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Meditation VII

OBJECT AND SUBJECT AS “RELATED”: (a) Natural Realism—the point of view; (b) Relatedness and Relativity; (c) Body of Mind and Phenomenal Continuity; (d) Disparateness of Subject and Object; (e) Ideologism; (f) Repetition of point of view; (g) Unifying by the Attuent Consciousness; (h) Absolute Knowledge; (i) Attuition of the Object as relations.


Of this there can be no doubt—that mind on the attuitional plane makes a definite pronouncement as to the dualism of subject and object—the externality and independence of finite phenomenal plurals. Not independent in the sense in which the naive mind regards them, for as we have seen there is only one reality—one independent Being, sole and universal, sustaining and guaranteeing the substantiality of an infinite universe of individuals. Let us now look more closely at subject-object in their relatedness.

The finite subject as a sentient entity (we have seen) receives and reflexes, and eo actu absorbs or assimilates, an object as an external independent reality, i.e., independent of the subject and of all other objects. I say eo actu, for the recipient subject—attuitional consciousness, is not passive. It could not reflex and absorb, if it were purely passive. For the growth of the real in the animal and attuitional mind is by way of activity, assimilation, absorption, association; but this activity is not the activity of spontaneity which is the note of reason alone. Mere organic activity is not spontaneity. Even animal desire moving towards the object of its satisfaction is not spontaneity: it is appetite, or, at best, orectivity or conation. The word “spontaneity” is to be reserved for pure Will (see sequel). The result of activity in the animal, and in man in so far as attuitional, is a dynamical result—a resultant of mental and nerve reflexes in and through the said conscious subject, but not by it.

The conscious subject is thus the last and highest term in a one system, and to the extent of its potency and range, receives and affirms the non-subject precisely as it exists “for-itself” there outside, in so far as it sees it clearly and distinctly. It matters not to my argument by what movements, signs and indications, physiological and psychological, the object identifies itself with the subject as its content. These are trivial considerations.

The point of view, then, from which I advocate Natural Realism is this: The general presentation to consciousness is a whole of inter-related diverse entities which find their truth in the last term of a continuous and unbroken system; that is to say, as presented to conscious subject which makes its appearance, in the evolution of the world-organism, for the mere purpose (so to speak) of gathering up the universal record into itself as that record is therein written: man himself being the concluding chapter of that record—the individual into whom the whole is poured.

The above I believe to be the naive presumption of finite mind; and it is “natural realism” as I render it to myself. It is also dualism (or pluralism),—not a dualism of antagonism and separation of subject and object, but a dualism which takes account of both as factors in a one whole of system-subject-object.

And yet, while the object exists as I see it out there I do not see it as it exists in those total relations which may be called its absoluteness. For I am on a certain plane of mind; in other words within a system which is only a circle within the infinite and absolute sphere of Absolute Being as creative. The formula consequently is, “The thing is as I see it,” not “I see the thing as it is”.

It may be said the above dogmatic utterance is merely a theory of objectivity, not of external reality, of duality not of dualism: to which I answer that presentates external and independent of subject are given in sentience (and, thereafter, affirmed in reason-percipience), and further, that they are given as beënt and as negating subject and all else. Each is a “for-itself”. The primary centralisation in consciousness is a synthesis of negating object and subject.


The datum in Sense is there, I say, as an existent reality. The “for-itself being” of the object there is precisely its being here in and for me. It does not receive its modality from subject, any more than my conscious subject, in so far as it is a real entity, depends for its entitative reality on the object. And yet, it is in and through the conscious subject, as the last term of a series of relations, that the external system has its truth (or completed being) revealed for itself as well as in and for me. The object, in short, completes itself as a reality in me through a series of processes outside my body and inside my body; but it is not itself a “relation” either in its totality or its parts; much less is it “relative” in the banal sense.

