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Meditation IX

Evolution of the Subjective Dialectic: (a) Transition from Attuition to Knowledge—the Real to the Actual. (b) Will and the Rudimentary Act of the Subjective Dialectic, viz., Percipience. (c) The Form of Percipience is the form of the Subjective Dialectic. Notes (1), (2) and (3).

All philosophy centres round Man. It purports to be the answer to the questions he alone can put. Its business is to interpret him and appoint him his place in the universe. And there are only two possible ultimate philosophies. That which brings man and all things under what is called the scientific conception—a one of causal process, mechanistic, irresistible, fateful; nor does it matter one straw whether the “stuff” of the whole is matter-stuff or mind-stuff, or whether its process be set forth in materialistic, mathematical, or dialectic terms. Pantheism and Pan-Hylism are, if strictly understood, ultimately the same. Idealism propounded under the scientific conception (e.g. Spinozism) is at root mechanism. The alternative philosophy is the philosophy of freedom, the philosophy of spirit. In this alone can the ideal, the ethical, the spiritual—nay, even God Himself, as other than an unconscious process, find a place; and in this alone is there satisfaction for the common consciousness and the sore needs of mankind.


We have got the Real in so far as Feeling and Sense in its highest form can give it, and we have now to complete it for ourselves through the activity of pure Thought (the Dialectic).

The interpretation of Experience means, as we have seen, the interpretation of object as unfolding itself in subject. But Man has two experiences—the attuitional experience in which object is given to him as a synopsis, more or less clear, charged with Being; and the higher rational or dialectic experience in which the same object is affirmed not merely as a beënt thing of sense, but as holding all the implicates whereby it is finally known. This latter experience depends on the emergence of the Dialectic in the subject; by which name we mean Reason in its widest comprehension. So endowed, man grips the object, and, in gripping, reveals its essential characters, giving to the whole that coherence for knowledge which it already has as object in the Absolute.

There are planes of subjective mind—moments in the comprehension of experience; and, up to the stage of attuition inclusive, there is no “thought” in any strict sense of that word, and consequently no “knowledge”. The consciousness of Being and of the diverse shapes and motions of the external in space and time relations, more or less inexact, and the psychic interplay of these, suffice for the adaptation of each creature to its environment according to its degree in the scale of Being; and they constitute the whole mental record. All is reflected into and reflexed out of the entitative sentient potency, which is itself in and of the whole, and in continuity, phenomenal and ontological, with it. This entitative feeling-potency does not contain the “modes” of sense, save in the meaning that the object “becomes” for it as the object is in and for itself, in so far as mere sentience admits of the in itselfness (which is the for-itselfness) of the object being revealed. The object thus becomes the content or real of the subject; which subject again is not the object (any more than a tree is a stone), and yet is the object as regards its filling or content. Through and by means of identification with the object, subject grows to the fulness of its feeling-subjectivity, viz. Attuition.

We pass now from the Immediate in Attuition to Knowing—from the empirical subject to the transcendental synthesising Activity—from consciousness to self-consciousness in which Ego is involved. This transcendental activity is the Formal in experience. But it makes its appearance for the Real and as immanent in the Real, without which it would be only an abstract, and wholly in the air. I say it is immanent in the Real—a factual element in every object, without which the Real would be chaos. Just as a sentient experience is a continuing of the realitas-phenomenon into a subject capable of receiving it, and to the extent to which it is capable; so the dialectic or formal is a mere continuing of Objective Dialectic into the same subject with a view to complete the record of a true experience in the said subject. The dialectic does not come down on the attuitional record like a Deus ex machina: it emerges out of the attuitional subject for the purpose of subsuming it and revealing the truth of its content. The new movement carries the lower movement and all its content in its bosom. Attuition and the Dialectic have the same “object”: we cannot cut the mind of man into two; mind merely evolves itself into a higher plane: that which was passivo-active is now sublated into the activo-active. The Dialectic, already in the presented synopsis, now becomes alive in Man as the in and for itself of this new creature: that is all.

Now, the primal act (speaking logically) of the new movement, which is a Will movement, is the projection and seizing of the empirical or attuitional subject as object and, in the affirmation of that, affirming a consciousness of the conscious subject. This pure act yields the flash and fact of Ego. Thereby also it constitutes the total mind a duality; but not a dualism.

