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Meditation VIII: God Immanent as Feeling

(1) Feeling, neutral and pathic—(2) Feeling in all things and all stages of Life; Ethical Ideals—(3) God Immanent in the Universal of Feeling: (a) in Intellection; (b) as Pathic: the Dialectic and Pathic meet in Ethical and Æsthetic Ideals—(4) God mediates His ethical Ideals through Man—(5) God is an Ethical God; but the predicates of God are not properties—(6) God is not mere Reason.

(1) Feeling Neutral and Pathic.

If Absolute Being as Creative God reveals Himself to us in the Universals of experience we must take the whole revelation. I endeavoured to show that if God be “Life” He must outer Himself as life in finite things or leave His universe an inorganic mechanical mass; and further, that if He be infinite Mind, He must complete His externalisation as finite mind. When we begin to ask what we mean by the supreme Notion, God, the material of our thought is the Universal Object: that is to say Subject-Object. The Object is God revealed in and to finite subject. It is the infinite Subject living as His own finite Other. And just as we find His modal presentations revealing to us the inorganic, mechanical and chemical, so we find them revealing organism, life, and mind. And finite “mind” we find to be at root Feeling of an “other”; and, all through its successive ascending steps, Feeling persists as the note of finite mind, which, even in its highest activity, so far from transcending Feeling, finds in Feeling the prevailing characteristic of supra-rational Intuition.

Neutral Feeling is the basis and accompanying note of all mind as recipient and reflexive intelligence: Feeling as pathic, that is to say as desire, as pleasure and pain and as emotion, is at the root of all activity and is its accompanying note.

If, then, the Infinite Object presented to us be determinates of Absolute Being, each containing those positive relations of recipience and activity whereby it contributes, through the fulfilment of itself, to the fulfilment of an ordered universe, in so far as the negating individuality of each permits, then a kind of feeling is in each according to the stage of the evolution of the life of Absolute Being which it occupies. But at what point in the unfolding of God, as a finite series, pathic Feeling enters into things, it is, I suppose, impossible to say. To speak of physical atoms, or even mind-matter monads, as feeling, desiring, and so forth, is to re-introduce the anthropomorphic Love and Hate of Empedocles, and to bring confusion into thought.

That the purely dynamical atom—the primordial actual exhibits actions, re-actions, affinities and antipathies, is an illustration of the one-ness of the externalising process. For, these characteristics of the physical are, it may be said, an anticipation and prediction of what is coming in the fulness of Time—Life, Feeling, Consciousness, Self-Consciousness. But, although we may hold that all that is in the fulfilled End of the externalised system is immanent in the beginning, we are not, therefore, to scatter about our terms to the confounding of exact distinctions. We must make the distinctions which God makes.

When a Feeling “thing” (determined entity) appears on the cosmic scene God has then begun to realise Himself as finite mind—to reflect Himself into an inchoate subject, and the evolution of finite mind through all its grades, as a fulfilment of God-finite as subject, starts on its way. Mind, diffused in all things, now finds a centre in which it shall be “for itself” and hold a “mirror up to nature”; and each succeeding step in its gradual evolution goes to the completion of the record of God in His outerance. The Object, which is always God, fills each grade of mind to the extent of its capacity, and constitutes its Reality as a concrete—its fulfilment in the absolute Whole. I, here, speak of Feeling in the widest extension of the term as awareness of the other. But it has to be noted that, when an organism exhibits pathic feeling (feelings of pleasure and pain, desire and aversion), feeling thereupon constitutes the dominant and governing source of activity and, consequently, of life within the organism; until a self-conscious subject appears on the scene and determines ends for itself in the matter of Feeling.

We have seen that the animal mind, even in the highest form of attuition, is simply a reflexive and assimilating subject. It is still within the natural series, although the anticipations and predictions of a higher plane of mind, though not always obvious, may frequently be detected. The fulfilment of the organism is left to a system which is dynamical, although in terms of feeling and consciousness. But the elements are so balanced and in their parts related, that the organism can fulfil the ends of its existence by sentiently responding to the promptings from within and from without; but not as self-regulating. This means that the Objective Dialectic or Reason is “in it” and “for it” as instinct: the organism is swept along in the broad current of living things.

These pathic feelings, in all their range, are connate in man as in the animal, but in him they seem to exist in an anarchic multitude. But they are not so in themselves or in their inner relations: it is only as the basis and material of a higher plane of mind that they are found to be, relatively to that higher plane, chaotic: God has finitised Himself as subjective Dialectic in and for them: and when He finitises Himself as the very dialectic in an organism, man is ipso facto evolved.

