THE preceding Meditations assume Planes of finite mind with special reference to the human mind; and it is, indeed, necessary to introduce the point of view thus early, although it may anticipate much that has yet to be made good.
Absolute Unconditioned Being unfolds its inner nature as an externalised infinite series of finites; but this, not as an aggregate which may or may not settle down into a system, but, as an evolving and continuous process which, as evidently ordered, we call Law. At a certain point of evolution, the stage of “Life” has been reached,—it matters not, here, whether that first life be animal or vegetal. Unless the creative Energy is to be at this point arrested, the next evolution of the Divine nature would seem to be in its character inevitable; for the full expression of a conscious and self-conscious Being, if such be the nature of the Source, next demands the finitising of Feeling and Consciousness. The inanimate world thus and then begins to find in feeling and conscient entities its meaning reflected. That which lies hidden in the non-conscious world passes into feeling and consciousness, revealing itself to individual mind within the range of the capacity of each evolving stage. Just as the system emerges from Infinite Mind, so it finds its terminus and completion, as a finite externalisation, in finite mind. Finite mind itself, like all Nature, then starts on a process of evolution: it moves from the rudimentary and simple to its complex fulfilment in reason which brings with it a consciousness of consciousness. At this stage, finite mind becomes equal to the comprehension of the mighty Whole, and can, through each man, place back in God the image of His own infinite activity and proclaim Him as the All in All, The One, The Absolute! But the self-conscious Ego, the highest term in the finite evolution of Mind known to us, is, like all else, involved in the modality of the lower spatio-motor categories. Were it otherwise, man would be cut off from nature, and exist as a world apart, gazing with blank and objectless eyes.
The slow and subtle evolution of infinite Mind in finite forms no man can pretend to trace; but it is obvious enough that we encounter it on successive planes which may be distinguished with sufficient accuracy for our guidance in interpreting Man, whose mind contains all lower planes in a one complex. Each plane of mind, in order that it may be “mind,” must have an object adequate to that particular stage of mind and to which, also, the stage of mind is adequate.
(1) At what point does the action and re-action of unconscious life pass into sentient life—the beginnings of finite mind? At the point, we may say, at which a being refers all that enters it to itself as a one of recipience and, ipso facto, refers the recept to an “other”. We have now subject-object, but the reference to the self and the other is an implicit reference merely. The subject is a mere point d'appui—a reflexing and assimilating “somewhat,” and the object is not differentiated as object, but only dimly felt as not that which receives. I call this the stage of Pure Feeling; and the Object to this embryo subject is the vague indefinite of Being-Unconditioned.
(2) There is Sensation in its earliest form as feeling of an “other” there opposed to and negating subject here; in this sensation-moment of mind-evolution, the Feeling-subject is introduced to the vast diversity of the existent universe as constituted of separate and determined “particulars” negating the subject and each other: these, in a confused way, it receives, reflexes, and appropriates for itself—a still vague and restricted consciousness.
(3) There is the highest stage of Sensation (or Sentience generally) where the subject receives and reflexes the separate totals in presentation as given co-ordinated, totals (whose elements it does not yet discriminate)—diverse single totals in relations of Space and Time and Motion, and acting on each other. The more intelligent animals are on this plane of mind. I have named it the Attuitional. This Attuition contains quasi-perception and judgment; but only implicit. The resultant for the conscious subject is Synopsis.
(4) Finally, we are called on to behold emerging out of the subject as attuitional a free energy moving, after a certain manner, in order to grip and “know” the world, including itself. This is Reason or the Subjective Dialectic. Of this more fully in its proper place.
(5) Reason itself, straining towards a further insight, predicts, though it does not quite attain, a still higher plane which we may call Intuition.
Now, to each plane of mind, the world of experience (the Object) is what is possible for that particular plane of mind, i.e., inherent in its potency as a subject-entity.
At what points mind evolves itself out of one stage into another we cannot precisely say. The process is too fine and delicate for our coarse perceptions. In fact we are compelled to regard mind, in its evolution, as we have to regard all else in space and time, as a discrete continuum. At each stage of sentient existence a being, if normally constituted, receives and reflexes all of the non-subject that is necessary to its own organic completion. It has, in other words, for its nutriment, the “Real” on its own plane of universal Being; and each successive plane is a moment in the universal cosmic movement, and, as such, has absolute truth on that plane, however partial and imperfect its acquaintance with the Object may be relatively to the Absolute Whole.
It is essential to note that there is no saltus perceptible. Each plane of mind is immanent in that out of which it arose.
These planes of mind are moments in the concrete whole of man-mind, and in him they are to be distinguished rather than separated. Man thus comprises in himself all the planes of mind to be found in the world of experience as an ascending series, and gathers them up into the unity of the highest—the subjective dialectic as free self-conscious reason which, by virtue of its comprehension of the lower, becomes the interpreter of these and of all experience. Man is literally the microcosm. This dialectic, as free energy, seeks to “know,” i.e., to realise in consciousness all its complex content so as to yield knowledge or the truth of things—to realise for itself the world as it objectively exists.
In this highest stage, subject as self-conscious, can reflectively contemplate the operations whereby experience finds a lodgment in the empty subject-entity and builds it up into a Real of content out of a mere potency of recipience and reflex activity: dynamical operations these in the sphere of mind similar to what may be discerned in the sphere of matter.
I may here recall: The primordial event of which all others are repetitions, I have called the actualisation in a conscious subject; and from this, it appears to me, all interpretative thinking must start. Under this name I include all the moments whereby a first consciousness is constituted; and when a “reason” looks at this closely, it is the whole of what he envisages, not a part merely, that constitutes the Real, i.e., the truth, of the great mind-event. The whole is a concrete synthesis, and each moment is involved in the others. In describing and defining he merely takes to pieces reflectively what is “given” in a one experience.
