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Meditation XII: On Man

Introduction: The genetic evolution of Ego—The position and function of Man in the Absolute Whole—Free Will—The Supreme Good is the realising of Ego as Spirit—The Supreme Good is a concrete of Formal and Real: The Formal Supreme Good or Virtue—The Real Supreme Good or Harmony—Harmony is not subjective feeling alone—The Truth and Law constitute the Harmony—The finding of the Law of Harmony (a) In the Appetitive Sphere: (b) In the Emotional Sphere: Validity of moral distinctions—Ethical fulfilment—Ethical History.


In order to maintain logical continuity, I must here recall and further elucidate past conclusions.

Man is a monad like any other actual, and this means that, as an individual, he is a synthesis of the idea or affirmation and the negation—which synthesis is in the case of the creature man a self-affirming individual, that is to say, Ego. Let us dwell a little on this the most remarkable and startling fact in all experience.

Man, in so far as he is on the attuent grade, is an individual subject, the individuality being a synthesis of the idea and the negation (as in all else). This sentient subject would now seem to identify with itself, as centre of mind-life, the Dialectic which is already in it and for it as it is in all things. The objective Will-Dialectic is at this point itself individuated and the sentient subject is now a dialectic subject. Subject, so endowed, wills the perception of itself, and subject conscious of subject yields the new fact Ego in the Absolute system. Ego, or “I am,” is more than an individual: it is a person. God, as finite mind has now reached His highest evolution. When a creature thus proclaims itself Ego, it eo actu affirms in its intensest form the negation of the Universal. The Negation is itself now affirmed in the affirmation “I”.1

Thus the Will-dialectic as constituting Ego—lifting conscious subject up into self-consciousness—is the idea or essence of the new evolution.

Negativity in the cosmic system can now go no further; and were it not that it is the very idea—the will-dialectic—that affirms and institutes it, Ego would be a lamentable issue of the Divine process. It is saved just by the fact that the idea or essence (not of man as a concrete merely, but) of the negating individuality of man as Ego, is the will—dialectic itself. Ego has, for its possibility and content, the “form” of Will-dialectic; and, accordingly, if it is to move out of a barren and meaningless unitary isolation at all, it must move as a free will-dialectic supra naturam, and in that “form,” which is its essence, subsume all experience for cognition and conduct.

Accordingly, if Ego is to persist in its own esse, in other words, to fulfil itself in the universe, it can do so (like all other monads) only through the Other or Universal —its positive relations, and not as a bare and hard negation. Now, it is precisely the will-dialectic (or idea) that determines the quantity and quality of those relations and the sweep and significance of them, thereby introducing Ego to ideas, ideals and God, as we have seen. Accordingly Ego, although pure negativity, in seeking its fulfilment, must take to itself the vast Whole of the Divine externalisation, and can find its true life only in the transcending (but not cancelling) of itself in the Absolute. This is to be concrete Ego in its fulness. Ego thus realises itself as Spirit. It allies itself to God who a free Will-dialectic has reflected Himself into the finite particular, and, like Him, it is supreme over all conditions, in so far as finite being can be so.

We may see now why it is inevitable that we should constantly speak of “Ego” as if it were itself Will and Reason-form. Will with its Reason-form, entering the attuent subject, lifts the subject-individual up and constitutes it an Ego in the cosmic system: it is its idea or essence as a determined being.

How then, it may be asked, does pure Ego come into touch with experience? If we consider the evolution of God as finite mind there is no insuperable difficulty in answering this question. From first to last finite mind, we have seen, is subject-object. The Ego is much more than sublimated subject with the Dialectic as its nerve or determining idea. The higher evolution of finite mind contains the lower: it cannot detach itself from the soil out of which it sprang: it holds the lower grades of evolution in it. Consider the genesis of Ego: it is attuent subject in which is generated Will-dialectic whereby it prehends, affirms and contemplates itself. Ego, accordingly, eo actu, sublates as a “given” all the concrete, actual and possible, of the attuent subject and all it contains as connate in its organism—(feeling, desire, impulse, etc.). Ego is “subject” at a higher power—subject in which has become explicit and finitely self-conscious the dialectic of the universe. It is now “subject,” as dialectic activity, subsuming itself and its content—in other words, Ego; but it does not cease to be the reflexive recipient of the Real. In its very birth, I say, subject now in the movement that institutes Ego sublates itself (is self-conscious) and all experience. It is in and through the attuent subject that the functioning of Will-dialectic and the consequent Ego are evolved. Ego is not in the air and cut off from the gradually unfolding One of things. Continuity in difference holds here as everywhere.

Let me recall: In the Determination of Being which we call as a fulfilled “determinate” an individual, the affirmation (idea, essence) contains the positive potencies that relate it to all else and make a cosmic system possible; and accordingly, through the “Other” only can the “individual” fulfil itself as in a system; or to put it otherwise, only by subsuming the idea as the content of its activity. In the lower planes of Being, whether the individual be non-sentient or sentient, this seems to be the fact. The universal Reason in things guarantees all this. In the man-individual or Ego, the method of the divine externalisation is not dislocated. The objective dialectic, reflected into the attuitional subject whereby it is raised to Ego, does not cancel the subject, but carries it into the higher evolution. “Subject,” with all its characteristics as a sentient concrete, becomes Ego or, we may say, is sublated into Ego. But the subject as now Ego has to do for itself and by itself what is accomplished for lower beings in them.

Subject as Ego, accordingly, has now to discriminate and reduce to itself the elements in the attuitional subject and determine the ends of its own activity. Immanent in the Will-dialectic, as “idea” of Man, is the ordering of the positive relations of all lower modes of Being to ends of knowledge and conduct. These lower modes are the “matter” of his moulding activity, the knowing of the dialectic itself being also matter of his activity. Thus Ego fulfils itself in the cosmic Whole.

The Position and Function of Man in the Absolute Whole.