If, however, this higher plane of mind had for its function the regulation of the conflicting feeling-elements of the lower plane merely, it would be worse than useless. For the animal is more harmonious, and therefore more fulfilled, as an organism of Feeling, than man can ever be. Man, as Will-dialectic, finds that his “idea”—this very dialectic, has to fulfil itself by help of the matter, and in the matter, of the lower non-rational planes of the Divine evolution which are built into him. Thus it is, that it becomes of prime importance to ascertain what the true nature of the subjective dialectic precisely is. And when we have found it to be Will-reason with its resultant Ego; and its form of life to be Will, mediating Ground and End, with ideas and ideals as its substantive actuality, the lower plane of attuition is at once seen to be a standing contradiction of that life until it is subsumed into it as thought, and receives its thought-determination as motives of activity. The lower plane, accordingly, may be said to have become lower merely through the emergence in the subject of a higher whose function is the organisation of the lower, not only in its own interests as an organism, but for the satisfaction of its own dialectic necessities. The dialectic, which on the lower plane was “in and for” organism, is now liberated from nature-conditions, and has the duty of knowing, organising and fulfilling ends thrown on it as a free self-regulating energy—a magnificent but fatal endowment.

Leaving this line of thought (already often considered by us), we recognise the fact that Man is a free dialectic energy or form that finds the matter of its activity, as knowing and doing, in the given of inner as well as outer Feeling. And inasmuch as we are engaged in looking for the elements which go to form the notion of God as a Concrete One-Whole, we would now ask, Is God Being and Reason only, or is He also immanent as Feeling in the pathic sense?

Man is not a Dialectic alone: his “Notion” comprehends feeling and emotion of which he is all compact, and hence it is that he seeks for some response in the Universal to his own unsatisfied longings and boundless capacity for emotional as well as intellectual love. The mathematics of astronomy will not give us the stars, nor will Dialectic give us a God equal to the demands of the human spirit in all its reach and depth. Man needs an infinite Heart on which to repose.

Is God, at best and highest, a self-conscious process—an Absolute Ego living the life of “Notions”? When we are told that “logical notions” are an exposition of God in His essential nature before the creation of the world, the facts of experience compel us to say that, by their help alone, God could not have created the living breathing world we know. He is not simply another name for all-pervading, all-comprehending Dialectic. Let us, then, put the question: Is Absolute Being immanent in the finite externalisation as Feeling as well as Dialectic?

(2) Feeling in all things and in all stages of Life. Ethical Ideals.

In the least, as in the greatest, the truth of a complete thing is in the fulfilled idea which contains the law of it. In man, the ethical is not abstract law, descending from the clouds, nor yet is it the issue of pure dialectic; it is feeling (desire, impulse) and emotion controlled and regulated, by the action of the subjective dialectic (which is the man-idea) to ends which we call ethical ideas and ideals, in which, as truth of man, resides the Law. The ethical, accordingly, is instinct with emotion. Without emotion there would be no ethics; although there might be, in communities, police regulations with their penalties. Further, not only is the world as we see it full of feeling and emotion, but it is this that is the driving force in all sentient creatures. Indeed reason in its various degrees would seem to exist for the mere purpose of making Feeling effectual under law. Feelings are the immortal horses of the chariot of the Sun: Dialectic is the charioteer.

In presence of such facts as these we cannot stop at Being and the Dialectic, and say that now we have the whole of God in His creative manifestation. The metaphysical implicates—the noumenal universals of all cognition do not exhaust the nature of God immanent. The Absolute Synthesis contains more. The Dialectic is merely determinative and formative. The world as given to us is what we have to interpret; and what we have forced on us is a scale of being from the primordial actual and its mechanism up to man with all his complexity of nature; and at a certain stage of this ascent, we encounter Life and the fact of Feeling. We find this feeling in a rudimentary form, even in the vegetal world; and rising gradually, through an infinite series of sentient existences, to Man. This sentient consciousness has been hitherto considered by us only in its cognitive aspects, and as the soil out of which emerges the Will-dialectic or pure reason. But such a view of sentient consciousness is restricted, and inadequate to the facts.

Feeling of the given, not merely as a given of bare fact and relations, but as yielding to us a content of specific qualitative tone, occupies the field of consciousness. Outer sense and all experience, we have seen, rests on, and starts from, the indefinite Feeling of unconditioned Being, advancing to those specific feelings of differentiates of Being-immanent (sensation of the diverse) which we call the physical world, whose metaphysical implicates we have endeavoured to disentangle. The commonest objects are presented to us with a significance of meaning which we cannot explain, but which I believe to be simply the flash of the meeting of individual conscious being with Being-universal as revealed in things; things being always instinct with the unexplained and unexplainable mystery of Being. There is a feeling-tone—a something which, in high perceptive moments, makes the heart beat quick. In this lies the justification of the mystic; and, in truth, we are all mystics when we penetrate below the surface of commonplace existence.

