FIRST BOOK: ON KNOWLEDGE.
Retrospect and Conclusion.
I RETURN to my starting-point—the Actualisation in Consciousness; and there I find subject and object given as substantive entities, correlative; and one as valid as the other. Not correlation but community is the proper word; not identity, for identity would mean that there is only one, not two. Such is the psychical event, when reflectively contemplated by reason. I also find the resultant of the collision of the two as not strictly speaking even a relatedness, much less a “relativity,” but rather to be described as object in subject, subject in object in a differenced identity. Even “immediateness” is too weak a word to express the fact, because it suggests the possibility of mediation, a process which specially belongs to the activity of reason. From first to last it is “Subject Object” that occupies our thought on things. The evolution of object to its full actuality is the evolution of subject; and vice-versâ.
It is only, however, when the event “subject-object” has already happened that we can retrospectively look at it and discern its characteristics. And we find that it is the “non-subject” which, by its stimulus, elicits subject. This is both the logical and the real order. The negation of the object calls forth the positive of the subject, evoking it out of potentiality into life; and its primary activity is simply a reflex placing of the object back into the place from which it came—as a beënt presentation, a “thing” not the subject; and this is the Real on the plane of sentience. Our primary “experience” on the attuitional plane of mind is, in truth, not subject-object, but only object; subject being necessarily there, but only as implicit in the content of the experience: it is reflectively discerned and affirmed at a later stage.
This “Real” as thus given in sentience, absorbed by the subject and reflexed, is the body (so to speak) of the particular conscious being which absorbs, reflexes and retains. The potential subject would seem to exist as a passivo-active recipient for the mere purpose of receiving and building up the object into itself—which object we may call Experience in the widest acceptation of that word; and only in so far as it does this, has the subject reality or substance of mind. Each subject, indeed, has fulfilled itself only when the universe as revelation of God has become, in and for it, to the full extent of its native potency.
The process of mind-nutrition may be called the metabolism of mind: but it differs from the metabolism of body in this, that in the latter, tissues waste what they assimilate, and seek renewal, ever-repeating a process (never advancing after the organism is grown to its full size), whereas in mind there is no waste save obliviscence. It goes on, or ought to go on, ever growing in riches and strength, till the death of the body arrests it. Again, the food of mind is not an idea corresponding with the ideate, but it is the object itself in terms of mind (i.e., of feeling or consciousness), whereas the food of the body is transmuted into the specific substances (tissues) of the body. And yet we might say, if we desired to preserve the analogy, that the object is transmuted into the tissue of the subject mind.
Further, finite mind is aware of the finite predicates of Infinite Mind just as they exist, in so far as it is clearly and distinctly aware of them. From day to day and hour to hour Nature, visible even to the eye of the vulgar as God diffused, solicits us—nay, is urgent in its solicitations. It offers to us a vast estate of which this being of ours has the title-deeds in so far as it is conscious and self-conscious. It is our prerogative, as it is our duty, to know God by and in the things that He has made. Our business is to ascertain what it precisely is that is offered to us, and to fill up the potential of our being with all the proffered fulness. This is to realise the Universal (real and actual) in our finite selves.
When we pass from the attuitional to the dialectic plane of mind, the object in cognition is always subject-object; percipience, as distinguished from attrition, being a subsumption by, and reduction to, the active subject as pure reason.
Again, object is subject inasmuch as it “becomes” for the attuitional subject as its “real”; and, further, emerges in that subject as the Objective-dialectic now self-referent. All is One—must be One; and the last and highest is already immanent in the first and lowest. This, however, is not Monism if we are to be strict with that doctrine; for subject and object are distinct—mutually negating, and yet mutually interpenetrating, entities in the Absolute Whole. I call this Monistic Pluralism.
We have found that we cannot ascertain what the proffered gift of God to man is, save by the analysis of the conscious subject, first as a sensing, and, thereafter, as an active subject, i.e., as attuition and as dialectic. Only thus can we preserve our feet from falling and plant them firmly on the basis of fact. There are many ideas, or, let us say, aperçus, that take, when explicitly enounced, the cast of a formula, which might yield an a priori deduction of the cosmic scheme of things, plausible in itself and pleasing to the unresting desire for synthetic completeness. As products of earnest thought, they probably send forth at least one ray of light over the mystery of life and may, indeed, even seem to illuminate the whole; but the method of procedure is, it seems to me, vitally erroneous. The single ray, however brilliant, must mislead, for it is an abstraction. Our method must be the analysis of our individual selves as conscious of object and self-conscious: this is what I mean by Epistemology. What precisely does the subject as Feeling and Sentience yield: what, further, does the same subject yield as pure dialectic taking up the record of sentience? From this, and resting on this, which, I submit, is genuine metaphysic as opposed to speculation, we may perchance create for ourselves an Absolute Synthesis of our own orb of Being: in other words, sum up our own reality and actuality—our own Absolute.
When I come to speak more in detail and synthetically of what we mean by the word “God,” I shall follow the same method, being convinced that in speaking of Mind-universal, I have no data whatsoever save mind-finite in presence of an object; and the secret processes of that mind. If it be said that I have the method of physical nature, I reply that the method of physical nature is naught save in so far as it is the method of the mind in which nature reveals itself.
In brief, if God be not immanent in the man-mind, He is nowhere.
Why, it may be asked, attempt such a question at all? Because man cannot do otherwise. He must strive after an absolute synthesis—must do so because the nature of the dialectic in us is such that it compels us to search, ever and infinitely, for the elemental beginning and the final ideal sum of all experience—for “The One” which is first and also last. Nay, so potent and imperious is this reason-impulse that, if man had attained to the absolute synthesis possible within his orb, he would still find himself gazing, from the summit which he had reached, away into infinite spheres. Whether this be the earnest of a higher plane of being awaiting him where he will breathe a purer air, and where feeling and life will be, although, perhaps, not richer and more profound, yet more harmonious than under present conditions, is a question that man can never cease to ask. Strange it would be if a being could emerge on the surface of one of innumerable worlds, asking questions and projecting infinite possibilities to which the only response was the brutal and stupid answer of The Grave.
END OF THE FIRST BOOK AND THE FIRST VOLUME.
THE ABERDEEN UNIVERSITY PRESS LIMITED