Now, we have said that the first thing he finds when he contemplates the inner transaction is a process or movement which is, and an “isness” or “thinghood” which is the condition of the possibility of the resultant actualisation. Nay, he is aware of two thinghoods (i.e., realities) coalescing in the actualisation, and these he distinguishes as that which feels or is conscient and that which is felt—the conscite. The former is here and permanent, the latter is there and diverse and fluent. The former he aptly names “subject,” the latter “object”. Meanwhile, every moment is in and of universal Being. Subject and Object as distinct “beings” are thus given in the primary actualisation as of equal validity in the scheme of things. If the one falls out, the other falls out. The consciousness of an object is found, when we reflect, to be a synthesis of subject and object.
The reality of subject is well enough denoted by the old word “entity”. To define an entity, as distinguished from a process in or of Being, is beyond our power, if by defining is meant the explication of its inner nature. But if entities are facts in consciousness, I ought to be able at least to describe them: and I describe a conscious sentient entity thus: A nucleation or involution or articulation or specific determination of Universal Being whereby an independent centre of actuality is constituted in rerum natura: in other words, an individuation of the Universal into the particular—an individuum.
The primordial “feeling” of Universal Unconditioned Being as object, and, further, the consciousness of subject as nucleated fact or individuation accompanies us in all thought, and constantly recurs. It is the fundamental fact and description of embryonic finite mind, which thus begins its career as in and of the Universal, and carries this feeling of the Universal with it in all future evolution. Assuming here a Creative Mind, we see it externalising itself in shapes and processes inorganic and unconscious, and then unable to rest till it has transfigured this stage of Itself by moulding it into a Feeling-potency which shall in its successive evolutionary stages reflect Mind-universal.
Of the highest finite evolution—the man-mind, we say that it is a conscious entity; but also, as we have seen, an entity conscious of itself as an entity or individuated part of Universal Being. As such, it is a centre not only of passivo-active receptivity, but, further, of active activity. It is Reason or the Dialectic.
The object-entity in collision with the subject-entity has its flash of resultant in the actualisation, and this on the sentient plane. This actualisation or synthesis is the object passing into the subject as a feeling or passivo-active or recipient entity. The one permanent individuated being, whose differentia is that it is a feeling or conscious centre, receives the data of inner and outer experience and absorbs them into itself, thereby constituting them the body or real of itself. That is to say, the constitutive “matter” of itself (which self we call subject) as distinguished from the potency of fact and act and process which are the “form” of itself, viz., “being-conscious,” or, in one word, Consciousness. Accordingly, the subject and object remain in their separate individuation, but each alike is a living experience only in the flash of the collision and interpenetration or synthesis of the two which we call the “actualisation”.
Note.—To speak of mere reflex action as involving a feeling of the stimulus is, it seems to me, to confound different planes of Being. A selective and adaptive re-action involving what Professor Ward calls “subjective selection,” may be due to an internal stimulus within the organism or it may be extra-organic, and it is only by analogy with a higher stage of evolution that we can say that the re-action contains “feeling”; for feeling presumes a sub-reference to a subject that feels, and is thus within the distinctive domain of finite mind. Mind or the Dialectic is in everything; but we do not say that everything is a mind—a central unity that receives and appropriates objects for itself. The world is in every department of observation a discrete continuity of “Becoming,” and at what point mere reflex-action passes into Feeling or inchoate conscious subject we cannot say. None the less is it necessary to limit the term “mind” to that which contains a reference, however dim, to a self or subject.
The root-beginning of a mind-subject is what I call Pure Feeling, and its object, I would repeat, is Unconditioned Being. Let us dwell for a minute on this question of initial and evolving mind.
Mind-universal, which is in all things, is at a certain stage of the finitised life of Absolute Being reflected into itself and its initiatory form and function is Feeling. Feeling is the germ and possibility of finite mind. The subject-feeling is not a “thing,” but it is a determination of universal Being into a phenomenal shape and phenomenal conditions of recipience and re-action. It evolves itself or is evolved (it matters not which) into an entity of more and more complex and wide-reaching potencies by virtue of which it equates itself, as recipient and re-active and assimilative, more and more with the universe of things—the infinite Object. Finally, it unfolds the supreme potency of equating itself with itself as object, and, in and through the same energy, equating itself with Mind in the infinite Object, and so grasping its experience as an Absolute Whole.
Without object, subject-entity would be mere potentiality, just as without a finite externalisation Absolute Unconditioned Being must be (to us) mere potentiality. [But potentiality is not “nothing”.]
It is a wonderful evolutionary process—this of mind; and in so far as it is specifically mind, its function seems to be the reflexion and assimilation of all that is not itself, in order that thereby it itself may grow to its full dimensions. In this one pin-point of man-mind the Universe and the God of the Universe can find themselves. There is nothing so wonderful as just that, we should say. And yet there is a wonder on a wonder; for while the lower mind-stages, although wholly inadequate to the great Object, are yet rounded and adequate to themselves, the highest of all, viz., Reason, is characterised by restlessness, dissatisfaction, contradiction and general inadequacy, and points to a higher than the present actual.
From what I have said it would follow that mind reflects the Truth of things; but it also appears that mind is not to be restricted to “thought,” but in the case of Man comprehends Feeling and Sense as well as Dialectic. The infinite Object reveals itself in finite subject in all its reality and truth to the extent to which the subject is capable of receiving and reflecting it. This is Natural Realism, as I understand it. To posit a void between subject and object is to posit a breach of Continuity in the system in which we find ourselves.