But this is not all: for sentient beings are so organised in their separateness as to be themselves well-springs of feeling of a peculiar and pathic character. They are, in fact, organised systems of pathic feeling, and the intelligence they possess seems to be a mere servant of the fit expression and full satisfaction of feeling as recipient, or of desire as active. Even in man, Reason is at once servant and master of Feeling. In the animal, feeling is organised by its instinctive intelligence such as it may be in each (a dynamic of recipience, assimilation, association and reflex action): in man it is organised by the free activity of Will-dialectic; and we call the rationalised content Ethics. Feeling in sentient organisms differentiates itself into particular feelings necessary for the preservation of the individual, the conservation of the species, and the communion of individuals one with another. But not only so: for this Feeling (which is, in its large generic sense, also the root of consciousness) accompanies all the activities of man wherever they manifest themselves, and instigates those activities. It pours itself out in enthusiasm, and sometimes over-runs its borders in floods of noble or ignoble passion. The history of humanity is always the history of Feeling—sometimes regulated by Reason, oftener uncontrolled.

Again, Feeling, root of all conscious life, exhibits itself in various ascending degrees as organic desire, moral and religious emotion, the emotion of reason, the emotion of the ideal and of Truth. It thus accompanies the conscious life of man in all its reflexive possibilities and rational energies. Its highest form is the emotion of pure reason—the joy of knowing as such, which, when carried beyond logical limits, passes back, as apotheosis of reason, into Feeling. This we sometimes call Intuition, an attitude of mind in which finite reason lays its tribute at the feet of an infinite emotion.

Further, a feeling of a specific kind and known as the feeling of the Beautiful is experienced by man alone among creatures known to us. It is a something over and above the mere “awareness” of the forms, colours and combinations of nature, and distinct from other pathic feelings. As a Feeling it defies all definition, and admits of explanation only in respect of conditions, characteristics and evolution.

In fine, when we contemplate the life of man, we find that Feeling in its various forms chiefly governs it, and that pure reason with difficulty raises its bead above the conflict of appetites, passions and emotions. Feeling seems to occupy the field; and, even when we, as thinkers, have apparently reached, after long prosaic toil, some abstract knowledge, even this becomes suffused with emotion; and, but for emotion, would lie dead and barren within us. For, of all forms of Feeling, the most potent in a being of reason are those which are inherent in ideals. We accept the tradition that these ideals are summed up in the words Truth, Goodness, Beauty; and Man cannot think for one passing moment of these ideals without being raised, by a breath of emotion, above the prose of life. To live in presence and pursuit of these ideals is, in truth, to lead the life divine. In them is revealed the consummation of man's possibilities on earth; nay, the earnest of a future after death.

The patent facts of experience, accordingly, compel us to say that Absolute Being is immanent not only as Being and Dialectic but as Feeling in all its modes. Even as appetitive desires God is immanent, determining their range and law for the animal, and proclaiming to man, in accents unmistakable, that he must limit and regulate his own impulses in order that these may live and furnish their contribution to his spiritual completeness. In the higher emotions, again, God is immanent as constituting, through reason, those ideals by which alone man can ascend to his purposed place in the scale of creation. It is as these very ethical and æsthetic ideas and ideals, effected by the dialectic in the matter of Feeling, that God is supremely immanent.

The individual, meanwhile, always contains the negation: God is not there, but in the idea. He is not immanent in all the particular illusions and blunders of Feeling any more than he is immanent in all the vagaries and aberrations of the subjective dialectic, but only in the Truth of the dialectic activity, the ideal towards which He is always moving in all things. The truth of man is God as finite, just as the law of the stars is God as finite: but the former has to be excogitated and elaborated by man himself in the long time history of God as finite mind. Ethical ideals are mediated not by God in and through man, but by man for God.

(3) God as Immanent in the Universals of Feeling (a) as in Intellection; (b) as Pathic. These two movements meet in Ethical and Æsthetic Ideals.

We have seen that Absolute Being as creative God is immanent in the world as the universals of sense and cognition. In like manner, He is immanent as the “universals” of pathic Feeling. I am not prepared to say what the pathic Feeling-universals are, save in general terms; and in what I suggest, I must be guided by our analysis of planes of Infinite Mind as finite mind.

Pure Feeling whose Object is Being Unconditioned is at once intellective and pathic. From this root of all Feeling, we see sensation and attuition evolving themselves; that is to say, the intellective consciousness of shapes and motions in Time and Space as implicating Being. On the highest plane, again, the feeling of Being is involved in the dialectic grasp of things; nay, its activity, still more the resultant of the activity in the perception of Truth—in other words the satisfying of the Dialectic—yields a Feeling which is no longer without tone, but on the contrary a joyous emotion.

Meanwhile, Feeling, as pathic, has been evolving itself on its own specific lines alongside the intellective evolution; contributing to the matter of consciousness and cognition, but constantly also traversing and overwhelming mere cognition as such. These open up to us a large field of inquiry and lead to the understanding of the characteristics of individual men and the processes of education. I must be content here with the universals, partly because these suffice for my general argument, and partly because of my ignorance. Indeed, I am well pleased if I can state these universals even approximately.

First.—There is the Feeling of Being unconditioned which lies, I have said, at the basis of man-experience, both cognitive and pathic.

Secondly.—Pathic Feeling becomes, on the sentient plane, Desire arising out of the organism as a whole.