In short, we now rise above that stage of conscious being in which man is a mere reflexive and recipient mind-entity—recipient and reflexive of the real of inner and outer Feeling, and ascend that Pisgah mount of mind, where man surveys his world-estate, and whence he advances to take possession of it and to bend it to his uses. Mind, at the summit of its attuitional moment, receives an ordered world as a “given”: it is a real-rational that is given; but the relations of things are merely a felt relation in Time and Space. Until reason or dialectic emerges, mind cannot “perceive” and “affirm” an ordered system. So far as the subject is concerned, things hang very loosely together in a mere synopsis of sense and imagination and association—all guaranteed as to their reality by the fact of immanent Being. Not knowledge, but only synopsis, is generated in attuition. There is, as yet, no thought and no knowledge. Reason—the subjective dialectic, now. appears and sists itself with much majesty in the High Court of Appeal, and illumines all by yielding the thought-implicates of all attuitional experience. (Note 3, p. 156.)

The “synthetic unity of apperception” by itself could not give us a caused or grounded, much less a teleological experience. It merely receives, and holds in one, various experiences—a unity which might, for that matter, be an inner discord. Unifying is the work, as will in the sequel be apparent, of the first moment only of the subjective Dialectic, viz., a synthesis which holds differences together. But the whole dialectic as a one movement goes further than this, and not only synthesises, but takes up, all experience as causal and teleological.

Whence do we get our conviction of the regularity of nature? First of all from custom and association, Hume would say, and then stops here. In so stopping, he stops, I consider, at the attuitional plane of mind. A dog will return to the lane where he has once found bones in the full expectation of finding them again. Why should he not? There is no reason why what has happened once should not happen again, nay always: it would be extraordinary if it did not. So “feels” the dog, and looks puzzled at the absence of the expected bones. A man in a similar relation to some unexpected change, asks, “What did this, and why?” So with the regularity of nature: things must always happen as they did at first, unless there be a cause or sufficient reason why not. This is on the presumption that man's way of unifying is a causal and teleological way. The teleologico-causal synthesis of experience is not merely a postulate or hypothesis: it is the very form of reason itself. Attuitional experience receives things, as already organised, in so far as a sentient subject can receive and assimilate them; but on the higher plane, it is I that think them, I that dialecticise them (as myself Dialectic); and yet, subjective dialectic is only the cosmic way whereby the dialectic of things reaches me: that is to say, through my own active dialectic. How else could it do it? And this dialectic yields the universal and necessary teleologico-causal Predicate: nay, it is itself in the totality of its movement precisely that.

Note.—By “subjective” dialectic I mean the subject as now having evolved the potency of the dialectic.

The Actual. To attuitional mind, then, all is given: by mind as will-reason all is taken. To what is given immediately in inner and outer sense we have assigned the term “Real”—Being and its modality; that is to say, Universal Being displaying itself in and through its phenomenal and dependent characters—all reflected into us, and re-flexed out of us in accordance with a cosmic law: but we have not yet got the Actual. It is the Actual, however, which, starting from the primary “actualisation” in a conscious subject, we are all the while in search of. We have frequently assumed it, because it has been impossible to avoid using the language of reason and anticipating its emergence, when speaking of the lower moments of subjective mind. The term has, however, been always employed by me (I believe) as denoting the concrete actualised resultant in a rational subject. Its distinction from the Real is now to be considered. My experience of an object as real (realitas-phenomenon) belongs to the sphere of attuition: I have now to search for the implicates of my experience of the object as it floats within the sphere of the next and highest moment of subjective mind.

In short, I am now asking what makes Knowledge, as distinct from Attuition, possible? And the answer is, Reason itself as a pure and simple one dialectic movement, evolved in and out of attuent subject as a new potency—out of Natura in which it already is: not at all descending on a confused manifold. The new movement is immanent in subject as attuent and carries the record of attuition with it. It emerges for the mere purpose of dealing with the attuent given, and revealing many things not patent to sense. Matter and Form are thus not relegated to different worlds. But in the evolution of finite mind, the Dialectic or Formal, always present, becomes a “for itself” in an individual only at a certain stage.

The moments where-through subjective mind advances to the fulness of its being are also the moments in the object wherein and whereby it advances to its completion as a thing known. They are all in the Object. Knowing and being coalesce in the highest synthesis which is the Truth. To speak of their identity is misleading; but yet they are truly an identity in difference held within a universal One of Being and Dialectic.

