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Lecture 1 The Subject Introduced

Lecture 1
The Subject Introduced
IN the course of Lectures which I had the honour of delivering in the University of Aberdeen in the year 1918 and which have since been published under the title God and Personality I endeavoured to commend to my hearers certain conclusions of which I will venture now to remind the readers of my former volume by way of introduction to what I am to offer to their consideration in the present course.

When we set ourselves to discover what is meant by a ‘personal God’ in the minds of those who lay stress upon the importance of this conception of the object of Religion we found that it is a God with whom a personal relationship is possible for his worshippers. We observed that an emotion towards the Supreme Reality of a kind which is not easily describable except in terms similar to those used of an emotion felt towards a person is associated with the higher forms of religious experience even where there is no explicit assertion of Personality in God by the authoritative formularies of the religion in question. Indeed as was pointed out such an explicit assertion is in fact made by the authoritative formularies of Christianity alone among the great historic religions of mankind. And in these formularies as received by the great majority of Christians Personality in God was as I went on to show associated with the doctrine that God was not a single Person. By this doctrine certain peculiar difficulties were avoided which have been felt to attach to the doctrine of the Personality of God often professed by individuals in recent times. These difficulties arose from the obviously social reference of the word ‘personality’ as used of human beings a reference which has often been held to unfit it for application to the Supreme Reality since this must it is thought be regarded if not as all-inclusive at least as not in its very essence correlative with beings merely finite. Now according to the Christian doctrine personal relations are conceived as constituting the inner life of the Supreme Reality and the intercourse of the worshipper with God as a participation in this life much as philosophers have frequently conceived human thought and knowledge as a participation in the eternal activity of the Divine Mind. It was not pretended that such a position was free from difficulties of its own any more than is the philosophical idealism with which I have just compared it. But it was contended and an attempt was made to confirm the contention by a detailed consideration of some well-known problems of philosophical theology that a conception of Divine Personality on lines suggested by the Christian doctrine to which I have referred was able to afford us more assistance towards a solution of these problems than any theory which could be put into competition with it; and moreover that the doctrine in question was entitled to be considered as the most fully articulated expression of a religious experience by no means peculiar to the one religion which has definitely chosen to employ the expression ‘Personality’ in its account of God nor even to those which might in the more general sense of the phrase as now commonly employed be described as religions with a ‘Personal God.’

In the sequel we are to examine Personality in man in the light of these conclusions. In the first Lecture of my first course I gave reasons which might justify us in postponing this examination to that of the conception of Personality in God. These reasons were both historical and philosophical. The historical reason was the priority of theological discussion in the development of the thought of Personality; the philosophical reason was the fact that Personality is itself an ideal which may best be studied at the outset apart from conditions which in our experience of finite persons limit its full realization; and therefore in the notion which under the inspiration of religious experience men had been led to form of Personality as it may be held to exist in God. But now we may turn to the consideration of finite Personality and in the first place to the mutual bearing of such conclusions as have been already reached and the facts of man's nature as exhibited in the several different spheres of his distinctively human that is of his personal activity. After this we shall go on to discuss the ‘value and destiny’ (to use a convenient phrase borrowed from the title of the second series of Mr. Bosanquet's Gifford Lectures) of the individual human person in the light of these same conclusions.
Here we shall find ourselves confronted with a tendency characteristic of contemporary thought under influences arising from two opposite quarters those of Naturalism and of Absolute Idealism respectively to insist upon the comparatively very subordinate value of the finite individual and to advocate as the reasonable result of a conviction that the personal life of the finite individual possesses only such a very subordinate value a resolute acquiescence in its transiency in fact. This will bring us to consider on the other hand the ancient and widespread belief in the immortality of the finite individual with a view to discovering what light can be thrown on this tendency and on this belief by a Natural Theology based as we saw that Natural Theology should be based upon the highest available religious experience of mankind.
There are certain subjects of which it would be natural to expect to look for a discussion in an examination of the problems of human Personality but in respect of which I occupy the room of the unlearned so that I have little or nothing to say about them that would be worthy of your attention. From a Gifford Lecturer his hearers and readers have the right to expect the results of firsthand study and reflection and it would be out of place for me to offer to them the mere gleanings of my desultory reading in fields where I myself am wholly destitute of the training and experience which would enable me to move with the assurance that only a thorough knowledge of the ground can give. While I shall not hesitate to describe for what it is worth the general impression made upon me by what I have gathered concerning these matters from my inspection of others accounts’ so far as it has affected my general view of my main topic I shall do no more than this; but it must not be supposed from the inevitable superficiality of such a treatment that I underrate the importance to the understanding of human Personality of investigations with which I pretend to no more than a very slight acquaintance.