Thirdly.—There is on the attuitional plane (the highest grade of sentience) where man comes into relation with other sentient beings, Feeling as the emotion of Love. And by Love I here mean fellow-feeling or sympathy, which generates and renders possible Goodwill to others and the love of the Goodwill of others. These are the main pillars of Society.

Fourthly.—There is the Feeling or Emotion of the Beautiful.

Fifthly.—There is the Feeling, as emotion, of Pure Reason or the Dialectic in the pursuit and perception of Truth.

In the last three we see the potent forces in our nature which yield, under the insistence of the Dialectic, the ideals of the Good, the Beautiful and the True.

The True might conceivably exist for us without the stirring of any feeling; but as a matter of fact it yields the intensest feeling qualitatively, although not so broad and diffusive as the feeling of the Good and the Beautiful; nor so massive quantitatively as Desire.

Now these Universals of Feeling are Absolute Being as externalised, God immanent quite as much (to say the least) as the universals of sense and cognition.

It will be said that the ideals which we call Absolute Truth, Absolute Goodness and Absolute Beauty, are merely the issue of man's reason in dealing with inner and outer experience. Precisely so. But the point is this, that Absolute Being as creative God, finds Itself in its creatures and realises its nature and life as a Finite in and through them. This is what the Oneness of the Whole means: any other view is, as I have often said, crude Dualism. When we have found the truth of our experience and law of our life (and it is left to us to find it), it is God we see, Who is in all, but is supremely present in the highest life of His final expression—Man. I do not mean to say that God is to be found in our idiosyncrasies, in our arbitrariness or caprice, our likes or dislikes, our weaknesses and sins: these things belong to the Negation and are individual, contingent and accidental; but He assuredly is immanent in that which is the necessary condition of an ideal finite existence for man, just as much as He is in the law of the inorganic and organic world. He is the positive idea in the negation. The necessary elements in an ideal finite existence such as man's, are comprehended within the Absolute Idea. God is the Great Affirmation in the Negation. And thus it is that God reveals Himself to us as Feeling, and as the ethical ideal which precribes the law to Feeling. He is immanent also in those impulses that are the basis of man's life, and are the “matter” of his adequate actualisation. It is God that mediates Himself in Man as sympathy, love, compassion and justice, just as He is mediated as Truth and the Ideal in the midst of unreason, falsehood and failure.

In brief, if God be the Absolute Synthesis, then assuredly feeling, desire, emotion, which are the ground characteristics of all conscious life and penetrate, in ascending degree, the lowest and highest of its manifestations, find themselves in the very heart of the notion of the whole; and God, as immanent, is in touch with all His creatures, not only as Being and Dialectic, but as pathic feeling. If we put it more popularly, what is it we say? Merely this, that feeling, desire and emotion, being in the system they must be in God as Source and immanent Sustainer—the One Universal of the system, if the system be a system—a One of process. It does not follow that I am to expect God to share my loves and hates, my pleasures and pains. His externalisation (as I have sufficiently shown) is in the form of finite individuals and finite relations, which are, in their essence or idea, God affirming Himself; but each individual has to fulfil itself, and its particular acts are from a universal point of view the casual and contingent. It is in the idea, constitution and end of each that God as Feeling is ever present.

While we find the objective dialectic operative from the primordial elements of the universe up to the self-conscious ego, we find Feeling in all its forms enter into the universe of things, I have said, only with organism and life. At a certain stage of inorganic development, life enters—that is to say, Absolute Being becomes immanent as Life, just as He is already immanent as mechanical law. This inflashing of Life is a fresh pulse in the eternal evolution of God as finite. It is not necessary that Life should be regarded as immanent in inorganic pre-conditions of life; but it may be so. God is an ever-living God, even in the lava that strews the mountain-slope. In Life there is contained the category of Feeling; but we cannot call this a new category in the objective dialectic as suck. The Dialectic is form; Feeling is the condition of, and avenue to, the Real. A pure dialectic is impotent to yield this new element of Feeling in the finitised life of Absolute Being. It is the starting-point, or germ, of sentient consciousness through which all the matter or real of God's externalisation “becomes” for a subject, and is, in the case of man, woven by the dialectic into the “actual” of thought and the “actual” of human life. Being, Feeling, Dialectic, are the three strands in the finite life of God which we distinguish, but which are always a concrete One. But the universe, in all its various and successive planes of existence, is an ordered unfolding of the secret content of Absolute “Being”—not of a Dialectic any more than of a geometrical theorem.

In pure Feeling, I have said, the inchoate subject begins its career; and, passing through various stages, yields feeling of awareness of object as not the subject (sentient consciousness) and feeling of inner movements as in and of the subject—pathic or tone-feeling. Both alike arise out of the Feeling-indefinite of Being-indefinite; and each can be traced on its way up, the one to the subjective dialectic that yields self-consciousness or Ego, the other to distinctive feelings of our inner life, up to ethical emotion and the infinite aspiration contained therein. The “matter” of the realitas-phenomenon and the realitas-æstheticon are alike the data which the subjective dialectic moulds—the one to knowledge, the other to knowledge and life. That is The True; this is the Good. Feeling is not only the great dynamic of the sentient world, but the great appreciator of all worth ethical and æsthetic. It is the Feeling of God not the recognition of the fact of God that is the sole foundation of the religious life.