The Dialectic is not generated out of an abstract Ego: Ego is itself generated (as I have said)1 by the Dialectic—the new transcendental movement— Will-reason: and this dialectic, all the while, has been immanent in attuition. I have not to grope about for the Category of Substance; mind already has it in Feeling, and now mind on the higher plane perceives and affirms it: nor have I to search for a Category of Ground or of End or of Organism. This Will-Dialectic will itself be found to be a one organic movement, yet holding all the (so-called) a priori categories in its own form.

The subjective “dialectic” is no more constitutive of the form of things than subjective “sense” is of the realitas-phenomenon. The tide of universal Being and Dialectic flows into the mind of man and becomes “for him” as an individual. And he finds the truth of the Real and Actual only in so far as he is a true re-flexion of the Universal. All is in the Object: God is there revealing Himself. But the finite mind can grasp the given of sense and of reason, i.e., Reason in the matter of Sense, only in successive movements or steps.

The above is an anticipation of our argument. I will now enter into more detail, and I cannot do better than quote from a previous book.


1. In the most advanced stage of sensation which I name “attuition” (the characteristic of the higher forms of the brute-creation) not only has consciousness of the external, as a whole, emerged from the condition of confusion in which the lower stages of sensation may be supposed to leave it, but total objects, e.g., tree, stone, etc., are received as separate one from the other. A tree-stump, a boy, and a wheelbarrow are all separate and diverse object-totalities to a dog, and further observation will quickly satisfy us that the impressions which are received from these objects by the dog are probably as numerous as those received by the infant-man. The aggregate of sensations which constitutes the object, a for the dog, is clearly demarked on his sensorium and consciousness from the aggregate which constitutes b. So with the infant. Now this is a most important advance of mind. For it means, in so far as we can venture to interpret it, that attuition (the mental condition of the higher animals) is the instinctive and reflex (not active and rational) co-ordination of particular sensations, yielding thereby a consciousness of the collective totality of various sensible qualities as constituting the object which is, for the time being, present. It is not, however, the consciousness of those various qualities, separately one from another, which in their co-ordinated co-existence constitute the object in sense. The total objects are separated for Recipience one from the other as totals, but the various qualities of each object are not so separated. These various sensible properties or qualities, however, in so far as they are sensible, may be, and frequently are, in succession, attuited one after the other, as characteristic of a single total object of attuition, and as belonging to one and the same object, and not to another. This, however, is wholly dependent in the case of both animals and infants on the salience of the said qualities—the prominence of the qualities to the eye or other sense,—the obtrusiveness or the force with which they imprint themselves on the Receptivity; and, further, on their adaptation to the organic needs of the animal. But the various properties of the external totality are not seen to be co-existent yet separate elements in making up the phenomenal object which for the time is the whole or aggregate in attuition. Attentive observation of the mental condition of dogs and infants bears out this conclusion; while apart from such observation, it is manifest that the consciousness of certain properties as co-existent in any object of attuition, and yet separate one from the other, implies (as we shall shortly see) a higher mental energy.

2. In attuition then the objective sense-totalities are reflexed as separated one from the other, but the co-existent properties resident in each separate totality (though these may be objects of attuition one after the other or in succession, and thus, by means of association, be dimly connected with the totality) are not attuited as together and yet separate. The attuition of an object is in brief a clear, but not a distinct, consciousness. Individual objects are not mixed in confusion; the outline or delineation of each single “whole” is clear, or approximately so; the elements which constitute each, however, are yet, in their mutual relations, confused and blurred; and yet a passivo-active co-ordination is busy and successful.

3. Note that even in this comparatively advanced mind-plane of attuition, the conscious subject has not yet delivered itself from the dominion of objects, although it is aware of the separation of one object from another. All that it senses, and all that it attuites, occupy the receptive individuality to the suppression of individuality itself. They conceal and overpower, without extinguishing, it. Totalities of attuition separate and define themselves on the subject and for it; they are not separated or defined from each other by the subject, save in the restricted sense of the reflex action of the sensorium or basis of feeling.

Individuality, indeed, is as yet crushed by the weight of the external object, so to speak: the animal is little more than a machine set in motion by the outer or inner sense—a more or less clear mirror, it is true, of phenomenal nature, yet itself also a part, though a conscious part, of the system of nature. Will or Freewill are, at this stage, notions wholly inapplicable. We have reflex action and Conation, but not Will.

