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Meditation VII: God As Dialectic

God as Objective Dialectic, i.e., (a) as Will (Kinetic Cause or Efficient), (b) as Mediating formal ground, (c) as Mediating Formative ground, (d) as End—the idea and ideal, (e) as Sum of Ideals—Nature of Immanence: Man in relation to this.

We are in search of the moments in the Absolute Synthesis—the noumenal universals in the myriad modes of externalisation with which (by means of our senses as interpreted by reason) we are brought into that living continuity in which all existence, subjective and objective, is bound in one. And we have now planted our feet firmly on the fact of Absolute Being Unconditioned and Immanent, One, Universal, Infinite, Eternal. This would almost seem to be enough; but the objective record, written by the finger of God in the subject, does not permit us to stop here. The highest plane of finite mind has now its contribution to make.


The Whole is a “determination” of Being and the determination is in the form of the Objective Dialectic. We have already spoken of this in general terms; but this is not enough. We must now look at the various moments of the one Objective movement and see their full significance as moments in the process of Absolute Being as immanent God. Thereby we may attain to a knowledge of the full significance of Objective Dialectic as Form of God-creative.


(a) God as Will (Kinetic Cause or Efficient).

The subjective dialectic when it makes its appearance in man, the highest plane of Infinite mind as Finite, necessarily (we said) takes up and reduces into the subject the total of experience under the Teleologico-Causal Notion, which may be briefly spoken of as a one movement in four prime moments—Will or initiating kinetic with Form of End implicit: Mediation as Formal Ground (the negation of all else save A, the object): Determining-so or Formative Ground or Cause; and Telos or End (the Determinate).

Thus it is that conscious subject emerges out of reflexive attuitional life, i.e., through a movement self-engendered1 which we call Will; and which, by its very essence, seeks End after a Way or Method.

Accordingly the third moment in the synthesis of the notion God as revealed in subject-object, is “Becoming”—the form of which is Will. In this initiating nisus we find the transition from the first moment—Being as potentiality (Absolute Being) to Being as immanent in actuality, or the concrete of existence. It is thus, and thus only, that I seize for knowledge the actual and possible of presentation: this is knowing. Will is a ceaseless movement, an untiring energy—pure activity in Absolute Being appearing as immanent activity in the system of things—the infinite limitation of the infinite Unlimited. Thus in nature we have no point of absolute rest: all is at once becoming and become. The One of Being and Dialectic process alone remains persistent through all.

In the heart of Unconditioned Being there is generated this nisus to unfold Itself as a created world of finite differences.

(b) God as Mediating Formal Ground.

The second prime moment in the one Dialectic movement is Mediation. Will in moving to affirmation or end mediates through negation as the formal possibility of affirmation. Speaking under temporal conditions, we say the end is projected, but cannot be effected save through the negation of all else and of the One creative Being.

(c) God as Mediating Formative Ground.

Determining-so and not otherwise is Formative Ground or Idea—that which in relation to the concrete thing or determinate we call Essence.

“Determining-so” or A does not emerge out of or by virtue of the formal negation of B, C, etc.: the negation merely makes A possible. It is that which constitutes the positive character of A which negates B, C, etc. It is, in truth, the affirmation of the specific being of A which necessitates the negation of B, C, etc. The “Determining-so” negates all else. To imagine a universe made up of a relation of negations, while Being undifferentiated is common and identical in all, is to imagine a self-annihilating absurdity. A concrete positive resting on a fusion of “nots”!

And yet as in the affirmation of A there is the negation of B etc., so in the negation of B and all else is the possibility of the affirmation of A.

The “Determining-so” of A can “be” only as the affirmation of itself and, there-through, the negation of all else: and in the negation of all else it at the same time affirms “an all else”. Thus is presented to us a universe of individua.

But the point to note here is that the second moment in the Dialectic is Cause as Determining or Formative resting for its possibility on formal negation: that it is the affirmation that negates, not the negation that contains the affirmation. The Formative ground of the affirmation cannot be separated from the mediating ground of the possibility of the affirmation.

(d) God as End. The Idea fulfilled or the Ideal. (Fourth Moment of the Dialectic.)

The fourth and final moment in the Objective Dialectic is End or Idea fulfilled, i.e. the Determinate. Each moment in the one movement is in the other, and End is contained in the initiatory moment of Will, at which stage it is only the empty “Form” of End.

In the resultant or fulfilment of the dialectic movement, the idea or differentiation appears as the affirmed or determinate concrete thing. Objective thinking is now “thought”; the idea is now concrete notion— the Actual: that is to say, idea and phenomenon. Our Epistemology yielded all this.

When we pass from Universal Mind to the externalisation we pass into the concrete of Time, Motion and Space, and into a finite and sense-given world—a world of Quantity, Quality, Relation and Degree. It is in and through this externalisation that the universal Dialectic creatively expresses itself; just as the subjective finite dialectic finds, in the same externalisation, the given matter which it co-ordinates and rationalises and subsumes as the filling and truth of its particular being. The primary end of the subjective Dialectic is simply affirmation or percipience—that the thing is so as already there existent: the end of the objective Dialectic is also affirmation—affirmation in and through the negation. And this creative affirmation is that the thing shall be so. The relation of Absolute Being as Dialectic to existence may be said to be that of creative percipience: in perceiving it creates, in creating it perceives. The determined concrete totality is accomplished end; that is, the universe—Absolute Being in its modality as moulded by the Dialectic.