God, we saw, seeks “The Good” in the Hellenic sense, as completion of idea; He also and supremely seeks The Good in the emotional elements so all-potent in a living world. He is as much in feeling and emotion as in any other part of the process whereby the universe is sustained and His outerance of Himself fulfilled.

(4) God mediates His Ethical Ideals through Man.

God, however, is not immanent in creation as ethical ideals ready made, and presented for our immediate perception. In the non-conscious and the organic world up to animal consciousness, the ideal is already operative in so far as finitude and negation will permit. But self-conscious man is left to constitute ideals out of feeling and emotion in contact with life. God is immanent as elemental feeling, and in the dialectic has given the possibility—nay, necessity, of ethical ideas and ideals to His interpreter Man, and is immanent in that possibility and necessity; and in the Truth when attained. To take any other view would be to lower man to being a merely passive instrument of God as a universal process; certainly to reject the analysis on which these Meditations rest. Man is within the system—in organic continuity with it. God mediates Himself through man by man. He looks to man to fulfil His idea for “His Glory” in the act of fulfilling it for his own completion. God then (Absolute Being as creative externalisation) is, let us conclude, immanent as Feeling, Desire, Emotion, and as ethical ideas and all Ideals. On this plane of His eternal Being God moves on ethical lines, as understood by man and through man, in an ever-progressive evolution which is the history of Humanity. In this sense, and in this sense alone, can He be said to be “the power not ourselves that makes for righteousness”. And what I have said is not an easy generalisation or a pious opinion: it rests on the nature of God-creative. The form of the Objective Dialectic has revealed to us that God seeks End and mediates His ends in and through things. End fulfilled is “The Good” (in the Hellenic sense). The End, The Good, the Ideal of Man, He can mediate through the self-activity of man himself alone. So it must be, if man is to be man, and not merely the tool of a supreme external power. Man has to find the Truth of himself for himself, and the Truth is the End, the Ideal, the Law.

In all existence that lies below the plane of the subjective dialectic, God, I have said, mediates the end and ideal for Himself, so far as the negation permits; and man has to find this truth for himself as “science,”—a truth already realised in the object. The ideal or Truth of Man can be mediated for God only by Man himself, but that ideal is the Truth of God in Man. Ethical ideas are as much God immanent as is the mathematics of the Heavens. If only through many errors and failures man gains for himself the truth of nature, is it surprising that millenniums should pass before he gains a knowledge of the Truth of himself? He is being moulded, and moulding himself, to the actualising of himself as Spirit—a task too heavy for him. But, all the while, each man's ethical achievements have value for God.

(5) God is an Ethical God. The Predicates of God are not Properties.

When, then, it is said in popular language that God is Just, Good, Loving, we are right in so speaking; but the philosophic mind is not satisfied to speak of these qualities as “properties” of God. This is to conceive of God as a determined being, not as all-determining Being; and it is a barbarism.1 God has no “properties”: we know Him only as immanent activity. I say God has no properties as if He were a thing; but as Being Absolute and immanent He has attributes, and I have defined an attribute to be that which is found to be implicit in “Being” as opposed to the diverse and flux of presentations. Each attribute of Being is the whole of Being. Outside these, the essential characters of God are revealed in His immanent activity.

In determining finite existences God has determined each with specific and necessary potencies whereby alone it can fulfil itself as an individual in and through the whole. These distinctive potencies of life are the idea of each, and, as idea, God is immanent dialectic. The idea in each is such that in face of oppositions and obstructions,—nay, rather by means of them, the idea fulfils itself. While much goes awry and many individuals die down in the struggle, the idea will, and must, fulfil itself and effect an ethical, as it effects, on the whole, a physical harmony. In man, towards whom all creative activity is working up through lower forms, the idea fulfils itself in the complex of his “Notion,” as Love, Goodness, Justice,—as, in brief, the supremacy of ethical ideals. Accordingly, I say that Absolute Being as creative is immanent not only as dialectic, but as the truth of the dialectic in Feeling—the ideals of Love, Goodness, Justice. In other words, God affirms Love, Justice and the Truth of all ethical ideas as constitutive of man—as the End of the Divine teleological finite externalisation.

Just as in the subjective dialectic The True is immanent, so in the realm of Feeling, The Good is immanent and the Beautiful as Art is immanent. The dialectic, as great instrument of thought (as itself thought), fulfils God by positing these ideas, as concrete ideals, in the matter of outer and inner sense. The Good and the Beautiful are the “Truth” in feeling, just as physical science is the “Truth” in the matter of outer sense.