Note.—The manifestations of consciousness would seem to grow with the growing physical basis of life and consciousness, and to degenerate and die with it. This physical basis, be it nerve or something of which nerve itself is merely the body or vehicle, would appear to be the condition of the existence of consciousness and limits its quantity and quality. The case of ants and other insects, however, seems to show that the range and character of attuitional intelligence does not depend on the quantity, but on the quality, complexity, and adaptation of this physical basis.

4. I may now (even at the risk of repetition) define Attuition to be the reflex co-ordination of elements of sensation as an image or synopsis of a total: it is a synthesis in and for the conscious subject: strictly speaking a synopsis only.

5. When we next in our survey of life take note of conscious mind in its onward and upward progress, we find that a fresh movement has carried the recipient and reflexive subject into the midst of what is, in truth, a very remarkable series of phenomena. The subject-individual has passed out of and beyond itself; it has passed beyond the mere reflex co-ordination of data; it has overleapt the stage of passivo-active receptivity; it has disencumbered itself of the load of that which is not itself; it has become freely active. The phenomena, quiescent (quantity, form, colour, solidity, etc.), or movent and sequent, which characterise the outward, are now not merely attuitionally received, reflexly co-ordinated, and dealt with by an unselfconscious psychical mechanism; but, by a spontaneous inner movement of the conscious subject, they are arrested in their irregular and devious courses, and actively distinguished and consciously co-ordinated. A Force advances out of what has been hitherto mere receptive attuitional individuality, and prehends or seizes the presentation, holding it close to itself and contemplating it. This Force is Will. Mind now proclaims itself as Reason or Dialectic.

6. No new being, no new individuality, has been here created. The subject-individuality exists in the dog as in the man: but in the latter, a rebellious movement has taken place against the outer which has ended in victory. No new “substance,” let me repeat, now comes within our ken, as is too commonly assumed; an assumption which vitiates metaphysics-proper, as well as psychology and ethics. However long we hold in contemplation this new fact in the progressive life of mind, it presents itself to us, at last as at first, as a movement initiated in, and effected by, the subject itself whereby subject affirms subject and becomes a self or ego. It is transmuted into ego. Less than this it is not; more than this it is not. In other words, while the receptivity of attuition is rightly denominated passive activity, impressions being co-ordinated by mere reflex action, we have now to deal with active activity. Nay more, it is pure activity. For observe, it has in its primordial movement no content. It is, in other words, Will: or, if we choose to indulge in tautology, Free Will.

We thus at once see that the essence or essential differentiation of Reason from animal consciousness is Spontaneity, Freedom, independence of all else.

Animal Conation is determined by the desire dominant for the time-being.

7. Further, in so far as this Will has any stimulus, that stimulus is to be found wholly in itself,—in the Form of End which lies concealed in the fact of movement. As kinetic movement, it contains and projects end as its terminus and proceeds towards it in a specific way.

In animal Conation the subject is being dragged towards the satisfaction of desire in some object. It has a terminus of movement, but not an “End”. Although we have in such Conation a prediction and analogue of what is characteristic of the higher plane of mind, a willed purpose is not even implicit in it. Herein lies the distinction which makes a spiritual philosophy possible.

8. What then is the “end”—the final cause (not the mere terminus) of this primary and rudimentary kinetic movement? It is a Percept. And what I desire to emphasise is, that the “particular” end is not, and cannot be, in the movement, as such, in its initiation; otherwise it would begin where it ended, which, besides being contrary to phenomenological fact, is absurd. On this primary fact, then, of pure intelligence, not of moral or pathological motive, I ultimately rest Will as free and autonomous.

9. There is contained in the primary fact of Will, (1) Kinetic energy, and (2) The pure or empty Form of End. The behaviour of this formal Will-dialectic, when it deals with materials, will shortly appear.

10. In consequence of this sudden advance of the subject from within outward, the phenomenal object is then and there subordinated to the subject. The individual intelligence is no longer under the dominion of objects, living only in them, and swayed hither and thither by them. It seizes them one by one at pleasure, and under the stimulus of its own inborn formal power, affirms the existence of each. That is to say, the conscious subject not only attuites one object as differing from another, but also as opposed to itself (the subject), as negating itself; and thereupon subsumes it under itself—relates it to the unity of its own conscious self in the act of affirmation. Hitherto, the subject has beheld objects, sensing their outness; now, it beholds them qua objective, as not-self, and proceeds to take possession of them. It sees them in the antithesis of subject and object; and is thus empowered, not merely to affirm (what has as yet been only felt) that they are not-self or “object,” but also to affirm what has already been only vaguely attuited, viz., that they are themselves, and not other things. This isolation of the object and the reduction of it to the subject is, speaking generally, Percipience or Perception—a pure act.