Each individual thing sustains its own reality as an individuum through its positive and negative relations, inner (i.e., within the complex thing or object) and outer (i.e., to other things and to the system of which it is a part). The relations do not constitute it. It is through the affirmation in and of a “specific thing” that the relations of this or that “thing” are determined. And just as each thing has, for its aim, itself and not another thing, so the object, generally, has for its aim itself as a reality and not any other thing, in proceeding to “relate itself” to, or rather let us say, to become for, finite mind. The subject as attuitional contributes nothing save the potentiality of recipience and the synchronous reflexion of the recept back into the field of non-subject, whence it came. The shapes or modi of the content of the subject are the shapes and modi of the object as given to subject and absorbed by it. It is just at this crisis that the object attains its full phenomenal “reality”. In reaching the conscious subject, the object fulfils itself for itself, and for subject. It names itself in Sense. But meanwhile the conscious subject is not a blank sheet of paper; it is a potency within which sleep all the categories of the sensible universe awaiting the call of the non-subject. All is in phenomenal and ontological continuity. Knowledge of the Absolute, that is to say, Absolute Knowledge in the sense of our being conscious of the ultimate of the realitas-phenomenon as that has relations in the Absolute Whole and its roots in Absolute Being, is impossible for man: but absolute knowledge in the sense of true knowledge, within a system and of that system, is his right and privilege. In short, he may have an absolute knowledge of the related system within which he is; and, consequently, the datum, as reflexed, is truly that system as it exists on this mind-plane of the Absolute Whole.


It is obvious enough that the conscious subject is involved in a phenomenal body which is to the subject an object-thing, like anything else. It is aware of that body and of the relations of other bodies to it. The related external, then, by which I mean the total system, is a system of which my body is a part. My body is in physical continuity with the rest of nature and falls within its processes. All my experiences, in so far as they are feelings in outer or inner sense, are given in and through this body. The conscious subject (which is Universal Mind that has reached the stage of individualising itself) evolves reason or the dialectic on the top of this world of sensibility as we shall afterwards see; but it is limited as regards its “matter” by its receptivity; except in so far as it is matter to itself, and in so far as the dialectic process may admit it to fresh “matter”. In short, the conscious subject, as merely attuitional, is itself a part of the natural system within which it finds itself. Its range is determined; and, as determined, it is limited quantitatively and qualitatively, by the body, and to that which body delivers to it in consciousness. The potentialities of recipience and re-flexion in the subject are, however, equal to the task of absorbing all possible presentations within the system which are necessary to its fulfilment as a subject entity. Finite mind at this stage may be described as dynamical potency reflected into itself; but yet it is equal to its position in The Absolute Whole.

What I mean by “the Real” is the total sentient content—all that a man feels or can feel, be it stars, or sunsets, or a pain in his own bodily system. For example, I see a cloud. That is to say, I am conscious of an object at a distance which is extended, localised, configurated, coloured and of a certain mass. That object reaches my body after a process, or rather an infinite number of processes, in external nature, and, having got as far as my body, passes into it, the said body being in continuity with the system, and itself of the system. Being here is in continuity with Being there; and, after countless further processes within the body, the external object reaches certain nerve (physical) terminals, and at this point it flashes into subject as consciousness, not of a sensation or idea, but of an “object” (the cloud). “How” this happens, nobody knows or ever (I suppose) will know. We only can mark the essential characters of the operation as recipience and re-flexion in and through an individual finite mind. The process does not invalidate the cloud in the sky or in any way tamper with it. On the contrary, the process exists for the very purpose of presenting that cloud as I see it, to subject as conscious. The cloud exists externally and independently just as it appears in consciousness. We talk of the “relation” of subject and object, but we are under the influence of the spatial condition of Sense, and also ignore our own body, when we so speak. For while the object is the cloud out there, the object to conscious subject is always the resultant of a physical process in the nerve terminals: and this so, that even the more precise word “relatedness” is not applicable to the transition of this phenomenal resultant into subject and its re-flexion into the external, save in a popular way of speaking. The object turns over into subject which, as feeling, re-acts and appropriates. That is all. It is the phenomenal resultant that is the Real of Sense. The cloud, then, is just there as I see it—colour and all: Why not? What is wrong with it? I am within the related system—both as a body and as a conscious subject, and the facts and acts within this system exist as they appear to exist. The (so-called) secondary qualities of objects are as much “my Real” as Space and Time are. When physics has said its last word about that cloud as a dynamical system of molecules and vibrations, that too I shall be aware of only as “related” to conscious subject; and it will be as much “relative” as the cloud in all its summer beauty as seen by the eye of child or poet: that is to say not “relative” at all.