Accordingly, to assign the moral and æsthetic characteristics of a finite man to the infinite God is not wrong, but only inadequate and unphilosophic. Absolute Being as creative is conditioning, not conditioned: in willing a world He is Infinite; that is to say, He is not limited by an “Other,” but comprehends that other. He has differenced and determined Himself into a world of contraries and oppositions which is saved from physical and moral chaos by End or Purpose, in which the Truth of Feeling as well as the Truth of Fact are imbedded, and are to be ascertained by His highest creature; i.e., they necessarily rise into consciousness in him through the activity of the dialectic. The ideals of God are everywhere immanent in the nature and possibilities of things as inspiring and moulding the Negation—immanent supremely in the idea of Man. And so we rightly say, Absolute Being is immanent in His finite creation as Goodness, Love, Justice, etc. God has so externalised Himself; and that with exceeding emphasis. He reveals Himself to be Love, Goodness, Justice, as governing ideas of man's mind-organism—ideas to be excogitated and elaborated, doubtless, out of contraries and oppositions in Time—ideas which by their very nature could not be excogitated as concrete ideals except through contraries and oppositions. They have a history as the Truth of the stars has a history; neither more nor less. Rightly, then, I say that the God of this world is Love, Goodness and Justice in the finite sense of these words, for it is of the finite manifestation that we speak; and the finite is within the Absolute Synthesis, not outside it. Man is one with the whole, within the whole,—not a thing apart, but the chief organ of the divine in this finite world; and in him and through him God speaks.

In interpreting Man, then, we must never separate him from the cosmic whole or put him outside the method of the universe, as those do who deny moral perfections to “God”. “Good” in the human sense is not I repeat predicable of God as a “property” as if He were a determined entity, but it is supremely predicable of Him as immanent in the world as a determining activity. Man cannot know the Infinite in the sense of comprehending it; but he can know the fact of it and feel the reality of it; and there can be no difficulty, surely, in knowing the fact and feeling the reality of God as immanent Love and Justice without making them in the likeness of man.

Accordingly, when we say that God is merciful and compassionate in His relation to man, we do not think of Absolute Being as creative God concerning Himself with particular cases, but merely affirm that human life in this world—the pilgrim's progress, is such that mercy and compassion are involved in the divine process whereby ends are achieved in the souls of men; although it often appears otherwise—painfully otherwise. Let us remember that Absolute Being, as creative, is always creating and sustaining the finite world, but He does so by continually and continuously giving Himself to individua and letting them work out the idea. God, although always present, does not interfere.

Man, meanwhile, in his failures, remorses and sorrows can take God to himself as strengthener, pardoner and consoler when he pleases. God is the closest of friends. But a man must take Him, I say; for he, we have seen, is as Will-reason self-constitutive of his own concrete actuality. God is always there to be taken: He could not force Himself on man without the destruction of the true manhood. And when a man takes God to himself, he finds Him to be “That” which feels the whole in every part and the part in the whole. The mighty thought raises and strengthens him. He is at home with God. In finding God, he finds himself.

Doubtless, this view puts man in a difficult and painful position. But so it is: only thus could Absolute Being effect the larger purpose in the world and man; namely, by being present as if not present. In short, God as immanent is not active save as the constitutive idea and immanent ideal which are always being affirmed in things. This conclusion flows from the Meditations on Essence, on Primordial Actuals, and on Negation generally. Man, then, must bestir himself, knowing that God is always and everywhere present as Helper, for in all things the immanent ideal is operative—the Good is affirmed. God says Come unto Me. He will not give Himself for nothing. He respects man too much. Religion is a virile act, not a feeble sentimentalism.

The act of Will, whereby Being moves out of Identity with Itself is the determining of the individuate in which is the moment of Negation—“the without which not”—the Negation as at once source of opposition, defection and evil, and the possibility of a finite world. This world, in and of which we are, is thus not the issue of an arbitrary act, still less of an unconscious movement (misnamed “Will”); but of a Will-dialectic which contains ends and End, which we may sum up as the Absolute Idea—the mighty Thought which has emptied itself into the Finite. Although it requires no argument to show that these ends are, in the man-sphere, not wholly accomplished, we yet see that they must ultimately fulfil themselves, because they are already contained in the initiation of the Divine dialectic movement itself. The Reason of man sees this and emphasises this with conviction—nay, with knowledge, for ends are immanent in the subjective finite, as in the infinite objective, dialectic. They are in the universal dialectic as spring and motive of its active creation. Those who cannot see this, i.e. know it, may yet attain to a rational “persuasion” of its truth, and eke out their shortcoming with faith; and faith is here the consummation of reason, not a dernier ressort of baffled thought, much less a soul-destroying credulity.

(6) God is not mere Reason.