The first of these subjects is the Physiology of the brain and nervous system. I greatly deplore but I cannot now repair the defect in my education which has left me in regard to this as in regard to all other departments of Natural Science no better than an ignoramus.
Plainly any examination of the nature of human Personality undertaken by one without a greater and more intelligent familiarity than I can claim with the results obtained up to date by the researches of those who have devoted themselves to the study of this subject must fall very far short of what such an examination should be. For my part I can only confess my shortcomings in this respect and confine myself to a modest statement to be made in its proper place of such an opinion as I have been able notwithstanding my ignorance of Physiology to form as to the relation of human Personality to the bodily organism with which it obviously stands in a most intimate relation.
Those unfortunate features in the development of our educational system which have facilitated ignorance of the elements of Natural Science in students of Philosophy and Theology (and it may be added of the elements of Philosophy and Theology in students of Natural Science) are too obvious to us all for an individual victim of their malign influence to take to himself all or perhaps any great part of the blame for deficiencies with which they have had so much to do. But with the next confession of ignorance I have to make the case is different.
It will be thought by many that while a philosopher may without shame admit his lack of physiological knowledge he cannot without putting himself out of court as a philosopher plead guilty to incompetence in Psychology so far as it can be pursued by the introspective method by interrogation of others concerning their thoughts and emotions or by observation of their behaviour in response to action exercised not (at any rate directly) upon their bodily organism but upon what we call their mental or psychical susceptibility. Nor have I any intention of taking up your time by defending myself for what I shall frankly admit to have been a reprehensible neglect of studies relevant to my own though not I will admit specially attractive to myself. I venture to think indeed that psychologists have often misconceived the scope of their science in believing it possible to make the same kind of abstraction when they are dealing with our apprehension of objects as can be made by the students of a natural science when dealing with a particular class of objects apprehended. But this conviction which I do very decidedly hold does not excuse anyone who holds it from acquainting himself far more fully than I have ever done with ascertained facts which are none the less facts that they have been described in a terminology coloured by what in my judgment is an erroneous theory.
There will therefore be in my treatment of the problem of human Personality much less reference than might be expected—very likely less than there ought to be—to the investigations of professional psychologists. But I shall not be able to avoid altogether some discussion of what is usually called ‘multiple personality’ and shall have to venture on some conclusions as to the relation of the phenomena described under that name to the unity which might plausibly seem to be essential to what we commonly mean by Personality. In this discussion I shall however pretend to no more than such a general knowledge of the facts in question as may be gathered from the reading of certain well-known and easily accessible works by psychopathological experts and by summarizers of their results.
A third and last department of inquiry for dealing with which I must admit myself without any special qualification is that which is designated in this country by the name of ‘Psychical Research.’ It will be impossible in discussing the belief in the possibility of a continuation of individual personal life beyond the grave to omit altogether some consideration of the claim that such research has established the high probability or even the certainty of such a continuation in particular instances. But here also I must confine myself to general impressions and considerations. I have never made any attempts to engage for myself in investigations of the kind carried on by the Society of Psychical Research; and I can make no pretence to that aptitude for careful and even meticulous accuracy in observation without which any work in this field would be of no evidential value at all.
In my previous course of Lectures I took less as an adequate definition of Personality than as a provisional attempt to orientate ourselves so to say in our study of it the famous definition given in the Christological treatise ascribed to Boethius: Persona est naturœ rationabilis individua substantia. It may serve us as a guide in this way still. But we will now supplement it by some observations on certain features of our everyday use of the word ‘person’ which become more important when we are considering the finite Personality of man than they were when our principal subject was the affirmation of Personality in God.
While as we saw in a previous Lecture we commonly use the word ‘person’ implying as it does according to the Boethian definition the possession of rationality by those to whom it is applied only of such human beings as have come to ‘years of discretion’ and should not except with a certain playfulness speak of a child as a person yet sometimes we seem to regard this same word as saying the least that can be said of the man or woman of whom we use it sometimes on the other hand as indicating that he or she is something more than ordinary. We remember how Mr. Pecksniff corrected Mrs. Lupin's description of Mary Graham in Martin Chuzzlewit1 as a ‘young lady’: “‘Mrs. Lupin’ said Mr. Pecksniff holding up his hand with something in his manner as nearly approaching to severity as any expression of his mild being that he was could ever do. ‘Person! young person!’”