This, after all, it may be said, is also a doctrine of relativity. Not so; it affirms only the relatedness involved in the existence of two which become one. And I possess the objective truth as that exists within a system—my system; and moreover, this system just as I see it is a veritable factor or moment in the externalised life of Absolute Being. The system contains me. I do not like to say subject is object and object is subject lest I should be misunderstood; but, in truth, the subject, in so far as it is a Real and not a mere entitative potency, is a Real by virtue of the object as reflected into it; and the object, again, attains to its fulness and completion in the system to which we both belong only in the subject. There is more than an equation: there is an identity in difference. Any other doctrine is based on an untenable dualism which splits the world of experience into two halves that may, or may not, fit.

In brief, Man is the “Absolute” of his own system; or, to put it otherwise, he sees the reality and truth of his plane of universal being, as soon as he sees clearly and distinctly. Conceive a spiral stair—one round of which man occupies. Its base is in the infinite of unconditioned Being, its summit is lost in the infinite of the externalised finite. Man's position yields to him the truth and reality and fact of his own round; yields, moreover, the basal thought of absoluto-infinite Being out of which all comes, and also legitimate deductions as to that which disappears in the ascending spirals which are lost in the infinite. Neither in its infinite depth of origin nor in its infinite height of consummation is there any breach of continuity in the Divine externalisation. All is One.

As physical investigations penetrate further and further into the realitas-phenomenon and reveal the antecedent processes, in terms of the quantitative relations of mass and motion, that terminate in the presentation to sense, they at the same time go further away from the real. For the real is truly to be found in the final presentation to subject: it is in that crisis that the thing gathers up all its causal conditions and prior processes (etheric, dynamic, or what not) and offers itself to us in all the fulness and richness of its phenomenal individuality. It is at this point that the bony skeleton of abstract mathematico-physical explanation is clothed with flesh and blood and lives: it is this that touches the emotions of the human breast, and gives birth in poetry and the other arts to the highest utterances of genius regarding our complex experiences. Even suppose, accordingly, that the rich qualitative result in presentation can be reduced to quantitative terms whether in dynamics or in mind-categories, it would matter little. But it can not be wholly so reduced. There is a something, then, that defies analysis and belongs to the sphere of Being, Feeling and Emotion rather than to mathematics or logic.

As to the “Related System,” let us note in passing that attuitional consciousness is, of course, aware of no system, but only of indefinite (not infinite) expanse and of diverse separate objects in a relation of locality, concomitance and consecution. It is Reason or the Dialectic that subsequently ascertains that the total object—the infinite multiplicity, is not merely aggregated plurality but a system: that is to say, that things, while they exist for themselves, yet do so as positive differentiates and in and through their positive and negative relations to all else, and finally, as grounded in eternal Cause and held in a One.


The “matter” of object and the “matter” of subject-mind are disparate, it is said; and the question is asked, “How can anything come within consciousness which is essentially different from consciousness?” This is an inheritance from Descartes. May I not meet this with another question, “Who has a right to say that the phenomenal manifestations of universal mind are ‘essentially different’ from finite mind?” The question, as put, assumes, and is directed against, a crass individualistic atomic dualism as holding the field. But it does not hold the field with thinking men. Let us try to realise that the divine externalisation includes man, that he is part of it and involved in it. In one aspect of his nature man cannot give himself too much importance; from another point of view he can't give himself too little. There would be no difficulty, I presume, in Universal Mind rolling into finite mind and filling it with its fulness. In the feeling of Being, in the dialectic, in ideals as the truth of reals, it already does so. Why should a difficulty arise when the said Mind externalises itself in quantity, motion, quality, and the finite mind also finds itself to be externalised (in its body) by the same universal Mind as also a concrete of quantity, motion and quality? That concrete which is “not-me” and this concrete which is “me” understand each other perfectly: the former rolls into the latter. There is no disparateness; I cannot find it. Why should it not be as I say? The universal mind and all its phenomenal forms—its modality, are me and mine; and I and mine are within the universal mind and its modes and forms. But all the while the NEGATION in the cosmic process—necessary to there being externalisation and individua at all—constitutes me “myself,” and that tree “itself,” and not the universal mind, but opposed to it. Assuredly, God's totality is made up of positive and negative in one concrete. Consequently I am the universal mind and I am not the universal mind at one and the same moment. Not only is this the form of the finite subject, but it is the form of God Himself when He finitises His essential nature in a world.

“The knowledge of things,” Professor Caird says, “must mean that the mind finds itself in them, or, in some way, that the difference between them and mind is dissolved.” Precisely so; the object turns over into the subject, flows into the subject, “becomes” for the subject as a specific entitative potency within the whole, not as standing in antagonism to the whole on the opposite shore of the stream. Both events take place: finite mind finds itself in the object and the object “finds itself in” finite mind, and they are quite at home with each other.