It is not to be wondered at that Philosophy should so exclusively have emphasised Reason as if it were the supreme fact in the universal subject-object as given to us; for reason or finite dialectic is itself the differentiate or “idea” of man the philosophiser—that whereby he is what he is among the infinite multiplicity of organic existences. And yet, it is strange that so little should have been made of God as immanent Feeling (except by poetic prophets) penetrating and sustaining by its agitations and afflation the whole system of things—the very breath of the world. A panlogistic God which, if consistent, gives us no negation with its rights of opposition, and also ignores feeling, is a metaphysical abstraction. Look around and you will see that the energy and vitality which make the world are feeling and those intenser forms of feeling which we call desire and emotion. In Feeling we find the motive power which propels the bark; reason holds the helm. Reason merely interprets and regulates the inner of feeling, just as it interprets and co-ordinates the outer of sense. Dialectic is not even life. Life in all organic things (even in the plant), love and hate, desire and fruition, joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, fill the world. This is the complex matter in which finite reason has to work, and in which it has to prescribe a rule and constitute a harmony. The truth of sense is science; the truth of the complex of feeling lies in the rationalised ethical idea of it—The Good; and the ethical idea is the Law, self-prescribed in the sphere of emotion through the operation of the free dialectic seeking the truth, and through truth, the fulfilment and fruition of the man-being as an actor in the great whole. The notion of God as universal dialectic, even if we grasp the dialectic in its concrete truth as generated in Being and having thus a bearer or subject, cannot satisfy the philosophical consciousness, much less the moral and religious need of men. The mistake which many thinkers have made (Aristotle leading the way) arises, as I have said, from this that, since reason is the highest in man, God is legitimately to be apprehended only in terms of the highest, viz., universal Reason. “God,” says Aristotle (xii. 7, 9), “is Thought, the Absolute eternal thinking Essence distinct from Matter. Thought ever the same and unchanged whose object is expressed Perfection.” The very term “thought” has concealed a fallacy. Thought is reason—the activity of the formal dialectic; and subjective “mind” is specifically thinking or thought. Thus God has been identified with Thought instead of Mind. Mind, however, is more than thought: the whole realm of sense, feeling and emotion are within mind. God must contain all grades of mind; just as He is All-Being. And if we are to form a notion of God which shall start from His immanence in creation, we cannot exclude that which in ourselves constitutes the real of mind in so far as it is a possible ethical organism; nay, also the real of body as a living body. To conceive of a creation in which the Creator is nothing but dialectic, while the creation itself is charged with feeling, desire and emotion, all alien to the nature of its source, is manifestly untenable; nor can we save a philosophical system by throwing these things in by way of parenthesis. We have, accordingly, to extend the Hellenic conception and apprehend in “The Good,” to which all tends, the harmony of feeling as well as of reason; or, let us rather say, the harmony of feeling through reason. For the latter truly is, as I have indicated, but the servant of the former; or rather, master by being servant.

I am unwilling to leave this subject on which I have already dwelt perhaps too long. But look around in the finite world, do we not find feeling everywhere? In the mere dynamic display of nature we see the feeling of God passing into and through phenomenal forms, as if ever striving to reach its consummation in the consciousness of man as alone adequate to its full manifestation. The metaphor also, which nature so amply yields to the poet, is evidence of the community of all things in feeling, no less than in being and modality and dialectic. The truest expression for vegetal life is that it is a kind of feeling; and the abounding exuberance of living forms has joy for its end. “The rose is to the summer sweet.” In the conscious animal we find feeling in the form of instincts, impulses, love, pleasure and pain—all built into a finite organism—the intelligence being subordinated to the needs of feeling. Nay, it is with dialectic desire, too, that the pure reason of man strives towards ends; and, when it has attained them, it has supreme joy in the emotion of the completed activity, whether it be expressed as the heureka of the mathematician or the rapt silence of the mystic seer. In God Himself can we doubt that there is a flash of joy in the concrete fulfilment of His idea? And “God saw everything that He had made and, behold, it was very good”. “God,” says Browning, “tastes an infinite joy in infinite ways.” We men scrape on the surface of things and are so enamoured of the few facts which we perceive and co-ordinate and turn to our baser uses, that we are slow to see the profound meanings and the mystery of the common things of experience—things that are all-potent in our lives just to the extent that they are, as feeling, ultimate and inexplicable. What shall we say, for example, of the love of man and woman, which we take as a matter of course, though of such profound significance?

However it may be, this is certain: men will ever turn away from a God who may be compared to a bloodless spider, all set round with eyes, and sitting in the centre of a web contemplating His work with the cold satisfaction of a geometrician—a God who does not love; nor will they find the final resting-place for their thought in the self-same spider weaving a network of dialectic out of a gland which is “being equal nothing”. Feeling and desire are in the initiation of all things finite or infinite. Even Absolute Being can move out of itself under the impulse of desire alone; the Dialectic as Will is merely regulative—an instrument of Desire.