In this instance and others of the same kind the use of the word ‘person’ suggests that the speaker wishes to say as little as possible of the man or woman in question. ‘Least said soonest mended.’ Yet the very colourlessness of the expression gives a special sting to the expression which an abusive term would not have had; just as there was something very insolent in the apology made by a certain man for mistaking one neighbour for another ‘You are so exactly like everyone else.’ In the same way the suggestion of the word ‘person’ in the phrase I have just quoted from Dickens was that Mary Graham was unworthy of being distinguished by any special attention.
But when the Dolls’ Dressmaker in Our Mutual Friend called herself ‘the person of the house’ she was claiming a social dignity which agreed but ill with her tender years; and sometimes though perhaps oftener by American than by English writers so and so is said to be ‘a great person’ while the derivatives ‘personage’ and ‘personality’ are still more frequently employed in a similar manner to suggest especial distinction.
The idiomatic use of the plural of the word last mentioned ‘personalities’ noticeably illustrates the ambiguity which hangs about this group of expressions. When we deprecate the introduction of ‘personalities’ into a discussion we no doubt think of it on the one hand as the intrusion of what is in this particular connexion trivial unimportant negligible. We wish it may be to hear of rival policies of opposed principles of action of contrasted ideals; and we find that the champion of one of these in attacking the champion of another is dwelling on details of the latter's private life or conduct irrelevant to the matter in hand and are led to suspect that the disputant who insists upon these is in the situation of the legendary advocate whose brief was endorsed ‘No case: abuse the plaintiff's attorney.’ Yet at the same time our dislike to the introduction of ‘personalities’ into serious debate is due in part to our feeling that the private life which is thus exploited in the interest of a political or religious controversy is just because of its privacy something sacred which cannot without a certain impiety be treated as a mere means to an alien end a counter in some one else's game. And even where there is contempt expressed in calling someone ‘a person’ there is in the word along with its refusal of special respect or interest a certain acknowledgment of his status as a member of society which by giving no just occasion to the other to resent it as an attack upon his character bottles up as it were the wrath which he notwithstanding feels and may well increase the violence of its explosion when it finds a vent.
In the Lecture on Personality and Rationality which was included in my previous course I have already indicated the direction in which we are to look for an explanation of the ambiguities which I have just been illustrating from our everyday use of the word ‘person’ and of its derivatives. These words always allow to the human being in reference to whom they are employed the distinctively human dignity of Rationality; on the other hand they emphasize his or her Individuality. Individuality however they may in a particular context emphasize less not only than the use of a proper name would emphasize it but less than some other designation which would not be applicable as ‘person’ is to all rational human beings. Thus Tom Pinch or young Martin Chuzzlewit would probably not have disliked hearing Mary Graham called a ‘young lady’ as much as they would have disliked her being called a ‘young person.’ For while all ladies are persons not all persons are ladies; and it is thus more distinctive to be a lady than to be a person. Yet it is possible to have a proper name—a dog or a horse a sword or a bridge a tree or a rock may have a proper name—without being a rational being at all; and though to be a lady is rarer than to be in some sense a person nevertheless in so far as a person does not exercise some special and definite function in the system of society he or she is rather potentially than actually a person. So again in speaking of so-and-so as a personage or more Ameyicano as a ‘great person’ one is ascribing to the subject of such an assertion something beyond the possibilities implied in a certain social status the possessor of which may not have given proof of any such distinctive use of his rational faculty as might secure for him a significance out of the common as we say and might lead us to insist at once upon his rationality and his individuality by calling him emphatically a person.
I have perhaps lingered too long over a point which is not difficult although it may need a little thought to perceive the bearing of our seemingly inconsistent use of these words upon the philosophical investigation of the nature of human Personality. But what has been said will prepare us for what is to come. It is in those human activities which are distinctively human because they are rational and social that we must study the nature of human Personality; and it is to be remembered that we are to study them with the conclusions of our former course in view. We have to ask whether they will be better or worse understood if we think of the activity of the Supreme Reality in which “we live and move and have our being”2 as a personal activity that is as an activity having the form of personal intercourse whereof in Religion we can by virtue of our own personality become participators.