How is it that subjective “idealism” arises to vex the schools? Because, on reflection, a man finds that he is conscious of what is not himself, and yet that all experience is within himself and his own skull. But is it not similarly manifest that in being conscious of what he calls “ideas” he is conscious of what is not himself? How can consciousness be except of objects—of that which is not the conscious subject? Every “idea-representation” is as much a non-ego as the sun or moon. Thus is the subjective ideologist driven to say not merely, “I cannot be immediately aware of object and objectivity,” but “I cannot be immediately aware of myself or my (so-called) ‘manifestations’”: in short, awareness or consciousness contains its own impossibility.

Attuitional mind is not sentient of an “impression” or an “idea,” a “representation” or an “affection,” or (we may here add) of a “state”:1 it is sentient of object alone—immediately sentient. The above expressions are crude imaginations to which the human mind resorts, under the influence of its spatial conditions, in order to explain a synthesis of two in a one. It calls this a “relation,” which word connotes “relativity”; and thus finite mind is for ever cut off from the truth of things.

It appears to me that it is ideologues of every kind, not the Natural Realist, who over-emphasise dualism and pluralism, and then have to find their way out of their self-constituted difficulty by some device or other.


If we set aside crude Dualism and rise to the conception of the Absolute Whole as a system, we shall see that Being as exhibited in the categories of the non-conscious finds itself passing into conscious mind on its sentient plane. That is to say, these categories become aware of themselves—feel themselves in and through conscious minds; and that, immediately. In and through Feeling they complete themselves, they reach the goal of their activity, they reveal themselves to sentient individuals and also to themselves (so to speak). It is a denial of “system” to affirm that the mere passing of the whole of presentation into sentient creatures can introduce a flaw in the one continuous process. It is to cut the system into two and to convert what we call knowledge into guess work. And in fact, it never occurs to “attuitional” mind to suggest a flaw: it lives in happy union with all nature. Nature as it exists is not kept out of my individual sentience because sentience is in and through an organised separate “body”. Quite the contrary. Nature is itself “body”. And sentient subject could have no relations with it except through body.

Go outside the whole system and look on it with the calm neutral eye of some god, and what do you see? A vast complex of related individuals and of innumerable activities held together somehow in a system. You will also behold a certain unitary point in that system—man, a wonderful creature in whom exist potentially all the categories of the whole, and who can gather the various whole up and reflex it back into the system, while appropriating it as the real content of his own specific being. You see that the whole now becomes split, for it becomes an object or presentation to one of the contained parts of the organic whole, which part has then to be called conscious subject. You have come across a new and most interesting fact in the vast and strange world which you are contemplating. But you see no breach of continuity—nothing save the reflexion of the whole in one mirroring point within it. It certainly would not occur to the spectator, who beheld the system with his god-like intelligence, that the said system, in so far as it reached this minute mirroring point, played havoc with itself and was other in the consciousness factor than it was in and for itself. In brief, you behold Natura becoming conscious in and through its highest product. It does not break away from itself.

In other words: The Whole, i.e., Natura, in the cosmic sense as including mind in man as well as the phenomenal, is an interwoven system. Man is not standing apart over against the system looking at it to see what it is for him, but is himself within the system and part of it. His body is within the nature-system and in continuity with it: there is no breach—no hard and fast separation; only an antithesis. His mind also is, as we shall see, within the mind-system and in continuity with it: there is no breach. Further, as will appear as we go on, the whole is a mind-matter system as a One Concrete.

This position is in perfect accord with our preceding analysis of the primal actualisation in consciousness; and the conclusion is that object turns over into feeling-subject, and, by virtue of this continuity, it exists as “thing” independently of the subject precisely as it exists as object to and in the subject. Consciousness provides the last explanatory term of the presentation. Save in a conscious subject, the object cannot fulfil itself—cannot find its own objective cosmic significance. The full reality of the manifold external is to be found here. The world without conscious subject is a world waiting for its meaning—an uncompleted circle waiting to be closed. This fulfilled real of the object, moreover, constitutes the real or body of attuitional subject. Colour, sound, smell, roughness and smoothness, weight, figure, heat and cold, are all, when clearly and distinctly perceived, as real in the system within which man exists as Space, Motion and Time. The object, including man's body, is thus “related” to the conscious subject; but if we insist on calling this a “relative” relatedness then we should have to add, “Relativity is the Absolute, i.e., the truth of the object in itself and for itself”. Thought teaches us that pluralism, and the synthesised opposition of subject and negating object is God's method of externalisation.