The function of Ego is as free Will-dialectic and in the form of the dialectic, to subsume for cognition and action the real or matter given in the attuent subject out of which it has emerged. The “idea” of man—the will-dialectic, is at once the energy and form whereby the positive relations of the individual Ego are ascertained and determined, and it is thus that the abstract “I am I” becomes a concrete Ego or Personality. It must realise itself in things, thoughts and acts.

In short, the cosmic position and duty of Man are determined by the plane of Being on which he has to play his part—his place in the One-Whole of which he is, here and now, the head and sum, and which finds its full meaning only in and through him. He is a determination of Absolute Being as creative that not only feels and attuites, but also knows; and, like all else, he is further a determinate; but this not as Ego (which is a pure affirmation) but through the sublation of attuent subject: that is to say, Ego, as holding attuent subject and its content, is individuated in “body,” which is at once the vehicle and, as negation, the resistant, of the idea.

Man has a vast and intricate complex to reduce to himself. As a formal Ego, he is barren of real content; but, as he takes possession of experience in all its forms, he becomes an ever fuller personality. Through his positive relations to the world and to his fellowmen, he can alone grow. This is the Real which he subsumes for the completion of himself as a “Person,” i.e., a Personality.

The dialectic is a Will-dialectic. In knowing, man wills; but Will projects itself and, by its necessary nature, must project itself into externalisation. Ego, in establishing its relations to the environment of things and men, is, ipso facto, an ethical Will. In so far as man merely knows in all that concerns conduct, Will is only half-born; and again, in so far as he wills an act save as a “knowing,” energy, his will is falsely so called: it is merely the impulse or conation of unregulated desire—life on a lower plane of evolving mind than he rightfully occupies. His true willing is a free subsumption of idea-forces carried out into their relations, particular and universal.

Man's environment (content of attuent subject) is the environment of nature, of organic impulse and desire, and of social and civic relations in the widest sense. And were he not a Dialectic with all which that contains and prescribes, he would be arrested within these limits; but it is not so. He is compelled to grasp the Whole, and to find the nature and meaning of the Universal within which he is, and which he calls God, thus revealing the significance for life and conduct of the Notion of notions. Until he raises himself to the comprehension of God as immanent in all and source of all, he can find no rest.

Free Will

Man as subjective dialectic must subsume the Real or Given in his own dialectic form, in so far as he is man at all. The merely reflexive and assimilative recipience of the attuent subject is now re-enforced by self-initiated energy. Free Will is just this subject-evolved dialectic. By virtue of this free movement it is that the animal becomes Man, affirms himself, affirms the not-self, and affirms God—Man the

main miracle, that thou are thou

With power on thine own act and on the world.2

His function, accordingly, is to synthesise all experience in terms of the dialectic as a system of ends explained in their mediating ground. This is Scientia; and it includes man himself in all his relations as a self-conscious organism. He has to discover and “will” the mediating ideas that constitute the End or Good for Man as a universal.

The attuent (animal) mind is immediate. In reaction to inner or outer stimulus it proceeds from the particular to the particular in the satisfaction of impulse or desire. This movement towards identification of subject with object is Orection or Conation, I have previously said, not Will. On the higher plane, Mind as Will-dialectic projects ends and the mediating ground and possibility of ends. And it must be so wherever there is man, however rudimentary his experience either as savage or child. If his willing is not mediated, it is not willing, but merely the movement of desire as in the attuent or animal subject.

Thus a man in so far as he is a Will-dialectic always mediates and must mediate his acts. Knowledge, or presumed knowledge, is always the ground of Willing. “Willing” or Volition (velleitas) is merely the affirmation of the truth continuing itself into externalisation.

The Supreme Good is the realising of Ego as Spirit.

As in the case of all actuals, the sole Good for man is his concrete completion—the full realising of his specific nature—his “idea” in the matter or real of his experience. The difference between man and other actuals is that, just because he is a self-initiating dialectic, the fulfilment of the idea, which is accomplished “in and for” all other existents, is thrown on himself. He has to organise himself as a completed concrete. It is a hard task. It is non-consciously pursued from age to age under the teaching of events. Thus arise custom-convictions, habits and laws, till he reaches the reflective stage and begins to contemplate himself as object of knowledge. The complex subject—the “Notion” of man, as such—thereupon comes within the sweep of the dialectic like all else, and has to be analysed in terms of the dialectic with a view to a true concrete synthesis.

The supreme Good or concrete completion for man is the realising himself as Spirit, that is to say, as Ego freely subsuming and controlling its conditions with a view to knowledge and conduct. “Spirit” is more than personality or concrete Ego, for it is Ego having fulfilled itself in the concrete of experience—an achievement impossible on this plane of Being. It is immanent in the dialectic movement.

Man's way of mediating himself as spirit contains (like all else) a formal and a real element.


(a) The Formal Good, or Virtue.

The various and complex content of the attuent subject being subsumed, Will-reason seeks in the “subject-object” precisely what it seeks in the external world, viz., End as mediated through processes or subordinate ends.

The End of any actual, I have said, is its perfectly concreted idea, its fulness of being; in other words, the ideal, which is a “one in many”—a harmony. This is the supreme Good for the lowest as for the highest existent. Spirit—the ideal of man—is a concrete in which the Formal determines the harmony of the Real.

The subordinate ends which go to the harmonious complex in man are the “ideas” of the conflicting connate desires and emotions. The place to be assigned to these as motive-forces must evidently be determined by the End or Ideal of Man; and it always is so determined whether a man knows it or not. In this Ideal as affirmed by the dialectic resides the Law in the sense of the categorical imperative, “Thou shalt”.

There is nothing, accordingly, exceptional in the procedure whereby man as an “actual” seeks to know himself with a view to determining his true life, except this, that he has by himself to find the End or Ideal or Harmony for himself. So long as Will-dialectic is supreme and affirms and effects ends in subordination to the Supreme End—the ideal, which is harmony, man is formally virtuous; even though he be mistaken as to the true content of the End. The fact of the dominance of the Will-dialectic over the impulses in the attuent subject guarantees this formal virtue. The “I” as containing Will-dialectic (its constitutive idea) is supreme and that is enough. This is Formal Virtue, the formal “supreme Good” for man.