Before however we come to the examination of these activities from the point of view thus indicated it will be convenient to call attention to a fact of great importance which must be constantly borne in mind while studying human Personality. I mean the fact that many of the processes which make up what may be called the psychical life of human beings seem to be carried on to use a phrase which has become familiar to us in recent years ‘below the threshold of consciousness.’ While profoundly sensible of the disadvantage at which I am placed in this regard by my lack of training in the systematic study of Psychology I cannot altogether avoid the attempt to estimate the part played in the constitution of human Personality by the unconscious or sub conscious operations of our souls. I venture to express myself in these terms despite the reluctance which psychologists often exhibit to commit themselves to an affirmation of the existence of a soul. For I am convinced that nothing is gained for clearness of thought by avoiding the use of the word soul and yet employing expressions which like psyche psychology and the like are mere equivalents of or derivatives from equivalents of soul or by attempting to describe perceiving knowing thinking willing feeling and so forth without reference to anything which perceives knows thinks wills or feels. For say what we may we cannot help conceiving such actions as the actions of some subject. And if it be contended that it is sufficient to speak of them as yours or mine we cannot avoid having at last to face the question whether our bodies can be regarded as the subject of perceiving knowing thinking willing or feeling; and we shall then be forced to admit that only a body which is more than merely a body which also is or has a soul is capable of being thus regarded. I should indeed freely acknowledge that in thus using the world ‘soul’ one must be careful to remember that no doctrine of the independence of the soul upon the body still less of its survival of the dissolution of the body should be clandestinely taken for granted. We are merely to think of the soul as the subject of perceiving knowing thinking willing feeling. But ‘soul’ has too long been the word appropriated to designate precisely this subject and the distinction of soul from body has too long expressed the obvious disparateness of these functions from that of motion in space to be abandoned without danger of confusion arising from its remaining in the background of our thought as an unrecognized assumption which would have to be dragged to light if we were forced to explain to one unfamiliar with the technical language of psychologists what it is that we are talking about. It is better I cannot but think frankly to use the traditional word and to state plainly that we know or do not know think or do not think this or that about the soul.
Now it is obvious that since the soul is that which is conscious which perceives and knows ‘the unconscious’ is an expression strictly applicable not to soul but to what we cannot think of as perceiving and knowing that is to body as distinguished from soul. And since the activity of soul is known to us as dependent in very many ways on conditions of body we might very well speak of ‘the unconscious’ contributing to the activity of soul when we mean no more than that this activity appears to occur in connexion with certain bodily conditions and perhaps to take certain forms only in connexion with certain specific conditions of body. It is not however in this sense that I wish now to speak of an unconscious factor in the life of the soul. We shall have to turn later on to the general question of the mutual relations of soul and body. While these no doubt give rise to some very difficult problems the particular problem upon which I now wish to offer some observations is not among them. Whether the activities of soul should rightly be said to be caused by or to be parallel with or rather to supervene upon or even merely to arise on occasion of or to have been by a pre-established arrangement harmonized with certain conditions of body it is in any case the very starting-point of the discussion concerning the relations of body and soul that the operations which we assign to each cannot be expressed in the terms appropriate to the other without a passage from one point of view to a different one which is disparate from the former. Thus the problem of the connexion with or dependence of activities of soul on certain conditions of body must be distinguished from the problem of the phenomena which suggest that activities such as are proper to the soul may be carried on below the threshold of consciousness. It may therefore be well to advert for a few moments to a phrase which one sometimes finds employed but of which it may fairly be said that it suggests a failure in those who use it to distinguish these problems. I refer to the phrase ‘unconscious cerebration.’ This is one of those phrases which should by all means be avoided since they tend to obscure difficulties by language which has (as was recently observed of certain political formulas) a ‘pleasing and sonorous sound’ but which does not tend to intellectual enlightenment.
We shall most of us readily acknowledge that mental activity can normally at any rate be carried on only if the substance of the brain is in a certain condition. We should not expect hard intellectual work from a starving man; but we should not on that account think of speaking as though the digestive processes were themselves spiritual or psychical. Now when people speak of ‘unconscious cerebration’ they imply by the use of the epithet ‘unconscious’ that they are speaking of a process which is sometimes though not on this occasion conscious—that is of a spiritual or Psychical process; while by the use of the substantive ‘cerebration’ they suggest that they are describing not a process somehow associated with or even dependent on movements of the brain substance but a process actually consisting in such a movement observed or inferred in the same way as we observe or infer other physical movements which we distinguish altogether from our consciousness of them and with which we do not suppose any psychical counterpart or consequence to be associated. Such language is merely misleading and should by all means be avoided.