If our analysis be true, the externalisation is God in the modes of Quantity, Motion, Quality, Relation, and its laws or processes are the inner dialectic of God as thus externalised. But while the phenomenon thus reveals God, it, as finite negation, resists God. Thus we say that the universe is God and is not God. This is the fundamental contradiction in our experience. If to get rid of this contradiction we eliminate the “is” we have an unintelligible non-significant mechanical world of predicates; if we eliminate the “is not” we have monistic pantheism in which difference and the individual are illusions.

(e) God as Sum of Ideals.

The idea or “determining-so” is, as a determinate, idea concreted. The ideal, as distinguished from the concreted idea, is a harmoniously moulded expression of the idea—the perfection of the concrete. I need not repeat here what I have already said regarding the necessary impulse towards idea and the ideal in the heart of the subjective dialectic. But it is necessary to recall this innate impulse in connection with the final moment of the Objective Dialectic—the End which is the idea concreted—the “Determining-so” now a “Determinate”. For Absolute Being, as immanent dialectic, contains not only the idea and its concrete the Determinate; but also the harmonious fulfilment of the idea, which is the Ideal.

The finite subjective dialectic, we found, ever seeks for the idea or essence with the assurance that it is there in the attained end; and, further, for the ideal in the assurance that it is possible. The possibility of the ideal is contained in the necessary nature of the subjective dialectic as generating the Infinite in thought. “End” is the stimulus and motive of thinking—the spring of Will, and the Ideal is ever sought for and affirmed. So, Being-Absolute contains, in its dialectic nisus, Ends which are the stimulus of the creative initiation—the act of Will. The world is a teleological world in the sense that the end of each thing and of the whole is its own fulfilled self. Theoretically, accordingly, the Whole is a purposed harmony. Whether, to our human eyes, it truly realises this harmony or not is simply a question of empirical fact. The aim is the Ideal; the striving is always towards this; and the full reality of each and of the whole is in their ideal possibilities.

Thus it is that we are constrained to think God as the Sum of Ideals, as well as the source and sum of Ideas.

And yet, as a matter of fact, we see that in this sphere of God's infinite activity, ends are never wholly fulfilled as ideals. They are only on their way. This is obvious. If this our plane of Being be the final evolution of God as finite, the world is a failure.

Thus the final moment in the Dialectic, while completing the notion of God as End and Idea, yields to us, also, God as Sum of Ideals—Perfection. He is interwoven with the emotions of men, rational, ethical and æsthetic. We are sometimes asked to worship the “Spirit of Good” as our God. This is to worship Him as Sum of Ideals.

Note, that if our reasoning has been sound and we exist in a One of system and process, the characteristics of the immanent God are moments in the Objective Dialectic, and are not mere subjective phantasies. For Absolute Being as immanent proceeds by way of a Dialectic and the moments in that Dialectic reveal Him as not merely Will or Kinetic Cause, and mediating Formal and Formative Ground; but as End; and, finally, as Sum of Ideals or perfected Ends. And if the great cosmic movement, in which and of which we are, does not contain this at the heart of what may be called “The Absolute Idea,” the state of man is desperate. This is The Absolute Idea—the eternal beginning which is also the end.

Under the category of the Ideal, God attracts the adoration of many who can discern nothing else in His nature on which they can dwell. Be it so. Thus far, they live with God. So with the mystic who feels and has for object only Being; so with the man who sees only efficient Cause: so with the submissive moralist who sees only Will as Law. These men are all with God; but each abstractly and partially. The Teleologico-Causal notion, which is the form of the Dialectic, or rather is the Dialectic, contains many moments; and God is no one abstract moment, but the total movement.

Nature of Immanence: Man in relation to this.2

The immanence of God in the world does not mean that He dwells therein as a constant formative of every new causation; but merely that the world is an effluence of His nature and Will to which the idea and its contained positive relations are constantly being given; but all things have to effect themselves. Each ultimate actual and each complex thing is itself a potency of causes and of the recipience of causal influences from all other things; that is to say, they are recipient of motions and transmitters of motions: in other words, all is in reciprocity. God, meanwhile, is there as idea of each and of the Whole: He is not gone on a journey, nor asleep. What we see is the very form of His Life as creative; and, were the primal creating energy withdrawn, all would go to pieces, and chaos would reign. Speaking under the category of Time, the immanence of God is a continuously repeated pulsation. That is what is meant by the immanence of God. It is a protest against the doctrine that God created the world, turned it loose, and then retired to eternal contemplation of His own Glory. He, on the contrary, always is and must be in it, because it is part of Himself, one aspect of His mode of Life—the finite aspect. The ever-presence and omnipresence of God is the theological way of affirming immanence. God as Dialectic must be ever affirming each actual; but that actual has to do its own work without further interference. He does not create a thing and then supersede it. The physical and moral order alike have to be reckoned with by each and all. We men have to accept God on His own terms, and hard terms they are.