Essence or idea of a complex (which we find given in and with things) is, we have seen, that whereby it is what it is, and, as such determines the positive relations of the complex to its own fulfilment and to all else—through which “else” it fulfils itself, and eo actu does its part in effecting the coherent unity of the cosmic Whole. Now these words apply to man as to every other complex existent. And so far as Formal Virtue is concerned there is nothing more to be said. The plane of Being which man occupies settles this question; and his formal function, accordingly, is to mould himself into a complete mastery over all the materials of his experience, inner and outer. This is the supreme Good for him; and when he has attained this he is Spirit. The difficulty lies in ascertaining the true content of the formal—the “Real Good”.

Let me emphasise by repetition the above doctrine, for it is of great significance when we come to speak of Evil.

The Will-dialectic has raised the subject-individual to Ego, and the Ego as containing the Will-dialectic, whereby it is instituted as an individual, has actively and freely to subsume the matter of the attuitional subject as a reasoned system for knowledge and conduct: it has to lose itself in the Other that it may find itself; and finally it has to contemplate itself in all experience. The “positive relations” of the Ego may be briefly summed up in three expressions: Self-control, Love of God, and Love of Man. Thus the Ego, from being an abstract individuum, builds itself up as a concrete personality; from being a barren negation, it, by negating itself, becomes a rich and fruitful actuality. It is on the way to be Spirit.

The End of Man—the Supreme Good, is thus the realising for himself the “I am I” of spirit as dominating all natural conditions. Manifestly it is only through pain, strife and struggle, through error and failures, that “spirit” can be constituted. It is alone through contact and contest with the manifold concrete that spirit can mould itself and make itself an actuality within the Absolute, and thereby fulfil its divinely appointed destiny.

The divine purpose on the man-plane of Being would seem to be the creation of “spirits,” and there seems to be no way of doing it save the way we see; for “spirit” is not a bare Ego, but an Ego which has made good its right to the designation “spirit,” by the free subsuming and subduing of nature in all its forms—the whole realm of the Given.

God meanwhile is immanent in each man as the ideal of Man;3 and the ideal of Man is that he shall be “spirit”.

(b) The Real Supreme Good or Harmony.

Man has to build up himself and propound his own good; and he does so “formally” when he maintains the supremacy of the higher plane of mind over the lower. But, in all experience, the formal and the real are a one concrete. The real is here pathic Feeling,4 and the problem is to find a real of content which shall, like the formal Good, be objective and universal, and serve as the ethical criterion.

Now, just as the Good for each “actual” is the idea in its concrete completion—the harmony of the many of parts in the dominancy of the one of idea; so with Man. This is the ideal; and the ideal is in the perfected Harmony. The method of the universe is One.

The concreted harmony or ideal of a thing is not to be attained by an aggregation of its elements, each having the same value assigned to it. The Dialectic forbids this: all elements are to be subordinated to the End and also one to another in a hierarchy, if the End or Good which is Harmony is to be attained. Moral elements are to be valued not merely counted.

Here is presented to man the practical ethical problem. He has to analyse himself—to find the elements and to appraise them, assigning to each its due place in the concrete whole of his own completed personality. He has to regulate and determine the nature and relative place of each class of desires and emotions that conflict in him and seek each its own satisfaction; and to do this in subordination to the End, which is Harmony. We do not search for any one dominating feeling or idea which shall determine all morality; but for Harmony which shall, as harmony, be Objective Law in the Real.

Man is here in the sphere of Feeling; and there is no way of appraising the relative worth of Feeling-motives or ideas save by Feeling. These insist on finding their fulfilment in willing. We are sometimes told that the quality of a motive is to be judged by its consequences as affecting the agent himself, or other men. This seems to me to be a tautology; for if the motive-feeling of Goodwill, for example, produced its opposite in its effects, it would return to the agent as ill-will. A motive idea holds its consequences in its notion. Neither thought, nor feeling as idea prompting to willing, is more than half-born till it is uttered in word or deed. It is by action that the moral idea which is a motive-force mediates, for the self-conscious subject, its own actuality as a concrete: if it finds itself mediated it is satisfied; if not, there has been obstacle or error somewhere: that is all. It is only, in fact, when motive-ideas are fully born as activities that we have the “notions” of each in their totality before us, and can assign to them their character and place in a complex whole of conflicting elements.

The difficulties that surround moral questions for persons and states are accordingly great, because of the infinite complexity of the relations of men. And it becomes all the more necessary to press home the formal element in the Good, which is always the same—the Will-dialectic as Ego. Subjective feeling, simply as feeling, does not determine morality. It is the Dialectic that does so; and the Moral Law is objective. The formal dialectic as Ego, I have said, is not in the air and separated from reality. In physical investigation we seek for the Law in the Real: that is to say, the processes whereby the thing before us is effected and sustained in its synthetic completeness as an existent; in other words mediates its own fulfilment or ideal. Nothing that physical science can say would be worth anything were it not already there in the real. All natural law as ascertained by man, and even all philosophical explanation of social and political history, is of value only in so far as it is declaratory. That which finite reason proclaims is there already implicit or immanent. So, the moment finite mind has evolved the potency of contemplating itself as object, it comes within the sweep of dialectic interpretation like any other object, and there is no change of method. It seeks the Law in the “real” of the feeling subject.

Apart from the formal process, the Real in mind is a complex of feelings which we call Appetite, Desire, Emotion, etc. The dialectic discriminates the nature and end of each element of activity in its fulfilment, and the processes or conditions whereby the supreme End or The Good is mediated. Our remarks on the “functioning” of the moments of the Dialectic show that the synthetic knowledge of an object must rest on or arise out of the analysis of its parts. The completed synthesis of an existent is the concrete completion of the “idea” (that is at once essence and end); but the idea mediates its own completion or ideal in and through the many as its “matter”. And, accordingly, just as Formal Good is in the supremacy of the free Will-dialectic, so the Real Good is to be found in the ideal of the complex whole; which is Harmony.