We are then not now concerned with bodily antecedents causes occasions or parallels of spiritual or psychical activity but with a process regarded as being itself of a spiritual or psychical nature yet nevertheless as unaccompanied by any consciousness of it in the soul wherein it is supposed to be taking place. It will scarcely be disputed that there is something paradoxical in the conception of such a process however hard it may be to avoid the assumption of its existence.
It has sometimes been held that because for us to be aware of any object that object must coexist with a consciousness we should be justified in saying that we cannot conceive the existence of any object apart from consciousness. The correctness of this reasoning may well be doubted in view of the fact that it seems rather to be involved in the very notion of Knowledge that the object known should be independent of the mental act in and by which it is known; and it may reasonably be suspected that there is a fallacy in the way in which the argument is stated; for it is one thing to say that apart from consciousness we cannot conceive the existence of an object another to say that we cannot conceive an object to exist apart from a consciousness of it. But however this may be it is clear that when the object in question is a mental or psychical operation many to whom it would never occur to see a difficulty in supposing something which may become an object of consciousness to exist independently of there being any consciousness of it would nevertheless hesitate to affirm that such a psychical process might exist without there being any consciousness of it in the soul to which it belonged.
It is true that the expression ‘consciousness’ must here be interpreted in a wide sense. It must be understood as it is understood when we speak of ‘consciously willing’ or ‘being conscious of’ a pleasure a pain or an emotion. No doubt even in such phrases as these there is implied a distinction between the volition or the feeling and the consciousness of it a recognition that there exists beside these forms of psychical activity a factor in the whole state described which we may properly call cognition. But this factor need not be if I may so put it disengaged from its volitional or emotional concomitants. A state of extreme pain for example in which we could no longer be said to ‘look before and after’ but were wholly absorbed by the pain from which we were suffering would yet in this wide sense be called a consciousness of pain or a painful consciousness.
It would perhaps carry us too far afield from our immediate subject and it would certainly lead me into regions of psychological controversy which I am not competent to enter were I to allow myself to be betrayed into discussion of many problems which thrust themselves upon our attention when we ask ourselves whether there can be any psychical process wholly unaccompanied by consciousness in such a wide sense as this. Our experience can certainly not be explained without at least admitting that what we can only understand as the result of psychical activity is sometimes nay frequently reached without our being able to remember being conscious of such activity. But we are far too familiar with forgetting for it to be safe to assume that we were never conscious of anything merely because we do not now remember it. That all our conscious life does not fall within the system of what we call our real or waking experience everyone who has ever recollected his dreams is well aware. And many facts suggest the possibility (which is recognized even by ordinary language when we speak of what is ‘at the back of our minds’) of thoughts and feelings going on within us even while we are awake in detachment as it were from the predominant system of thought and feeling and sometimes (as in the case of automatic writing) bringing about actions expressive of intelligent purpose which are yet inexplicable by the thoughts and feelings which enter into that predominant system.
When we say then that some of the processes which go to make up the pyschical life of human beings and to constitute what we call their Personality seem to be carried on ‘below the threshold of consciousness’ we mean by ‘consciousness’ here the single predominant system of thoughts and feelings which determines in the main and directly the social activities of the individual in question. It does not follow that any of the processes carried on in this sense subconsciously are really in an absolute sense unconscious. And it is to be noted that in certain pathological cases where such dissociations of consciousness as with most of us occur only when (as in sleep or delirium) we are taking no part in social life are so marked and so lasting as to introduce a notable dissociation even into the social life of those who are subject to them we are forced to recognize a plurality of predominant systems and tend to speak of several ‘personalities’ of which now one now another emerges above the ‘threshold of consciousness.’ I defer to a later stage any detailed criticism of this way of speaking. I am now only concerned to call attention to the part played in the constitution of the life of the soul by processes which judged by their results are of the same kind as those which we call spiritual mental or psychical but which whether in a strict sense unconscious or not go on below the threshold of the predominant or social consciousness. If the word ‘the Unconscious’ is used to describe the complex of these processes it should clearly be recognized that it is used only by way of contrast with a fuller or more awakened consciousness and not in the sense in which it is applied to what as material is distinguished altogether from the psychical and therefore to the brain-substance considered as like the whole body a part of the ‘external world’ and not as belonging to that whereof we can predicate consciousness or in a word to the soul.