God mediates His ideas as He mediates all His ends, through the modal Negation. As Negation each thing is a per se: in its idea or positive relations, it is One with the Whole, contains the Whole, and thus we have an ordered world. Each actual, we saw, is a synthesis of the idea and the negation by which its individuality is constituted; and the subsumption of the idea by the individual would be the ideal fulfilment of it as a concrete. Man, for example, being the very Dialectic in subjective form and so endowed with a regulative “idea” has to mould his own life by finding the ideas (or laws) in his concrete experience and subsuming them into his individual Ego as active forces.

Meanwhile, let us remember that it is God Himself who is thus ever moving towards ends in and through His creatures. Finite reason ascertaining ideas and ideals, and seeing them in God as eternally beginning and end, source and fulfilment, thereupon rests in this Universal Notion, and finds the significance of finite personality and all finite life to be its participation in an infinite and divine movement. This is the life eternal: this is Religion. It is only then that morality—the prosaic and pragmatic morality of ordinary life—is illumined and is exalted to be veritably the Truth of and in God. It is obvious that the common moralities must have, first of all, arisen out of ordinary experience and their direct bearing on the material interests of society. As such they still hold sway over men of the understanding alone; and it is well for the safety of organised society that they do. It is only, however, when elevated into ideas and ideals, and seen to be the Truth of Feeling and the Truth of and in God, that these moralities find their ultimate expression. Life in them, so conceived, is life in God.

We contemplate the sum of ideals as immanent in the cosmic movement, and pursue them as Truth, Goodness, Beauty. After all, it may be said, these things are in their fulness of reality (their ideality) mere illusions—the will o' the wisps of finite mind. On the contrary, the mere affirmation and pursuit of them contains the postulate that as realities they, in their absoluteness of perfection, are; and we know, as a matter of fact, that by them Man can alone grow to his full stature. Man is the interpretation of his own world, and the “ought to be” is the true significance for him of the circle of the vast Whole within which he lives and acts. Nor do we require to pass into the region of emotion to justify the ideal as actuality; for it is contained in the Dialectic in which the Telos or end or, briefly, the Good (in the Hellenic sense) is emphatically affirmed; and in that affirmation the fact of Infiniteness necessarily revealed.

This Dialectic is objective. The teleological movement towards the fulfilment of idea as actualised ideal is a Universal. It is only because it is an objective fact that the Dialectic can possibly arise in the consciousness of man. The “stream of ideal tendency” (to use a phrase of James's) is there. Crude Dualism, by putting man and the object in antagonism, has therein put God and Man in antagonism. I am merely a particular in a universal objective movement which finds its final term (in this sphere of the Divine evolution) in me as feeling subject and knowing subject and doing subject. All is one. The subjective ideal is the objective ideal—God's ideal mediated through a finite recipient and knower. God's ideal is not in the air, but immanent in the possibilities and “ought” of each created thing.

We do not need to study history and pre-history to know that these ideals change, and that the progress of the objective idea in subjective man is not a steady evolution in time, but sometimes a regress; because we see all this going on in our own children, nay, in ourselves. But there always is an ideal—must be, by the essential nature of the Dialectic. God moves in Time in and through the Negation towards the fulfilment of Himself in man, as in all things. The Finite is within Him as being the Absolute Synthesis: “The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof”. Out of Absolute Being gushes forth in a perennial stream the living universe, determined as to its form and nature by the Will-Dialectic; just as the one central pulsation of the heart sends the blood circulating through every part of the human frame, determined as to its various functions in each particular tissue.

Absolute Being then as creative, in other words, as the God we “know,” has, for end, the idea of each individuum as a concrete, and, further, the ideal or The Good (in the Hellenic sense). The achieved dominancy of the governing idea (the Will-dialectic) in the “many” of inner sense and feeling is the end of man. The elements which constitute the negation in the concrete man-individual, are summed up in the content of the attuitional plane of mind out of which the “idea” has emerged: this is, relatively, chaos, and it is only by persistent activity that we can reduce this to law and order. Our human task is the sublating of the idea into the negating individuality—the bare atomic self or Ego, so that thereby the “self” may become a full concrete personality. Man's life, accordingly, is a pursuit and an endeavour after the actualisation of the Divine intention in his own life of feeling and thought and action; to which he is ever-approximating, if he will. In so far as he does not strive, he is not man. A subjective vague conviction that all this is so, may suffice to stimulate and to inspire: but the business of philosophy is to demonstrate that an adequate epistemology reveals these things to us as the supreme verities for finite man, as they are top and crown of the creative activity of God Himself on this plane of His evolving Being.

It would appear then that man if he is to be man, and not merely the highest animal, must ever seek Absolute Truth, Goodness and Beauty; but he will never find them until he sees God, and, seeing God, sees all in Him.

  • 1.

    By self-engendered we mean that it is immanent in the lower stage and stages of finite mind as within God's evolutionary revelation of Himself.

  • 2.

    See in this connection “Primordial Actuals” in the First Book.