Whether we speak of a plant, an animal, or a man, the Good and the Ideal are terms which are almost identical. And if we choose to assume that the full possession of itself by anything is joyous, the term “fruition” may also be used. (It is desirable to avoid the word Happiness which has too many subjective and particular connotations, unless we take care to use it in the sense of “fruition”.) The word Harmony may be applied either to the achieved state of a thing or to the mediating process.

(c) Harmony not Subjective Feeling alone.

Feeling has mass or quantity, quality, degree, relation. Unpurposed fortuitous coherences of feelings may yield pleasure, but not the consciousness that there is an attained harmony or ideal. A passing pleasure is not harmony; nor yet a series of passing pleasures; and yet these, if sub-consciously felt not to conflict with harmony or the ideal, are justified by the ethical standard.

The Will-dialectic must hold all the parts together (and the parts are motive-ideas) in their specific characters and their relations to all other parts, if there is to be the possibility of a feeling of Harmony—of End attained in and through parts. Each part, that is to say, each feeling-idea has its own character, quantity, quality or tone (pathic), etc., and each, as it succeeds others, is of equal subjective value as motive to action, if wholly isolated. It is the Will-dialectic that discriminates each and assigns to each its place in view of the End—the Ideal or Harmony—the “Real” Good. It is Reason that prescribes the Rule or Law, by prescribing wherein the harmony consists.

It is the Dialectic alone that can generate ideals. The fact, that the matter of the dialectic activity is the sphere of Feeling, obscures this truth, and leads sometimes to the reduction of Ethics to Feeling. This is to give a merely subjective and fluctuating value to the ethical; as we see it have in children.

Now the objectivity of Ethics is in the Law, and this is the categorical imperative of Reason in and for Feeling. The resultant feeling of Harmony is not a feeling of an aggregate of feelings, but a feeling of the ascertained harmony of feeling as governed by the end: this is a prescribed Harmony. The Good or Ideal is achieved Harmony. In other words, it is a feeling of the truth of relations as ascertained and prescribed by Reason in the realm of Feeling. The “law” of a thing is in the ascertained “truth” of a thing and its relations, whether the thing be the planetary system, a plant, or the mind of man. The feeling of Harmony, then, is a feeling of the joy of reason in truth and law; but inasmuch as it is truth and law in the content of feeling, there is a mutual penetration of the feeling of Reason-Law and the feeling of Feeling: this constitutes a concrete of Form and Matter—the Formal and the Real. The Formal and the Real moments are one in Ethics as in the synthesis of the universe of things; but they are not to be confounded any more than they are to be separated.

Thus by taking self-conscious “subject” as object of investigation—the attuent or empirical subject being sublated into the Ego—we find the objective truth and law for man as a system of relations governed by End, which is Harmony. As Will-reason he is not, when prescribing for the realm of Feeling, in pursuit of Happiness any more than when he seeks to understand a plant. He is in pursuit of law as guaranteed by reason-ascertained Harmony. The truth of a plant is the fulfilled harmony of it as mediated by certain conditions and processes determined by its idea or essence—these mediating processes being the law of its fulfilment. In the truth is the Law. So when the object to man is Man himself, he finds his way gradually to the mediating conditions of the fulfilled harmony of a highly complex mind-organism. Very gradually; for he has his relations not only to his own organism but to his fellowmen and to the State. The ethical ideal has a long history. A being occupying a plane of mind higher than that of man might see these mediating processes which fulfilled themselves in the perfected synthesis of the plant or the man all at work, and “science” of the physical or ethical would be completed for such a being at one glance; but man's position relatively to the complex universe and to himself is very different indeed.

Self-activity in the projecting and pursuit of ends in service of the Supreme Good, formal and real, being of the essence of man as Will-reason, there must exist, as a condition of self-fulfilment, Negation in the form of contraries and opposites, viz., vis inertiæ, obstruction, antagonism, error. Without these, Man could not be moulded as a Will or Ego supra naturam; and if they did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them. Without evil, how could there be good in the real sphere; without difficulties and antagonisms, how could there be moulded a virile all-controlling Will-personality? These obstructions and negations are enslaving and chaotic relatively to the true life and purpose of a human being—in brief, they are evil (so-called) to be transmuted into good by man, just as they are transmuted into good in all existences. Man is not an exception to the Method of the Universe. He is hedged round by oppositions and limitations, and his business is to overpass his limitations and to reduce the oppositions to himself—his ideal; so that he, as Will-reason, may be supreme, and that the “Real” Good may be thus achieved. In truth we may say, that it is only in so far as he self-consciously strives that man, apart from his natural body and sensational life, is distinctively man. In the rational sphere he has difficulties of interpretation; in the physical he has to encounter pain; in the emotional, sorrow; and in the ethical, the continual drag of temptation and the consciousness of the unattainability of ideals; but in all these spheres, obstacles are his opportunity. It is absurd to quarrel with our cosmic position; we have to understand it and set about our business as beings that find ourselves entrusted with our own fulfilment. Even at three-score and ten the chaos into which man has been thrown is only partially reduced by him. He is just beginning to know, and, above all, to know how to live, when he disappears unconsulted, as at first he, unconsulted, emerged on the scene. Such is Man.

The irresistible impulse in the Will-dialectic of man is, accordingly, a search for the ideal in his complex organism—a reason-ideal which is simply the truth of fact and relations, and, as such, the Law in and of these relations. And, inasmuch as he has to do with the parts of a complex, his guide is the harmony of the parts. The Dialectic prescribing End or the Ideal for a complex prescribes it as mediated through the harmony of parts, just as the Objective Dialectic effects it in the grass of the field; and harmony is at once the Ideal, the Law and the criterion of Law. Until a man finds this harmony or law for himself, he carries about with him moral contradictions which cause a continual unrest. These contradictions press so heavily that, in political society, we see that what are called “reforms” are constantly being projected, and revolutions sometimes enacted.

External experience, including the “consequences” of volitions, merely reveals whether the subjective motive is realised. It is the subjective joy in the benevolent motive that determines the benevolent act (that intensification of Being which Spinoza calls Lætitia), and it is the failure of the act to realise good in others that gives rise to the pain of frustrated motive (Tristitia). The good effects further confirm the subjective motive by associations various and complex, which I may pass by.