Whatever language be preferred it is certain that human Personality cannot be understood apart from activities and processes which though they may not be wholly unaccompanied by any sort of consciousness certainly do not enter into what I have described as the predominant consciousness. This consciousness has been called above also the ‘waking’ and the ‘social’ consciousness. It may be convenient to add a few remarks on these designations of it lest there should be supposed to be involved in them more than is intended.
First then as to the expression ‘waking consciousness.’ Our dreams are important in this context since they form a part of what passes below the threshold of our predominant consciousness yet are to a considerable extent remembered during our waking life. Although no doubt there is a far greater coherence in one's waking experience than in one's dreams yet I am disposed to think one cannot explain the conviction that one is awake merely as an inference from features of the waking life which are empirically found to distinguish it from the dream life. Hence I do not think that the term ‘waking’ and ‘predominant’ consciousness are necessarily synonymous though usually they refer to the same object. In such cases of alternating consciousness as those of the celebrated ‘Miss Beauchamp’ whose condition is studied in Dr. Morton Prince's well-known work The Dissociation of a Personality we should naturally I think speak of the patient as being awake in more than one of her states while it might be hard to speak of any one of them as predominant.
On the other hand it is not only in dreams that we have to do with the ‘unconscious’ or ‘subconscious.’ At every stage of the ‘waking’ life of everybody there occur incidents for example of forgetfulness inattention or distraction the explanation of which is to be found in a region of the soul's life of which the person himself may be at the moment at least as regards his predominant consciousness quite unaware.3 Thus if the predominant consciousness be called the ‘waking’ consciousness it is not meant that it by any means controls or determines the whole of what takes place while we are awake.
The phrase ‘social consciousness’ also calls for some commentary. The dream-consciousness is no doubt markedly contrasted with the ‘waking’ consciousness by what is sometimes called its ‘subjective’ character. Dreams are private to the dreamer and except in very rare circumstances as when a somnambulist assaults another man when Coleridge dreams a Kubla Khan or Tartini a Trille del Diavolo or again if a man should be like Hamlet stirred up to vengeance on his father's murderer by a vision of his father's ghost—expect in such circumstances as these they remain quite apart from the dreamer's intercourse with his fellow men. It is the waking life alone that has direct social consequences and with which alone the judgment of society commonly concerns itself. Yet the adventures of our dreams are social in their character and the great majority of them at any rate are modelled even though with strange distortions upon the social relations of which we have had experience while awake. And we may go further than this.
No one that I know of has thrown more light upon the subject of dreams than the eminent Austrian physician Dr. Sigmund Freud.4 It is not necessary to be convinced by every detail of his theory to recognize the extraordinary suggestiveness and the large measure of truth which there is in his manner of interpreting the problems of this very obscure yet very intimate sphere of our experience. Now no feature of Dr. Freud's theory is more characteristic or important than his conception of what he calls the ‘censor’ in dreams. According to Dr. Freud every dream sets before the dreamer either explicitly or in a symbolical form the fulfilment of a wish. In mature life these are most often wishes which in waking life are suppressed in consequence of their incongruity with our moral standards or social relations. But though in sleep our desires seem often to escape from the restraints which duty and prudence are when we are not asleep constantly placing upon them5 such escape is very far from complete. Frequently the psycho-analysis (as it is called) employed by Dr. Freud and his school for the discovery of the suppressed wishes which if these investigators are right lie frequently at the root of nervous disorders has revealed to them in dreams of their patients which even to the dreamers themselves appeared innocent of all connexion with the subject of certain wishes an elaborate symbolism by means of which these wishes have attained in masquerade as it were an imaginary gratification without by the naked exhibition of their true significance bringing upon themselves the intervention of what Dr. Freud describes as the ‘censor within the soul.’ For the disapproval of this ‘censor’ would otherwise have hindered this result and in breaking the dream have prevented the relief given by the seeming satisfaction of desires inconsistent with self-respect. The ‘censor within the soul’ is thus much the same as what is ordinarily meant by the Conscience working effectively even when sleep has cut us off from our ordinary social surroundings as the surrogate in the subconscious life if we may so express it of our moral convictions or social prejudices.