What, then, is the “sense-thing”? The answer is, the thing is the object as given in all its modes. The existence of an object at all in consciousness depends on its modes. “But,” you say, “some of these modes are not in the object: red, e.g., is in the subject not in the object save quantitatively.” “I affirm this” (you may go on to say) “not because of the fact of relatedness, for the feeling of redness is, I grant, no more the issue of a relation than quantity or motion, but because of the fact of the existence of a pathic feeling in connection with redness which I cannot think as in so much matter. It is absurd.” But suppose I reply that the quantitatively (or dynamically) explained redness cannot reveal itself as the cosmic reality which it actually is save in and through a pathic consciousness, which is the last term of the cosmic colour-energy, am I not justified then in throwing it back into the object as its cosmic fully expressed reality? I do not thereby “interpret” it,—I merely give it the benefit of its own fulfilled character. Colour demands me for its own purposes.2 Colour and I are fellow-creatures in the same related system, helping each other's full reality out. There is no chasm between us—no dualism in the crude sense. To affirm such a dualism as gives us an aggregate of things calling to each other from deep to deep is a fundamental misapprehension; nay, it is the very negation of philosophy which must ever seek One. The secret physical processes whereby Space, Motion, Quality, Relation, are effected, would, if known, leave these resultants of the cosmic energy and process where it found them. Their full reality and meaning is precisely in their final presentation to the naive consciousness.

It may be plausibly said that this monistic dualism is not dualism at all; but only the duality and plurality of hard and universally admitted fact—an infinitely diverse, but this in a one-universal Identity. I accept this. But this is looking at plurality from a universal point of view,—not at the specific question of the finite subject in its relation to object. What I am here, first of all, concerned for is the diversities, the pluralities. Each exists “for itself”. Secondly, I am concerned for myself as one of the pluralities endowed with consciousness of the other pluralities. Am I conscious of them as they exist, or is my conscious individuality invented for the purpose of receiving and subverting them as realities by transforming them into relativities and so negating their truth? Am I hopelessly cut off from the Universal?


It may not be irrelevant here to advert to that theory of the relation of subject and object which says that consciousness “unifies” the series of presentations.

To speak of consciousness per se is to speak of an abstraction. The one universal fact of Being forbids. Conscious subject is a“being” or entity; and this entity is Being determined after a certain fashion. The “form” or essence of this determined entity is simply consciousness; but consciousness is asleep until the non-conscious presentation awakes it. There is a common ground for a stone and a conscious entity, viz., Being and (as we shall further see) the Objective Dialectic. A stone is Being determined after a certain fashion; a conscious entity is Being determined in another fashion. One function of the former is to be felt and known; the function of the latter is to feel and know. The determined qualities of the former repeat themselves in the latter as recipient and re-flexive, and attain therein their completed meaning as in the objective existent world; in other words, in this human “moment” of the Absolute life-process: they are not “unified”; they enter into a permanent one subject: that is all. To say they are “unified” is to anticipate the activity of reason (the subjective dialectic), and to ignore the fact that the realitas-phenomenon fulfils itself on the plane of Attuition. They are unified in and for the sentient subject, not by it. There is nothing in the subject-entity at this stage, save the potency of recipience, re-flexion and appropriation. This subject-entity is such that its form of consciousness is equal to all demands on it within a certain sphere of cosmic evolution; and it is equal to all possible presentations in that sphere by the very fact that it is the consciousness factor. Thus the matter or real of the subject-entity, as a reflexive recipient, is the content of the “given”. The given is immediate, and forms the tissue of subject as conscious.

Accordingly, when I say that every sentient organism is a subject-entity—a for-itself being, I claim for the organism no more than I claim for everything else, i.e., it is Being determined, or a determined being. I say nothing of soul-substance. The conscious entity is a synoptic reflexive-activity, just as in the higher reason-form it is a synthetic active-activity; but inasmuch as it must be “determined” being, I legitimately, and not merely for shortness, call it “entity”. The determination of Being is differencing; and each “determinate,” therefore, has its own specific nature and function. The specific function, or essence, of the subject-entity is consciousness which is equal, I have said, to all demands on it within the limits of its possibilities. This is true of animals as of man. Even were this not the fact, every psychology must assume it as a postulate. Suppose then that we say that what is a necessary postulate in all theory of mind is a cosmic fact, and try to advance, resting on this foundation.