Has Man yet found the Real-ideal—the Harmony which he has been in search of these thousands of years? For myself, I think that so far as the large motive-forces of our finite relations and the supreme end of union with God are concerned, Jesus Christ has proclaimed the Ideal, and Paul and John have enforced it; and, in doing so, they have confirmed the best in Zoroaster and Moses and the Hebrew prophets—not to mention Plato and many others. But neither as guide to daily conduct nor in its application to social well-being is it comprehended by any man: “The darkness comprehended it not”. We are still groping our way to the realisation of that ideal as a system of ethical thought; and, when we have attained to that, we shall yet be very far from translating it into our personal relations and our national and international obligations.


(a) In the Appetitive Sphere.

The ultimate aim of man's activity is himself as a harmonious or ideal organism, as we have seen, and he has to do the work for himself. He can project ends or ideas which are to motivate all his acts or willings. If he had a clear and distinct concrete ideal supernaturally given to him to start with, he would have no difficulty in appreciating all the various motive-ideas that he might form, and in assigning to each its specific worth. But even such an ideal would remain remote and the object of a weak and vacillating faith, until it had been reconstructed by Man himself on scientific foundations which compelled its acceptance as demonstrated truth. Step by step he has to work towards the ethical conception through particular ideas (which we call moral ideas, sentiments, virtues), and his moral history is long and painful. Only one fixed guide he has, viz., that all he is and does shall be in terms of Will-reason—the idea or essence of his complex organic whole; and therefore, regulative and supreme.

But how in the realm of Feeling can he affirm that this is better and that is worse? Only by feeling. The valuation of motives in the sphere of feeling must be in pari materia. For example, in so far as man is merely an organism, the quantitative in pleasures and pains is determined by reason, and yields the rational idea, Temperance. This, then, is the reason-prescribed Law of his empirical self; and there is a specific and sovereign feeling here, for the quantitative as determined by reason shares in the higher qualitative emotion inherent in reason itself. No feeling, no desire, is extinguished by the law, but all are co-ordinated and subordinated to the rule of reason. It is thus only that they can live permanently in peace with each other and yield a harmonious activity. This may be called justice in and for the physical organism with its clamant and contesting elements. The question is not as to what any man individually feels or thinks, but as to what man as man is. This is the Objective basis. He finds in the prescription of reason, as it pronounces on feelings, a Law which is imperative and absolute. Law is in the reason-ideal; and nowhere else.

We are here keeping within the restricted range of the morality of the man-organism in order to illustrate our position by taking the simplest case. The rational, and therefore moral and controlling, idea which we designate by the word “Temperance,” is merely a single expression for reason as dominating and regulating; its objective result is subjective harmony within the appetitive sphere; and harmony is the fruition of the raw material of self-asserting desires as now a reason-constituted organism. This is the Real side of the reason-idea Temperance, viz., organic harmony; and organic harmony is, in relation to the elements it harmonises, justice. Justice, accordingly, determining the conflicting elements of feeling, is alone fruition. This harmony or justice is the Law in our members—the categorical imperative—God-given in and through reason.

Temperance, Harmony, Justice, are in no one feeling, nor in all of them together; they are not immediate presentations. We call them “ideas,” because they are universal of reason. They are reason-constituted entities: they express the Truth of elements in their relations.

There would appear, now, to be a circle: Law alone yields happiness (or fruition), but happiness would seem to be the cue to law—the content of the Dialectic in the crisis of its perception and affirmation of law. But I began my search—for what? Not for happiness or fruition, but for the Ideal and its contained Law: I could not help myself, for I am a subjective dialectic; and the guarantee of my having found the Law is a feeling of harmony or justice generated by and in Reason. The formal and the real are now in an identity, as they are in all nature and all knowledge. Law in sensibility, sensibility in law. Manifestly it is not a merely subjective feeling of harmony that dominates but the Law of harmony as reason-ascertained and reason-given, and yielding the joy of reason in the realisation of its own free activity. Fruition is thus found to be only in and through Law—the imperative of reason which is obligatory and supreme. The search for law is ended: I, as a will-reason necessarily seeking truth and law in all experience, have now found Law—which is the truth and the ultimate for which I began to search. In Law as a universal, my passions and self-seekings have now found their master; and whatever particular pleasures I may contemplate, these I yield to or inhibit according to regulative law—inhibit them though the immediate result is pain; nay, must always be pain—the pain of baulked desire, if nothing else. In short, not only appetite and desire, but even the higher emotions, are immediate and therefore evil, save in so far as their activity as motive is mediated through Law.

There is nothing peculiar in the above method of ascertaining the truth of man as an organism of motive-energies. An idea of reason regulative of a complex is (as we have frequently seen) the idea or the truth of relations, and Law resides in the idea or truth of relations, not only when the subject-matter of our search for idea and law is Man; but in all things inorganic and organic. It is Law, as in the idea of each and all, that man as an active dialectic is always in search of. The growth of a plant is seen to have its categorical imperative as well as men and angels: its fruition is mediated after a certain way and no other. We have to investigate man as we investigate any other organism. The idea or essence that determines the positive relations of the non-conscious individuum as a concrete has, wherever there is organism, a non-conscious activity of election and rejection. But in man, this election and rejection are consciously made with a view to a self-constituted ideal or harmony of existence, after the worth of that to be elected or rejected has been consciously weighed and appraised.

Temperance is the word which designates the Harmony of the appetitive; and if more than Temperance, e.g., repression or asceticism or self-sacrifice in any form, is demanded of us, it must be for reasons outside the economy of the individual as a merely appetitive organism.

The Law of Temperance or Justice, then, is the Law of Reason imposed on Desire, and the law extends to all the instinctive impulses and feelings that are within the circle of a man's sentient nature, such as fear and courage, hope and despair, joy and sorrow, where we usually substitute the word Self-control for Temperance.