Without following Dr. Freud in all the particulars of his view I do not think that the main facts of what he calls a censorship of our dream thoughts can be denied by the candid student of his own dreams. And if this fact be admitted we must allow that the psychical life even when it seems most withdrawn into itself from communion with one's fellow men is social through and through; and that if the waking consciousness may be called social in contrast with the dream consciousness it is because in the main only the waking consciousness has direct social consequences not because the dream consciousness is not a consciousness of social relations. No matter how far we penetrate below the threshold of what we generally consider as our ordinary consciousness we find that the human soul is still social and therefore personal and that its most abstruse recesses are describable in Tennysonian phrase as “abysmal depths of Personality.”6
Any attempt to comprehend human Personality then is certainly doomed to failure that should ignore these depths and should content itself with the examination of those activities which are carried on in the full light of the agent's explicit consciousness. These activities themselves will be found on close inspection to be unintelligible apart from the assumption of the existence of processes in the soul to which this light has never penetrated. For the fuller investigation of such processes we must needs employ methods of inquiry akin to those pursued in the sciences concerned with external nature rather than to those appropriate to what are sometimes called the normative sciences such as are Logic Ethics and Æsthetics sciences which rest (to use a familiar if not a wholly satisfactory phraseology) upon judgments of value and not merely upon judgments of existence distinguishing the facts of thought conduct and expression as valid or invalid good or evil beautiful or ugly.
At the present time however there is little likelihood of what goes on ‘below the threshold of consciousness’ being unduly ignored. The danger is probably greater that the importance of Reason in human life should be too much disparaged in comparison with that of feeling and instinct. For the romantic reaction of a century ago against the Rationalism of the preceding age has been powerfully reinforced by a more recent movement of reaction at once against the intellectualist tendency in philosophy which is associated with the great name of Hegel and which was developed in the heart of the romantic movement itself and also against the revived Rationalism of nineteenth-century Natural Science between which and the tendency just mentioned there is a kinship more apparent now than in their earlier days of mutual controversy. This more recent movement of reaction has received its principal stimulus from the habit of thought engendered by the evolutionary biology whose way the Hegelian philosophy of development had prepared while it was itself the crowning achievement of nineteenth-century Natural Science. So complicated are the relationships with which the history of ideas acquaints us.
The bent of contemporary thought being such as I have just described it is worth while before passing from our present subject to note that though the course of our articulated thinking and our deliberate action is constantly affected by the obscurer processes which we contrast with these as ‘subliminal’ yet this does not in the least warrant us in overlooking the essential difference between the categories of Logic and Ethics on the one hand and those of empirical Psychology on the other; or justify us in reducing logical inference or the consciousness of obligation to the mere association of ideas images or emotions with the formation or arrangement of which principles of Reason and Duty have had nothing to do.
For in our interpretation of the obscurer processes of which we speak we are wholly dependent upon our knowledge of these principles. In one particular department we have seen how the Freudian interpretation of dreams is bound up with the recognition of a ‘censorship’ to which our desires and fancies are still subject even in sleep when we might think ourselves to have escaped from our daily burden of responsibility. And indeed if it is true that when we are awake “we are such stuff as dreams are made of”7 it must follow that our dreams are made of the same stuff as our waking life. And into that stuff we shall assuredly find already woven threads from the loom of Reason.
It is only with human life that we have in these Lectures to do; with life that is in a part of which the operations of Reason are manifest and as we say self-conscious. For only such a life should we ever think of calling personal. But it is the very essence of the contention of those who love to dwell upon the narrow limits of these manifest operations of Reason in contrast with the vast domain of the instinctive and the unconscious that the result of what is accomplished in these domains is not to be distinguished from what would have been accomplished by Reason had it been present; or that if distinguished at all it is distinguished by a greater perfection in those very qualities which self-conscious Reason deliberately aims at producing than is found in the finished work of self-conscious Reason itself.