(c) The form of percipience is the form of the SUBJECTIVE DIALECTIC.

What is the specific way of procedure to the End?

1. Attuition is, observe, already conscious of an “other” or not-self as object, although it cannot possibly affirm it. It is conscious of an outside a, be it space generally (a totum objectivum) or some particular figured object of attuition such as a tree or stone.

Percipience has this datum of attuition [which I call the sensate] to deal with ready to hand, and its Form of procedure is this: (1) Kinetic movement of Will against a presentate (already in attuition as not the subject, i.e., as an object). (2) This presentate is either A, B, C, or D, etc. (3) It is not B, C, or D. (4) Therefore. (5) A is A. This conclusion as to the being and identity of A is the satisfaction of the pure empty Form of End, which is in the bosom of the conscious-subject when it evolves or functions Will; and that end is, as we see, a Percept. The object is already in antagonism with the subject, and, now, in accordance with the above process, it is at once prehended and subsumed under it, that is, it is known or perceived; and instantaneously thereafter, or rather we should say, therein affirmed.

2. Thus, in entering this new sphere of conscious mind, which new sphere is here identified with Perception, I find that I enter it enveloped in the forms of—(1) End; (2) Excluded Middle; (3) Contradiction; (4) Sufficient Reason; (5) Particular Being as an Identity (with its consequent affirmation in the form of a proposition). These Forms (or Laws of Will-movement) are simply the explicit expression of what is implicit in this new advance of consciousness—this wholly inexplicable spontaneity, this actus purus, this Will which lies at the root of the whole, and makes Reason possible—is, in fact, along with its form, Reason.

3. Let it be carefully noted, however, that prior to the subject-evolved act of perceiving there existed a sub-self conscious, i.e., a conscious attuitional state in which the object A wrote itself on my receptivity—affirmed itself, as it were, on me the subject. Its shape, its being, its thereness the subject felt or sensed and reflexed; but that was all.

4. Simply to seize or prehend the object would not yield perception of it. Having arrested and isolated the individual “thing,” a chasm would still exist between the object and knowledge of it, were it not for the final movement of Will, which places the prehended object in the one of conscious subject out of which the new energy emerged. In attuition, the object falls on the one of conscious subject, and is there, by a co-ordinating reflex action, dealt with and projected outside, and is a sensate; in percipience, on the other hand, Will prehends the object as there outside (as already a sensate), and, bringing it back, relates it to the one of consciousness, and, by this subsumption into itself, takes possession, perceives, knows: the sensate is now a Percept.

5. Thus, beginning with attuition which merely receives the external with more or less of reflex coordination, the subject, as now Will, moves, after a certain manner, to a completion of that simplest act of intelligence which is Percipience: a vital and all-important act, however; for to perceive is to judge or know. We are by Percipience launched into the sphere of Reason.

6. Nor is this yet all: for, as we have seen, there at once arises in the moment of prehension or completed percipience, the inevitable impulse to externalise the fact of percipience by a vocal or other sign. We are compelled to “affirm” A (the percept) = A, or A is A. This is vocal affirmation, the sign and seal of the completed perception, the propounding or proposition of a prior judgment.

The vocal or other sign of affirmation carries with it (as itself an externalisation of the inner of consciousness) not merely the affirmation of the being of A, and of A as equal to itself, but further the being of A as external to me: A is there, as opposed to me who am here. The original consciousness of a “somewhat” opposed to, or set over against, my consciousness at the stage of attuition, forced into relief my own separate “hereness” as a “feeling”; and now finally, in the last moment of percipience—subsumption into the one of consciousness—the subject affirms (what, however, has been already sensed in attuition) the externality and independence of the percept: for the thought-affirmation is not merely “A is A,” but “A is A” there, not here (which “here” is me).