But, since a mere series cannot support itself, does not subject-entity as conscious unify presentations? I cannot see that the essence or form of an entity, which is at the stage of mere sentience, can actively unify anything. The unification of diverse presentates is already an accomplished fact outside the conscious entity which, as itself a permanent “one,” holds them in that one. But this is all that it can do. It—“a one”—receives, reacts and assimilates the given complex as it is given. I suddenly look up and behold a stag on the top of a cliff between me and the sky. Three objects (besides many others which doubtless sink into vague feeling and make no sign) are presented in a whole of relation, but I do not mix up the colour of the sky with the antler of the stag or the shape of the cliff. Why not? Simply because they are not mixed up out there in the cosmic system which is pressing in on me from every side. A merely sentient consciousness stops at sentience: it feels and reflexes and appropriates and can get no further—far enough, however, to serve its own purposes of life. It is reflexive synopsis not unifying synthesis.

I have emphasised this attuitional and animal stage of subjective mind as a moment of man-mind. Beyond this he cannot go without breaking through the sphere of mere reflexive feeling into the higher moment of mind which I call Will-reason, because its possibility and root is pure Will; and the form of this Will is the subjective dialectic whereby presentations truly are “unified” and subsumed into the “one” of self-conscious subject-entity. It appears to me that until this distinction is accepted, the question of “unifying” will puzzle the Empirist and the Idealist alike. Up to a certain point, all that the Empirist finds (with the help of association by contiguity and similarity and difference) is true; but beyond this he cannot go without passing into a higher plane of mind which disturbs his equanimity and subverts his mechanical psychology.

On that higher plane he may encounter that kind of Idealist who, on his side, would attempt the explanation even of the sentient record by dialectic activity. All in vain. Being and Dialectic is in all presentation; but subjective finite mind must accept presentation of inner and outer feeling as given and immediate. Sentient subject can add nothing to the content of an object in so far as it is given: it can only reflex and appropriate the content already there.


The man-system, though not The Absolute in the large sense in which it is the present fashion to use that word, is yet The Absolute within a certain circle, or on a certain plane. If the “becoming” for a conscious subject is merely the last term in and through which the object fulfils itself as a sensible, then the “given” light, colour, space, motion, are all equally in the Absolute system; they are there as well as here. The “hereis part of a one Totality of system within which and of which the finite subject is. The object exists truly in this system as I see it; my awareness of it is absolute: it is true truth I sense. What the object is in and to reason we do not yet at this “moment,” and on this plane, of subjective mind see, and what it is as an absolute, i.e., in its totality of relations and significance (as, let us say, in the mind of a creative God or as a unit which is one with the cosmic Whole), we do not know and can never know. But none the less, the object as in the sentient consciousness is the True, the Absolute—that is to say, it is the Truth of God in one of the ever-evolving moments of His immeasurable Being, to which moment the attuent animal and rational man belong—within which they are. There is no “relativity” as within the system: it is the system itself that is relative to the Absolute Whole.

To anticipate: As regards “knowledge” generally (let me say) I cannot break through my circle; but the finite dialectic, whereby alone I am a man and not a beast, enables me, nay, compels me, as we shall soon see, to affirm the Absolute Whole and to apprehend an Infinite Ground and an Infinite Beyond. This the animal cannot do, because he is not the pure dialectic. My business as an investigator is to know the Real—this moment of the Absolute Life—as given to me, with all its necessary implicates and complicates. Truly to know it; not merely to receive it as a confused and aggregated phenomenal presentation as an animal does, but to find all that it yields, and to affirm of that which is beyond and outside my circle only what the facts within the circle contain, and consequently compel me to affirm. For it is clear that the revelation of the incomprehensible and immeasurable Absolute on the plane of one of Its (or His) moments must, so far, contain The True in its universality. The “related,” then, is the Absolute so far as given. Man is, as I have said, The Absolute of his own system. But inasmuch as this human Absolute is only a “moment” in the infinite process and revelation, it is relativity in so far as the whole system of and within which man exists is relative to a vast, immeasurable, and unknown Totality. Within my own circle there is objective truth. If I ever rise to a higher plane of mind, I shall find that it contains, must contain, the lower which it will illumine and not cancel.