We are told (Baillie's Hegel, pp. 237–38) that “Logic is Religion, that Logic is the self-consciousness of the Absolute Subject in me a finite Ego, and that in Logic I am one with the Absolute”. But even if we take Logic in its largest sense, facts compel us to say that the universe is neither a mathematical formula nor a thought-reticulation any more than it is a fortuitous atomic game. Feeling and emotion and the joy of fulfilment are at the heart of the universal dialectic itself: and the dialectic, we may even say, is simply a process whereby emotion may fulfil itself. God-immanent is thus essentially ethical and æsthetic. Suppose we were to say that God is not only primarily and always Being, but that Feeling is the first moment in His concrete whole, who has a right to gainsay it? Let us grant that the Logic of the world is a self-exposition of the Absolute, is there nothing else in us that is the self-exposition of the Absolute, or has He left all that to some other agency? Is the ecstasy of the mystic, the afflatus of the prophet and the inspiration of the poet outside the main stream of the Eternal Life—a mere backwater?

It is also a false, nay, a base and banal notion of God which sees in Him only a “Somewhat” in whom all oppositions are reconciled, so that we are forced to picture Absolute Being as a stagnant sea or an “absolute experience” preserving a meaningless equilibrium among troublesome and petulant opposites.

Let me again insist: Time and the Finite are not outside God. They are within the Absolute Synthesis. God leads a finite life—a life in Time, and is not solely eternal Being in whom all is rooted and reconciled. We deprecate the anthropomorphism which stops short at a God almighty yet finite: ought we not to be equally on our guard against the abstract conception of a God who is only infinite Being to which the finite is a kind of accident? The finite is within God: it is within the absolute synthesis: it is a moment in the eternal Being. It is not enough to say this: we must realise it to ourselves.

Man himself and his perfection is one of God's problems. He has endowed him with the capacity to return into union with Himself. The strivings of man are God's strivings in and through His creature; and He is ever-present in those ethical emotions, æsthetic joys and mystic raptures which are truly His own, though under finite conditions. And what is a thinking man's religion save his philosophy vitalised by feeling and inspired with emotion?

It seems to me to be true, then, and a doctrine worthy of acceptation, that God is, as immanent in His creation, and supremely in the man-sphere, a God of Emotion and of Love. The sensibilities which bind us to nature, to each other, and to God have their fount and centre in the great God Himself. I say, “bind us to God,” for a pure amor intellectualis Dei, emptied of pathic emotion, does not, and never did, exist in any man.

Do I find love so full in my nature, God's ultimate gift,

That I doubt His own love can compete with it? Here the parts shift?

Here, the creature surpass the Creator,—the end, what Began?

—Browning's Saul.

Being, as reflected into Feeling is at the root and also at the summit of the universal Whole. The “Good,” relatively to a finite conscious subject, has in like manner its root and fruition in Feeling. In so saying, I am quite alive to the fact that I run the risk of resting the first and the last, the beginning and the end, of the absolute synthesis on Feeling, and that this is dangerous ground because of its possible practical issues in the life of man and in ethics. But I have guarded against this: for it is manifest enough from what I have said passim, that The Good is attainable neither by man nor God (immanent and as we know Him) save through a dialectic whose initial moment, as pure activity, is a strenuous Will which, as Will, contains the form of End and, in affirming Truth, ipso facto imposes law. “The Love which moves the Sun and other stars,” to use Dante's words, can achieve its ends only through Law. “All's Love, yet All's Law,” says Browning.

Finite Mind is a determination of Universal Being that feels that which is not itself. Beginning with Pure Feeling as inchoate subject whose object is Unconditioned Being from which it has been just let loose, it evolves, step by step, the potency of receiving and re-flexing the multiform differences into which Absolute Being has broken itself in the evolution of its inner nature, until, at last, it mirrors the vast Whole including the mysterious Power itself which, as Being and Dialectic, animates and sustains the infinite variety. Infinite Mind and Finite Mind would seem to keep step, the one in the unfolding of its inner Being under the stimulus of Desire (or let us say the Absolute Idea), the other in the evolution of that potency of mystic communion which we call Feeling, Sense and Knowledge. Mystic, I say, because, as a communion of being with Being it can only be felt, never named or denned. The ultimate “That” of the universe is forever infinite, One, and mysterious, in the blade of grass as in the Absolute Whole. And yet it is this undefined and undefinable, contained in the thought of Being, that gives to parts and the whole its sole significance and worth to the human spirit.

Assuredly, if the Universal, the Absolute be only Reason, it cannot be that which Man is ever in search of. Feeling, Life, Ideals, Love, are facts too insistent, and too potent in the concrete of our experience, to be interpreted by that which is merely an abstraction from them, though necessary to their truth of fulfilment.

Thus it is that the synthesis of an analysed experience yields to us a God Who, on this plane of His ever-evolving activity, is Feeling and Love as well as Being One and Eternal, Reason-universal and the Sum of Ideals,—a God Whom we can worship as One Who cares for His creatures, Who ever lives in them, and has so ordered as to help them to overcome the inevitable evils of an inadequate world, if they will only take what He offers, and above all take Him.

  • 1.

    But no greater barbarism than is committed by those who cannot think Being as Reality without intruding sense-symbols.