It would appear, then, that all vice, as involving the abrogation of reason, is a falling into the lower attuitional grade of being where man is a slave to the particular and the immediate pleasure of the moment, and unmans himself in the act of denying the universality of Law.

(b) Law in the Emotional.

And if we regard the emotions, rational and non-rational, that distinguish themselves from organic desires and prompt to action, the mode of ascertaining the truth of relations must, it appears to me, be the same. The non-rational, such as the altruistic emotions (which may be generalised as the Love of others and the Love of the love of others), resting on instinctive sympathy of man with man and making Society and political organisations possible, extend the individuality of man so as to embrace the life of his fellow-men as necessary to his own fulfilment.

So potent and all-pervading are the altruistic emotions that they have again and again been taken as containing the sum of all morality. The criterion of the moral, it has been maintained, is the Happiness of mankind. The moral criterion has thus been rashly transferred from the agent to the judgment which all other men form of what will promote their own happiness.

Now first of all, it is manifest that the happiness of others can have no interest to any being, and can exercise no motive force in any being, except in so far as that being finds happiness, i.e., fulness of being for himself in the happiness of others. It is the self-sprung altruistic emotions that seek satisfaction; and they, as a matter of fact, can mediate their satisfaction only through the good of others. The moral criterion thus at once returns to the individual agent and is found in the activity and satisfaction of his altruistic emotions—that is to say, his own happiness as mediated through the happiness of others. But, secondly, it is law we seek and the felicity of the agent cannot give the law: it merely tells us where we are to look for the appraising of motive-forces with a view to the ascertainment of law. Thirdly, it is scarcely necessary to point out that the “Happiness of others” can be no criterion; for the altruistic act may be welcomed by an applauding populace (Panem et Circenses) as promotive of a happiness which is truly hurtful to them as men. It would be, accordingly, immoral to act so as to secure the happiness of mankind as men might measure their own happiness. My duty is to promote what ought to be the happiness of all men, in other words, The Good, viz., the dominancy of moral law in them and the fulfilment of the ethical ideal of Man in each man. In the pursuit of this exalted aim, I may often have to make many men unhappy, and myself among them. The happiness of the occupants of the prisons of Europe would be to be set free to prey on society. Manifestly then, there is an ideal and “ought” in a civil community which involves the misery of many, just as there is an “ought” in my organism which almost always involves the pain of effort and suppression. Where am I to find this ideal and “ought” save in the nature and end of man as man? Even the golden rule is untrue. It ought to run, “Do unto others as they ought to do unto you”. It is not the feeling or desire of the recipient, then, any more than the feeling of the agent that must determine the altruistic act. The act, if it be moral, must be determined by the fact that it promotes the true life—what ought to be the happiness—of my fellow-men—the Supreme Good. And this ideal, I can ascertain only by studying the creature Man, and ascertaining his true nature and purpose as a rational and ethical being cast into a difficult natural and social environment.

Thus, even when we hastily adopt a specious altruism as a criterion of personal conduct or of State action, we are driven back to the study of man-universal, in order that we may find out the rational and ethical meaning of each of our fellow-men—in other words, the “ought” of Man, if we are to act so as to promote this; and we are bound so to act, even although it involve pain both to ourselves and others. The “ought” is the ideal as law, which, however it may fluctuate at different periods of human history, is always the moral standard of judgment.

In fact, we seek for a standard or criterion of our altruistic emotions themselves. This alone can provide real content for the formal self-directing reason and yield objective law. But while neither the happiness of agent nor of recipient can yield objective law, we are not wrong in saying that the happiness or fruition (in the sense of fulfilment) of “Man” is the criterion, if I write Man with a capital initial. For, when I write man with a capital initial, it is evident that I have passed from the subjectivity of the individual to the Objective Law of the being Man. In other words, I have passed from the particular to the universal, from the domain of subjective feeling to the domain of law. I begin, whether I will or not, to speak of the moral conditions of fruition for “Man,” and, therefore, for each man. The mediation of fruition or happiness for Man is through Law and the identification of his Will with the Ought. And how can I find the Ought save by the reflective analysis of myself and the observation of other men now and in the past? This “ought,” I have said, resides in the ideal or truth of each thing as a harmonious existence, be it a blade of grass or a man. The whole system of things is teleological. And man as a Will-reason is always in search of law—the law in things and the law which he is left to institute in himself, for himself, by himself. The end of the activity of Reason is always Law; and Law is in the Ideal. Or, to put it otherwise; the ideal (perfected concrete idea) is the Truth of man, and the Law is inherent in the Truth; just as the law of a plant is inherent in the truth of the process whereby it lives: which process, again, as completed in the concrete whole is its ideal and its fruition and felicity.

By what test, then, can I identify the ideal in the sphere of emotion? By the same test which yielded me the morality of appetitive desire, viz., the reason-perception of the harmony of a complex which issues in the subjective feeling of harmony. And this harmony is not a mere equilibrium of “feeling-ideas,” but the prescription of reason. Reason and Feeling—the formal and real, play into each other and help me to my conclusion.

Man's Feeling-characteristics we may generalise under four categories—the appetitive desires (the regulative law of which we have already found); the altruistic emotions; the æsthetic, and the rational. I say the rational, for, as I have more than once insisted in the past, there is an emotion of reason arising out of its own activity, and conspicuous above all in the results of that activity, viz., knowledge or truth.

Now, it is feelings as motive-forces we are dealing with; and the question at once meets us, Are these feelings of equal worth? Assuredly not. They differ qualitatively and quantitatively and also under the categories of degree and relation; and the inner harmony or ideal we are in search of is, accordingly, not an arithmetical, but a geometrical, justice. Accordingly, while always preserving the supremacy of the Formal (will-dialectic) in search of the law of my being and as regulative of all action and source of the imperative, I must ascertain through Feeling the relative worth of emotions, if I am to determine those which are rightfully dominant. The highest “quality” belongs to the emotion in that which is already formally supreme—the emotion of Reason; the æsthetic and altruistic may be said to stand qualitatively on an equality, and appetitive desire is the lowest of all, though, for the moment, more intense and more massive. And we further find that the altruistic as resting on sympathy with my kind has, as a matter of fact, more body than the æsthetic, and is quantitatively enormously greater under the categories of degree and relation; it is, in fact, the Human Universal.

