "black" in his eyes. Starting with the idea of utter freedom, by arguments, by compromises, he very easily convinces himself that it is necessary to fight freedom. He already begins to admit a censure of thought. The free expression of opinions contrary to his own seems to him inadmissible. All this may be done with the best intentions, but the results of it are very well known.
There is no tyranny more ferocious than the tyranny of morality. Everything is sacrificed to it. And of course there is nothing so blind as such tyranny, as such "morality."
Nevertheless humanity needs morality, but of a different kind—such as is founded on the real data of superior knowledge. Humanity is passionately seeking for this, and perhaps will find it. Then on the basis of this new morality will occur a great division, and those few who will be able to follow it will begin to rule others, or they will disappear altogether. In any case, because of this new morality and those forces which it will engender, the contradictions of life will disappear, and those biped animals which constitute the majority of humanity will have no opportunity to pose as men any longer.
The organized forms of intellectual knowledge are: science, founded upon observation, calculation and experience; and philosophy, founded upon the speculative method of reasoning and drawing conclusions.
The organized forms of emotional knowledge are: religion and art. Religious teachings, taking on the character of different "cults" as they depart from the original "revelation," are founded entirely upon the emotional nature of man. Magnificent temples, the gorgeous vestments of priests and acolytes, the solemn ritual of worship, processions, sacrifices, singing, music, dances—all these have as their aim the attuning of man in a certain way, the evoking in him of certain definite feelings. The same purpose is served by religious myths, legends, stories of the lives of heroes and saints, prophecies, apocalypses—they all act upon the imagination, upon the feelings, although they fail to fulfil their original purpose, which is to transmit ideas, i.e., to serve knowledge.
The aim of it is to give God to man, to give him morality, i.e., to give him an accessible knowledge of the mysterious side of the world. Religion may deviate from its true aim, may serve earthly interests and purposes, but its foundation is the search for truth, for God.
Art serves beauty, i.e., emotional knowledge of its own kind. Art discovers beauty in everything, and compels man to feel it and therefore to know. Art is a powerful instrument of knowledge of the noumenal world: mysterious depths, each one more amazing than the last, open to the vision of man when he holds in his hands this magical key. But let him only think that this mystery is not for knowledge but for pleasure in it, and all the charm disappears at once. Just as soon as art begins to take delight in that beauty which is already found, instead of the search for new beauty an arrestment occurs and art becomes a superfluous estheticism, encompassing man's vision like a wall. The aim of art is the search for beauty, just as the aim of religion is the search for God and truth. And exactly as art stops, so religion stops also as soon as it ceases to search for God and truth, thinking it has found them. This idea is expressed in the precept: Seek . . . the kingdom of God and his righteousness. . . . It does not say, find; but merely, seek!
Science, philosophy, religion and art are forms of knowledge. The method of science is experiment; the method of philosophy is speculation; the method of religion and art is moral or esthetic emotional inspiration. But both science and philosophy, religion and art, begin to serve true knowledge only when in them commence to manifest the sensing and finding of some inner property in things. In general it is quite possible to say—and perhaps it will be most true to fact—that the aim of even purely intellectual systems of philosophy and science consists not at all in the giving to man of certain data of knowledge, but in the raising of man to such a height of thinking and feeling as to enable him to pass to those new and higher forms of knowledge to which art and religion approach more nearly. It is necessary however to remember that these very divisions into science, philosophy, religion and art betray the poverty and incompleteness of each. A complete religion unites in itself religion, art, philosophy and science; a complete art equally unites them, while a complete science or a complete philosophy comprehends religion and art. A religion which contradicts science, and a science which contradicts religion are both equally false.
214:1 Al-Ghazzali, "The Alchemy of Happiness."
222:1 C. H. Hinton, "A New Era of Thought," pp. 77, 78.
Purchase This TitleBrowse Titles
- BROTHER ISAAC NEWTON
P.O. BOX 70
Larkspur CO 80118
Co-Masonry, Co-Freemasonry, Women's Freemasonry, Men and Women, Mixed Masonry
Copyright © 1975-2020 Universal Co-Masonry, The American Federation of Human Rights, Inc. All Rights Reserved.