I am, accordingly, very far, as a natural realist, from saying, as an eminent American idealist seems to say, and many others have said, that “beyond all our experience there is something wholly unlike our experience, the ‘thing in itself’”. My experience tells me all that there is to be known of the object, when I finally complete my experience in the concept of the Actual (see sequel). In this sphere of the divine process—the man-sphere—there is nothing more to be known about an object than my completed experience yields or may yield. By the “transcendence” of the object, the natural-realist, like myself, simply means that the planetary system is not created in his sensations for the first time, nor constructed by his egoistic categories: nor has he anything to do with the “thing-in-itself”.

If all that is meant be that “beyond my experience” that brick or stone wall has a meaning and significance which finite mind cannot compass, the proposition is a commonplace. The knowledge of it, however, can be completed as a truth in this sphere of The Absolute. What completed knowledge is will appear when we have spoken of the Dialectic. If the absolute objective idealist means merely to say that what I, a finite conscious subject, feel and know can ultimately be conceived of only as existing in an Infinite Absolute Consciousness in which I am in some way involved, although only as a finite consciousness, I shall not care to quarrel with him.

In brief, the universe within which we are factors is a ONE of Being and Dialectic, as well as of phenomenal, process; but so that object finds its fulfilment, reality, and truth in subject conscious and self-conscious, a-d subject finds its fulfilment and reality in object. Only in so far as man lives in the object (including, since he is self-conscious, himself as object) does he live at all. This is his “reality and actuality”: without this, he is merely an entitative potentiality. And, again, only in so far as the object finds itself in subject (conscious and self-conscious) does it attain to its own true meaning and its own full reality as Object, and consequently as “thing”. What is the object but a specific “being” announcing itself to me another specific “being” by means of its distinctive characters in Quantity, Quality, etc., which are its inner truth in phenomenal terms?

In attuition the subject, as passive activity, assimilates the object as object of sense: as reason-activity the subject knows the object; but it finds on reflection that the object itself, and from the first, contains its “known” characters as well as its “sensed” characters. The cognitio and cognitum are one. Subjective mind is a passage through which the objective universe marches with majestic tread, it itself being within that objective universe—final term and last experience—true mirror of the mighty whole. Is man an irrelevance in the great divine argument we call The Universe, or is he not truly within it, of it, for it, by it?3


We must, I think, carefully distinguish the precise nature of the record of the object which each plane of mind yields. For example, sense receives what is existent as it exists, to the extent of its potency. It senses a, and when we, from a reflective standpoint, say that it recognises the identity of a with a when it recurs in presentation, we must beware of confounding different planes of mind and crediting the lower with the activities of the higher. Sense feels a and when a recurs has a same feeling; and that is all. So in feeling the difference between a and b it merely feels the difference: it is not aware of any “relation” between them, but merely of a difference: it does not even feel “that they are different”: the differences are sensed and re-flexed as reals: that is all.

It is on the higher plane of thought that we affirm relation between a and b; and this because we first have to isolate things one from another in order clearly to perceive them, and then we have to find a word which denotes the “real” intercommunion of the phenomena which we have, under a formal or logical necessity, separated. Relation is an inadequate word, because it presumes an isolation and gap which never really existed.

Meanwhile Sense does not “know” relations, it merely “feels” likeness and difference.

If sensates yield the Real, so far as Sense can go, still more do “percepts” of single wholes yield the Real; so with individual concepts and general concepts, if only we take care to make note of the steps by which these are formed by the Dialectic, and attribute no more to them as objective reality than the particulars on which they rest justify. “Cat,” for example, is not a real: it is the symbol of a completed process which affirms certain likenesses as exclusively predicable of a large number of living objects. The fact of these likenesses among a series of particulars is, however, real. Why, it may be asked, should the dialectic have to go through the dismemberment of its experience in order to reach truth? An important question. In passing, let us note that a sensate of a total—the object-thing in sense, so far from being empty, is so full that the thought of men through the ages will never exhaust it. A complete unfolding of the implicit as well as the explicit in the given of Sense would yield an absolute synthesis of experience.