While, then, it is reason that discriminates and compares elements with a view to ends and so finds the harmony of the complex (which is the law), it can only do so by taking its cue from the matter with which it is dealing—particular feelings under the categories of Quantity, Quality, Relation and Degree. Reason thus seeks and finds the law in the “given” of feeling, just as it seeks and finds the law for man's body in the “given” of flesh and blood and nerve. And the moment it has found the harmony, the emotion of pure Reason in the perception of truth rushes in to support and confirm the emotion which is generated in the reason-feeling of harmony. I say reason—feeling, because the feeling as harmony is generated by and in reason. Reason and Feeling, the formal and real, are now in identity.

Thus the Law for Man is the law that is inherent in the harmony of the whole nature, which also is the Ideal for man—his perfection as a mind and body organism; and he can attain to this only in the course of the ages. That is manifest; and it is also manifest that relative values must change with a changing civilisation.

It will be now seen why I guarded myself by saying that “Temperance” was supreme law within the circle of the appetitive desires alone. For these are not alone: they are only an element in the total “Notion” of man, and must be assigned their proper place and no more. Asceticism, for example, would be justified, could it be shown that mere temperance was inconsistent with the free activity of the higher emotions; still more, if inconsistent with an ascertained ideal. The higher plane of mind must always govern the lower, not cancelling, but sublating it. Again, if I am a member of a civil society, mere personal Temperance will not exhaust my obligations. The human universal governs.

It may be said that we imperil both the moral and the spiritual which, by the consent of all the wise, can alone complete and glorify man's existence, by resting them on the uncertain result of man's feeling-experience and thought. It is God, however, that has, as a matter of fact, done so. Ethics and religion have a history, just as astronomy and hygiene have. It is a mighty task which has been deputed to men. Are we to shrink from it, and, sacrificing free reason, pray that we and all our thoughts and desires and volitions and acts shall be necessary modes of God's necessary nature? Were it so, then the “Real” with all its confusions and contradictions and failures and pains would be the ethical; and The Absolute would be a bad Absolute.

We end, then, as we began. The function of man as a Will-dialectic is to search for Law. This is a search for the processes that mediate the ideal fulfilment of all things, and which is consequently the law in them. So, in the case of man, it is a search for the reason-ideal in his complex organism—a reason-ideal which is the Truth of fact and relations; and, as such, the law in and of these relations—the mediating conditions of the ideal. In all his striving and activity, accordingly, man does not, as a matter of psychological fact, seek happiness. To say so, is to mistake his essential nature. Our analysis of reason shows that what man as man is ever seeking is the law of his being as a complex whole, which law is its fruition. We further see him necessarily, as a dialectic, striving after the ideal in which the law resides, and this ideal is The Good. He finds the Law, the Ideal, the Good, when he finds the harmony of his total nature. In this fruition the Formal Law and the Real Good coalesce. Mere “happiness,” moreover, is as a matter of fact for ever unattainable by man; and it would be well if he gave up the expectation at once. No thinking man ever spent one wholly happy hour.

The Ethics of Man, then, consists in the actualisation of the Idea (subjective will-dialectic) in the complex total of his being which I have called the “Notion” of man; and this actualisation is the Ideal, Harmony—The Good (formal and real). The actualised idea is the end of each created thing, and there is a kind of quasi-ethics, as I have indicated, even for the atom and the plant. The method of the universe is One. The end, the actualised idea, the ideal, are all, in fact, names for “The Good”. In so far as any creature is diverted from The Good, or falls short of The Good, it is immoral or evil. In the case of man, the ultimate aim is the raising of the Ego to pure concrete “spirit”—a purpose immanent in the divine externalisation from the beginning. It is thus only by a teleological criterion that we can pronounce on the goodness or evil of any thing or any act. In man, who can discern ends and project them and construct the thought of “The Good,” the evil in him consists in permitting any desire or emotion to effect itself which is not guaranteed or permitted by the law imposed by Will-reason in him; but neither the Ideal nor the Law can be independent of historical conditions. By the approval of “Conscience” in any particular case is meant the consciousness that the Willing is in accord with both the formal and real in the ethical act: i.e., the formal of self-determination (virtue, strictly speaking), and the real of the Good or Ideal, which is Law.

The Good is a positive; Evil is negation of The Good: it is a privation, an ignorance, or a falling away. And yet there would be no Good were it not for Evil. This subserves that. Thus it is that God-creative mediates His Ends on this our plane of Being; and that in all things.

And yet the distinction between Good and Evil is as real and absolute as is the fact of a teleological world, or of man himself. Good and Evil are the realities of the Absolute in His externalisation. The Absolute, we have seen, comprehends within itself its own finitude, lives as immanent in its finitude; and moral and physical law are alike valid and veritable distinctions and oppositions within that divine finitude. I know no “Absolute,” except the “Absolute” of the Man-plane. God is immanent in the idea; and that idea as individuated finds predicates of its own truth or falsehood of being, which are, in so far as clear and distinct, God's predicates. Distinctions, physical and moral, are not “relative” as within this system of ours, but absolute; it is the system itself that is relative to (as being an evolutionary stage of) the infinite process and totality of Absolute Being. What The Absolute may be in its totality of beginning and end I cannot “know”. That the absolute synthesis contains “Being-absolute” as the implicit of the Whole I know; and that is all. But of the God of this world—God as immanent in the finite series—I know, or can know, much; for His laws are His way of working in the moral, as in the natural, sphere of the divine immanence and operation. The externalisation, as we found, is not a helpless emanation out of Absolute Being unconscious and ignorant of itself: our Epistemology compels us, on the contrary, to interpret it as a willed or created system, which also, and therefore, contains God Absolute as Being-dialectic; and, therefore, as a God of Purpose.