An older fashion of thought might have seen in this a striking evidence that a higher Reason was at work than the human; that the wisdom which we trace in the behaviour of living beings which do not seem to reason is not their own but God's. No doubt it is difficult for us to acquiesce in this explanation of the facts partly (though not solely) because in the adaptation of organisms to their environment and in the working of instinct wonderful as these are and interpretable only in terms of Reason working towards an end there are indications of trial and error of occasional failure of injurious consequences which seem incongruous with the immediate activity of a perfect intelligence such as we ascribe to God. We prefer therefore to speak of a Reason immanent in the process of life a phrase which explains little or nothing but with which we cannot perhaps dispense.8
It is however one thing to recognize that human Personality (for it is with this that we are now concerned) includes a sphere of subconscious and instinctive as well as one of fully conscious and deliberate activity and even to admit that the former sphere embraces a far larger part of our existence than the latter and quite another to seek in the former rather than in the latter for the dwelling place of all the most valuable elements in our life and especially (to come to what is our main business in these Lectures) of Religion. This however is nowadays not infrequently done. Under the influence of William James's well-known theory of what in religion is known as conversion ‘as an uprush from the subconscious’9 one of the most eminent of contemporary British theologians10 has sought in the ‘subliminal’ region for the divine factor in human nature generally and in particular in the nature of him whom the Christian Church acknowledges to be very God as well as very man. I do not think that the future of theological speculation lies in the direction thus indicated. It is certainly true that the subconscious and instinctive life of the soul plays a part and a large part in Religion as in every human interest which is more than occasional or superficial. With this statement the religious traditions of mankind are fully in accord; and (to advert once more for a moment to the doctrine just mentioned of the Godhead of Jesus Christ) the orthodox theology of Christendom has been at pains to insist that in the case of its Master the divinity which it ascribed to him was no mere accession of dignity to a personality originally merely human but belonged to him from the very first. This is not the place to examine the validity of this assertion as regards the Founder of Christianity; it is only mentioned here in order to show that it is no new thing for Religion to acknowledge the immanence of Godhead in what it is now fashionable to call the subliminal region of our spiritual life.
But to go to the opposite extreme and so to insist upon this immanence as even by implication to represent the life which is fully self-conscious as less capable than the subliminal life of the divine indwelling this is not indeed altogether a new thing—for Religion has from very ancient days been haunted by the magic of wizards “that peep and that mutter”11 as by its âme damnée—but it is a retrogression from levels long ago reached by the greatest teachers of mankind. Such a view can in my judgment only be justified by a mode of thought12 which would disparage Religion as belonging essentially to the lower ranges of intellectual development and as destined to wither away in the maturity of science and civilization.
The withdrawal of a large part of our spiritual life from the full light of consciousness into the subliminal region seems to serve in the economy of nature a timesaving purpose.
We ourselves often of deliberate intent relegate thither much that we desire should not occupy the attention we would fain leave free for other and higher tasks. Thus we prefer that many of the actions of our daily toilet should be performed automatically; and trust ourselves to repeat a formula mechanically which if we reflected upon its meaning we might not be able to pronounce with equal accuracy. And what we thus do in certain cases of set purpose Nature (as we speak) does for us on a larger scale. It is difficult to conceive of Personality under our conditions of time and space without such a resource. But in our attempts to represent to ourselves as best we may a spiritual life emancipated from those conditions we are apt to dispense with a subliminal element. Thus Aristotle13 speaks of the Divine Life as an activity in which there is nothing merely potential or latent. And one of the New Testament writers suggests a like thought in a figure when he declares that “God is light and in him is no darkness at all.”14 But we should do wrong to interpret such sayings as implying that we ought to think of Spirit at its highest after the fashion of an activity which like that of a finite soul rests upon and issues from a substratum such as Aristotle called ὓλη or matter while at the same time we suppose this substratum away. In the obscure speculations of the great German mystic Jacob Behmen concerning the ‘fiery principle’ in God which is the very source of the divine glory but which when the true light does not thus break forth out of it becomes the ‘wrath of God’ the habitation of devils there is intimated a truth which should never be overlooked in this connexion. We must not think of anything in our own spiritual life that has substance or power or value as excluded from the Divine Life. That which apart from that life gives to evil all its attraction and its force is nevertheless present in that life as what we can perhaps only describe as an energy contributory (not merely in subordination to the rest but rather in co-ordination with them) to the whole eternal activity which is the being of God. If symbols we must have (and surely we need to have symbols though we should be ever on our guardagainst treating them as the masters not as the servants of our thought) then the bush of the prophet's vision which was all on fire and yet was not consumed15 is no bad symbol of him who is that which he is not only temporarily partially or potentially but actually fully and eternally.
Unless the account given in the preceding course of Lectures was wholly mistaken there is in Religion when it has attained its highest level an experience of a perfect spiritual life to which such terms as we have just used would be applicable manifested in the form of personal intercourse.
We will now pass to the consideration of the various activities in which human Personality expresses itself in their relation to the supreme spiritual Reality which is revealed to the human soul in the experience that we call Religion.