There are those who speak as if the world were, first of all, an infinite pluralism of hard and isolated individua, and as if then, to make a world possible, a new activity called “relation” were introduced as a kind of Deus ex machina to weave the individua into a cosmos. They, it seems to me, hypostasise the fact and word “relation”. The true point of view (as I hope to show) is that each individuum, even the (so-called) atom, contains, as a “determined somewhat,” its own relations actual and possible (see Essence and Primordial Actuals). Through the operation of the activities of each, according to its nature, in reciprocity with all else, the interplay and harmony and oneness of the whole are assured. Each ultimate individuum has not its separate and peculiar god: it is an individuum in and through the Universal. And yet, each ultimate has its own centre and potency of recipience and activity, and can fulfil these only through the fulfilment of itself in all else. Each thing is, in this sense, its own “other”. There is, in the general nature of its function and its method of realising itself, no difference between a primordial actual and the complex actual which we call Man. The whole passes into each, and each passes into the whole to the extent of its inner potency; and thus there is constituted a harmonious world of fact and of experience. All is mind and its modal display. The primordial monad is, as we shall see, mind and modality; the Absolute Whole is Mind and Modality; and all is in communion with all else.

There are planes of existence and planes of mind. The molecule, the plant, the sentient animal soon exhaust their potencies and the relations by which they live. They take and give all of The Absolute, in which and of which they are, that it is possible for them to give and take. But man is all that they are; and, over and above, knows and affirms; nay, as a dialectic, coordinates and interprets the whole in and for himself, and then finds that, great as he is, The Absolute is greater than he, and that he is compelled to affirm infinity in every affirmation. Thus this finite-infinite creature encounters contradiction in its thought, i.e., in reason or the dialectic, when it begins to deal with the phenomenal given concrete of attuition.

In fine: The relatedness of subject and object, like the relatedness of all else each to each and to the whole, is neither tenable in thought nor possible in fact, if all entities are not one in Being, one in Continuity. How could differences and oppositions form part of one system if they were not at root determinations of one and the same Being which is always Itself—One in the Many? And yet, dualism (and not merely duality) as contained in pluralism is the correct term because of the element of Negation, as we have seen and shall again see, which makes an individuum and a world possible. The fundamental scheme would appear to be a Monistic Dualism or Pluralism—a Many which is The One and not The One, a One which is The Many and not The Many—a fundamental contradiction. This is precisely our world.

And yet, all that man knows, in so far as he truly knows, is God's knowing, God's truth—the truth of and in The Absolute. And the sum and summit of his knowing is God Himself—Absolute Being as in an infinitely finite world, where he works out His purposes through the atom, the animal and the man, revealing to each all of Himself that each can take. Even for the atom and the worm what an interesting function! for man what profound meaning, what an exalted position! And, strange to say, the chief source of man's greatness lies not in this, but, as we shall see, in his limitations; for it is these very limitations that give him the Infinite and Absolute as transcendent, while yet immanent, and predict a higher plane of life in which he will more and more share the riches of Eternal Being. Meanwhile, the God whom he knows as immanent is all of The Absolute which it is possible for him to know—and Him, man, standing erect and in no fawning spirit, hails as his Lord and Comrade.

Note.—To universal scepticism as to sense and knowledge, I have given no heed; it has so frequently been put out of court. If dogmatic, it is manifestly suicidal to say that “it is certain that nothing is certain,” from which follows that the proposition “it is certain” is itself uncertain. To the milder Academic scepticism which would seem to allow degrees of probability only, the remark of Hume is conclusive which is in substance this, that if all our knowledge is only probability, then our affirmation that this is so has also itself only probability. In brief, thought cannot prove thought invalid without, ipso facto, proving its affirmation of invalidity also invalid.

  • 1.
    Note, also, in passing, that if the proposition be that conscious mind can know only its present ideas, how do we meet the fact that in being conscious of a present memory it affirms a past idea. It is conscious of that which transcends its present state. My present consciousness may be merely a mental coruscation which flashes out and dies; but a coruscation which continues in it a past coruscation must be a curiosity.

    I omit here a Meditation on subjective idealism because it is polemical and long, and also because the subject is sufficiently treated in Professor A. S. Pringle-Pattison's Scottish Philosophy, especially in the chapter on “Relativity”.

  • 2.

    See also p. 114.

  • 3.

    In past pages and in what follows, I find it impossible to exhibit the characteristics of the lower plane of mind without reference to what is subsequently dealt with under Dialectic.