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Meditation IV

SENSATION: Sensational Consciousness and the Diverse or Plural—Conditioning of Unconditioned Being—The Given Realitas-Phenomenon—The Reality of the Object is its Being.

FROM the initial synthesis or actualisation, which we call consciousness as primary (passivo-active) act and basal fact, all speculation, I have said, must start. We would fain follow the subject-object in their correlated ever-growing life; but it is quite beyond our power to trace the various minute degrees of ascent from the indifference of Feeling, or from the Feeling of Unconditioned Being in an embryonic subject, up to the full activity and sweep of self-conscious Reason. It is enough here to emphasise the fact that there are degrees, that finite mind as an ascending process is a discrete continuum; and that it is only on the completion of the active movement in a self-conscious subject that the Object presented to it stands forth in its completeness: in other words, is “known”. Meanwhile, all is God evolving Himself as a Finite.

It suffices for my main purpose that I should bring prominently into the argument the two great stages of subjective mind above the stage of “Pure Feeling,” viz., the Sensational and the Rational. The sensational stage, which (beginning with a consciousness merely of a somewhat not the subject) unfolds, in ever-increasing capacity of recipience and re-flexion, the potencies of a conscious subject-entity in presence of an object: [I say potencies, not “forms” or a priori categories]. At last we reach the completed animal intelligence, which, though still sensational and reflexive, approaches, in its highest manifestations, the border-line of human reason. It is this highest form of animal sensational intelligence that I have designated by the term “attuitional”. The total object in sense is at this stage beheld, received, and reflexed as a single co-ordinated total. The object is there—an organised whole waiting to be taken; but the conscious subject can take only what it has the power to take and the impulse to take. And, moreover, what it does take is taken and assimilated as coordinated and aggregated sensations in the lump; not separated into parts that are affirmed as separate judgments and synthesised into unities: much less is the object apprehended in its full “actuality” (see sequel).

There are given to attuent subject total complex “singles” in endless diversity, I say, but there is no synthesising by subject; only a reflex synthesising in and for subject; properly speaking, therefore, only a synopsis. Conscious subject, in short, receives, reflexes and absorbs into itself syntheses already constituted for it in an external system. And in the process of recipience and re-flexion there is a vis mentis of a specific kind—a passivo-active energy. This stage or “moment” of finite mind yields the Real; that is to say, the Datum which is absorbed and reflexed precisely to the extent of the potencies in the subject—be it snail, rabbit, dog, or man.

If, then, you ask me, What is the Real? I reply it is what we receive through feeling and sense immediately: and if you ask me, Where is it? I answer, Circumspice. In brief, the Real is the realitas-phenomenon—the concrete presentation of things as ordered in Time and Space.

It would appear then, that the Real of which we are speaking is not the actualisation of, but the actualised in, consciousness, in so far as the synopsis is clear and distinct. This Real is the presentate (object-thing), but it issues (for subject) out of the triune movement that results in the actualisation. Consequently, it will be well here to distinguish by words what is distinguished in fact. I call the movement triune only as a general expression; for in truth we have seen that the whole process involves Stimulus, Subject, Reflex-action, Object, and Appropriation as actualised in and for the Subject. There are, accordingly, if we are to be minute, five steps discernible. The question as to the Real, however, has arisen chiefly in connexion with the actualised presentate as object, and I shall endeavour to confine my use of the word to this object. We may include the other moments in the process under the term “factual”.

In due course, I shall endeavour to show how it is that the synoptic object or Real is raised, through the activity of the new and higher energy of the subject as a dialectic, into an Actual—the object as in a self-conscious experience. Meanwhile let us keep as closely as we can to the merely attuitional record. The sentient subject is not creative; but it has in its essential nature the potency of receiving the Whole, of making it its own and reflexing it as a sensed. Accordingly, the whole natural world may be said to be innate in every mind to the extent of its potencies; for the individual conscious subject contains potentially all forms and shapes waiting to be elicited by “given” forms and shapes when they present themselves. But the stimulus that evokes the potencies is not some unknowable and incomprehensible “somewhat,” but the very objects themselves as poured forth into an outer by the Creative act. God may be said to convey His categories by means of the things in which they exist; the subject in which they are realised has, meanwhile, the innate potency of receptivity and appropriation.

Now, what is the presented object? Shows and shapes and appearances—an aggregate of predicates? These, as such, cannot be true reality. But is the presentation merely a presentation of shapes and appearances—the broken glass in a kaleidoscope? Assuredly not; there is an unseen implicate—basis of subject and object alike. This is obvious and patent. How could a mere “appearance” be an objective “reality”?

Whence, then, comes the “reality” of the object in attuition? From the Feeling of Being. The Subject in its embryonic stage is Feeling—Feeling of indefinite undetermined Being: it is itself Being and receives Being: it is bathed in Being so to speak. As pure Feeling evolves into sensation of the diverse, the feeling of Being is continued into the diverse presentations. The feeling of Unconditioned Being is now the feeling of Being conditioned or determined,—the One in the Many. There is no breach of continuity. The evolution of Feeling into Sensation is the inchoate subject keeping pace (so to speak) with the movement in Unconditioned Being differentiating itself as individual beings. This feeling of Being which accompanies us everywhere—the ultimate ground of the possibility of experience—is, from the first, received: it is empirical. Objects are Unconditioned Being differentiated or determined into a world of things; and this is how these are given to the growing subject, that is to say, they are given as being; and in this is their reality.

Every presentation has, as suck, equal validity whether it comes from within the body or without. Even illusions are, qua presentations, valid. Their truth or reality depends on whether or not they are presentations of existence subsisting independently of a particular mind, and the test of this is whether they would, under normal conditions, be experienced by the species to which the particular individual who experiences them belongs: in other words, whether they are universal or objective (in that sense of this latter word in which it means universality): in other words, in so far as they are in the “Common Sense” (Sensus Communis).

When, subsequently, as self-conscious beings, we turn back on the process of consciousness and the attuitional resultant of it which we share with the animal world and which is the basis of our own mental life, and ask “What in it is ‘real’?” we merely ask “What in it is cosmic fact or truth?” And further, it is clear that it is the (already described) process as a triune which is the truth or cosmic fact as that is gathered up in the final and resultant moment of the actualising in and for a subject—i.e., the actualisate or object (thing). There is no reality, no fact, no truth, no anything, if the fundamental process whereby alone anything can be for man is not itself a reality to begin with; nay more, if each moment in that process, viz., subject, non-subject stimulus, and consciousness of non-subject are not all equally realities, facts, truths. The reality of plurals, infinite in number, no doubt gives us great trouble when we seek to construct a philosophy of our total experience, for philosophy always seeks The One. But we cannot help that: our philosophy has to adjust itself to facts; and, above all, to the fact of plurality. It is the “Being” in things that saves us from a plurality of mere adjectives, and this even while finite mind is yet on the sentient plane. In view of our future argument, it is necessary to dwell on this.