7. Thus, as the negating object before the birth of Will stimulates the potential basis of Feeling into Subject, or single homogeneous feeling entity, so now the perception and affirmation of the object, as “itself there,” involves the perception and affirmation of the subject “here,” and as equal to itself: self-identity. I understand Hume to say that there is, in impressions, nothing but impressions sole and single and no consciousness of “being” apart from these. But the record of aesthetic consciousness is not so simple: as I have shown, it contains the feeling of being and (reflexly) thereness. And this feeling the dialectic process ends by affirming. The process of dialectic which so ends contains [fully stated] the following moments:—

8. Initiation of Reason.

  1. (1) The Kinetic initiating movement which we call pure Will. (a) Formal (empty) End lies implicit in this initiation of movement.

Modus of the Reason-Movement: Mediation or Ground.

  1. (2) The moment or form of the Excluded Middle.
  2. (3) The moment or form of Negation or Contradiction.
  3. (4) The moment or form of Sufficient Reason.
    1. (a) Implicit in this mediating process is (real) End. The mediating process is thus in its totality teleologico-causal.


  1. (5) Prehending, and relating the content of the issue of the preceding moments to the unity of conscious subject: subsumption.

The Issue.

  1. (6) The affirmation of the Being of the object as a determined somewhat: “A determined so and not otherwise”.
    1. (a) The law of Identity is in this act yielded.
  2. (7) The affirmation of the externality and independence of the object as not only “that,” but also “there”.

These moments constitute the fabric of Reason: they are all implicit in the prime and primal activity of mind which we call Percipience; Sense is impotent to yield them.3

9. Percipience, again, “Tree = Tree” or Tree is Tree, is Judgment: to be distinguished, however, from judgments commonly so called such as “the tree is green,” as being an identical and so far forth an analytic, in opposition to a synthetic or ampliative judgment. All judgments are in the moment of Negation or of Identity.

10. When we say that this free act of intelligence is Perception or Knowledge, we merely employ different words to denote the same thing. For Perception and Knowledge, when rightly understood, are in their essential nature identical terms [perception being only the first moment in the total process, while containing the form of the whole].

11. Affirmation is again (as has been already said) merely the last term of the moments of percipience when they take the concrete form of a verbal proposition as externalised thought; and this we call utterance or Speech. Speech is a prolongation of the free potency of will-perception into externalisation. It thus may be regarded as an impulse (quite outside the possibility of explanation) to re-create sensuously, in articulate sounds, the world of sensations after they have passed through, or been reduced to, the unity of consciousness as percepts. The result is really vox et proetera nihil—a sound of which the significance lies in the prior percept. Speech—the instinct of physical articulation follows in the wake of thought: and at all stages of experience we feel that nothing is a safe acquisition till the perception, conception, and so forth, is externalised by us in definite and appropriated sounds.

12. Now, it is precisely this act of Will with its form of End, transforming the animal attuitional intelligence into human percipient intelligence, which proclaims that the boundary of the non-rational has been overstepped, and that the subject has become, once for all, rational. Will is thus seen to be, in its initiation, the root, and in its form, the essence, of Reason; and Will in its primal act is ground and possibility of Knowing. Will, I say, in its formal movement is Reason, and in its real end is the realisation for itself of the idea, as we shall hereafter see.

13. Percipience is of the simple and singular; but, as we have seen, it is not itself simple: it is a dialectic process containing various moments. Its issue also contains implicit in it the affirmation of the being and “there-ness” of the percept. The “now” is also implicit, as will appear hereafter. The affirmations are, however, affirmations of data of feeling or recipience.

14. The attuitional (or animal) subject functioning pure Will, and so seizing itself as well as other things, is the subject becoming aware of the subject. Thus, Self-consciousness, Ego, Self or Personality is constituted or evolved. What the Subject is, and again what the Self is, no man can explain, any more than he can carry his head in his mouth. All that can be done is to watch the latter in the throes of birth and name what we see.

15. “Self,” or Ego, at whose heart lies Will as condition of its possibility, and precisely because Will is in it, now directs itself as a spiritual dynamic with endless activity, upon the infinite field of sensation and attuition presented to it, and through affirmation transforms attuits into percepts, attuitional consciousness into knowledge or cognition. The activity is endless, because Will is pure activity; its essence is activity; or rather it is pure activity.4

16. Further, the emergence of this new potency, Will, gives me possession of a new recept—a recept of a pure activity and of all the forms of that activity. I become conscious of an initiating energy and its processes.

17. Such is the primary synthesis of object with subject as Will-reason. But reason is not content with this primary synthesis. It resumes its attack on the perceived presentation again and again with a view to fuller knowledge.

18. This new power—the power of imposing self on, and subsuming into self, the presentations of sensation and attuition (inner and outer), enables a man to affirm of each presentation in succession that it is itself, and not merely not another, but also not the others—which others it has eliminated (or suppressed). The distinctness with which these several properties are discerned depends on the intensiveness with which the special force, which is root of Reason, is applied. From the first that force is a free, spontaneous movement, but the intensity and energy of its application vary in accordance with physical and sensuous obstructions and with the gradual growth of motives to know. Most men take, all their lives, such a semi-passive survey of the properties of successive objects as amounts to little more than attrition. The objective phenomena which to the eye of sense constitute the “thing” have doubtless in the course of this passive experience been appropriated by the conscious subject, but they are not known; that is, the conscious subject as “Will” has not subsumed them, and they fade from the memory. Nay, so transcendent is the power of Will over nature, that not merely is the prehension or seizing of the external phenomenon dependent on its activity, but by fixing itself on one or two phenomena it can, for the time, annihilate the consciousness of all else. Self is otherwise engaged, and the whole realm of nature strives in vain for a hearing. Self has chosen to shut it out, and to reduce its whole capacity for recipience to a unit.

19. Such is the nature and such the potency of this wonderful central force, which some regard as a passive sensorium, a reed moved by every wind that blows, a sheet of white paper, one phenomenon in an infinite series of invariable or (it may be) determining sequents!

20. When the subject, making itself its object, by an act of Will constitutes Ego it proclaims its freedom. Its limitation is then itself alone and within itself. But its freedom has already been vindicated. It is only as a sentient and attuitional subject that it is the slave of the other, of that which is not it.5

Note (1).—If I sometimes speak of Will as Reason it will be understood that I use the initiatory moment of the whole for the whole. Reason is Will-potency plus the form of its process. The issue of the process relatively to the individual subject is Ego. There is no such thing as an abstract entity called Will. The correct name is Will-reason.

Note (2).—The word “thing” is inapplicable to the determination of universal Being which we call conscious entity, much more to that conscious entity when evolved into a self-conscious entity. As we shall see in the sequel, “thing” as a term can be applied only to the concrete determinate—the idea in its phenomenal garb. None the less is there an “entity” which is not one of its own fleeting series of phenomena. The idea is the “form” or “soul” of the organic body and is a reality. If not, let some prophet say, in intelligible terms, what it is. Universal Mind is determined into a definite sentient and active “somewhat”; and this individual mind contains in itself its own possibility of relations to the Universal object.

Note (3).—We are sometimes told that “thought” enters into the deliverances of mere sense as such. If so, it would seem to follow that thought as such is merely a higher form of Sense. If pure thought be the characteristic of mind, only when it evolves itself into a subjective dialectic, it cannot prior to this “mould” the record of sense. But recognising, as we do, planes of mind and continuity in all creation, we ipso facto recognise even in Feeling and still more in Sensation those beginnings which predict the pure activity of Thought. In the sensation of “blue” there is no thought, but in the perception of it there is the whole of the dialectic. The process of percipience is, however, foreshadowed in Sense; for in sensing the difference of blue from red, sentience may appear to affirm a universal, viz., Colour, and to affirm moreover differences and oppositions in Sensates. But, in truth, Sense neither discriminates, distinguishes, nor affirms: it only feels and reflexes difference forced on it by objects, and in so far as there is a universal, it is a dim, vague and merely felt universal. It is in this way and to this extent that Sense predicts and anticipates the pure activity of the dialectic. And, accordingly, it is not incorrect to say that the dialectic (or thought) is immanent in Sense in its highest mode of Attuition.

  • 1.

    I would refer here specially to the analysis in the concluding Meditation on Death and Immortality.

  • 2.

    Quoted from Metaphysica Nova et Vetusta, 2nd ed., p. 33.

  • 3.

    Thus the independent being of plurals yielded on the plane of Attuition is now affirmed in the first act of the Dialectic.

  • 4.

    Let me say here that I am not speaking of the units in attuition which constitute the matter of a simple percept, but with the resultant percept itself—a colour or total figure, etc. Of the units, we, as yet, know nothing: in so far as it is possible to know anything, it can only be by means of a subsequent and purposed analysis.

  • 5.

    The quotation from a former treatise ends here. If any reader really cares to understand the argument of this book, he will not, I hope, resent repetitions, if they help me to a lucid exposition.