Let the heavens, then, try to evade the distinctions and determinations which we call the physical order, and chaos will come again: so, let man try to evade the spiritual order, and the chaos of each individual spirit will be a brief prelude to the wreck of humanity. These things, I repeat, are the truth of the Absolute as manifested—its revelation of its essential nature as finite. That the contemplation of them by finite mind brings contradictions, that is to say, yields relations within this our circle of The Absolute which we, as finite, cannot reduce to a conciliation, is simply to say that we are finite. The world we have is, when understood, just as true and veritably valid in The Absolute as self-conscious mind itself is, and the stars above. Any other view is a crude Dualism. The ideals and “ought” of man are as much immanent God as the mathematics of nature. A definition of what those ideals and the supreme ideal, Harmony, are must rest on the nature of Man and the instructions of a long experience, as together revealing the position he occupies in the cosmic scheme.

Note.—See Appendix, Note 9.


As a knower, man grasps particulars in and through the universal, detects the universal in the particular, and, finally, seeing all things in God and God in all things, he unites himself with God and has rest. “God alone,” says St. Thomas, “can fill the heart of man.” The highest function of the mind of man is to know God; with all his getting, he must get God. Without this, he stands outside the majestic movement of the universe; he is an alien in the system to which he belongs. He is a creature of Time, not of Eternity. The externalisation is spread out before him; and when he beholds therein Absolute Being as Reason, sum of Ideals, Law and Love in Law, he finds repose. It is man's prerogative, indeed, to proclaim this vision and to utter forth its praise. George Herbert puts this excellently:—

Of all the creatures both in sea and land

Only to man Thou has made known Thy ways,

And put the pen alone into his hand

And made him Secretary of Thy praise.

Beasts fain would sing; birds dittie to their notes;

Trees would be tuning on their native lute

To Thy renown: but all their hands and throats

Are brought to man, while they are lame and mute.

Man is the world's high priest: he doth present

The sacrifice for all; while they below

Unto the service mutter an assent,

Such as springs use that fall and winds that blow.

He that to praise and laud Thee doth refrain,

Doth not refrain unto himself alone

But robs a thousand who would praise Thee fain:

And doth commit a world of sin in one.

But this adoring contemplation of the Infinite Spirit by the finite—the last enterprise of reason, is itself for use. The terminus of life, while we live, is not contemplation and worship; nor the quiescence of mystic feeling; nor knowledge; but life itself: and life is harmonious activity. So true is this that repose, except after fatigue, soon leads to ennui and misery, and even the mystic contemplation of The Absolute becomes empty and barren. The attempt to live in such circumstances is like the effort to sustain bodily existence in a vacuum. The Will wills ceaseless activity. Man lives not merely in the activity of thought and affirmation, but by externalising affirmations in his relation to all other things and persons. This is “willing” as distinguished from Will. Like God, the finite Ego must become immanent in the particular. It must take its cue from God its prototype. The subjective-dialectic is, as Will, instinct with the form of End, ever seeking to carry itself beyond the affirmation of the idea or truth into the external expression of that idea in life and conduct. The inner must outer itself, if it is truly to live; just as God does. And it is precisely because an ethical idea is always charged with motive-force that the emotion itself is only half-born till it passes into action: “The expression or action is the feeling at a higher power,” says Nettleship (i., 82). It is the fulfilled content of the Feeling-idea.

Thus it is that the Will-dialectic ever seeks for and prescribes the supreme End, and also the particular ends, of activity: it seeks to effect itself in relation to things and persons; but it is not left to fight the unequal battle as pure cold Will: the emotion of and in reason and the ideals of reason impels to activity in words and deeds. Feeling permeates all; and in each and every ethical idea there is a non-rational element of feeling and emotion that impels and sustains. In feeling we have the driving force, the ethical dynamic. Thus the ethical act is always highly complex in its mediating ground; and in it the whole man is expressed.

It would appear, then, that ethical self-fulfilment is, as I previously said, a virile process, and that the ultimate for Man on this plane is not identity with “The Absolute” or with Absolute Being, but identity of finite spirit with infinite Spirit—that is to say, with Absolute Being as creative, concrete and immanent. And yet I do not need to recall that just because the Infinite is in the Dialectic as knowing and as generator of ideals, a being on the man-plane of Being cannot fulfil himself on that plane. The ultimate of possibility for man, here and now, is not the realisation of himself as “spirit” in a harmony of the formal and real, but striving after that realisation. In striving consists the supreme virtue of a man. The blessedness of exalted community with the One-All has to be bought with a price.


Man has a long history before he attains to a consciousness of his place in the divine system, and of the full obligations of true manhood. As little more than an attuitional animal to begin with, his function is to conserve and propagate his life by adapting himself as best he can to his environment. It is a protracted struggle through the ages painful to contemplate. Man's sensitive organism and unprotected nakedness would leave him a prey to other animals and to the cruel pressure of nature, did not reason furnish him with tools for warfare and production, and gradually suggest devices for ameliorating his miserable lot. Thus, in his earlier stages of historical evolution, reason is inevitably utilised for material purposes alone.

The ill-used race of men that cleave the soil,

Sow the seed and reap the harvest with enduring toil,

Storing yearly little dues of wheat and wine and oil

Till they perish.

As a self-conscious being, however,—as a Will-dialectic, man's function in the system of things is very different, as we have seen. He is supra naturam, although still part of the natural order in so far as he is attuitional subject. As Will-dialectic, he is impelled not only to constitute ends and ideals, but finally to grasp all experience as a divine movement, and to see the particular in the One universal. This is his return to God, from Whom his negating Egohood for a time separates him; and this is the ultimate goal of finite spirit.

Man gropes along among outer sense-presentations to find the manner of the “display” of the universal Idea in its completed notion; this is science of Nature: he contemplates the phenomena of inner sense—desire, impulse, emotion, and their relation to the Whole, in order to elaborate, in and through these, the full notion of himself as a harmonious concrete in the divine process: this is science of Ethics. While other existences are constituted for themselves and in themselves, man, by virtue of the Will-dialectic, which is the supreme and dominating idea (the note of manhood) is constituted by himself for himself. We must never grow tired of repeating this; for herein lies the ultimate metaphysic of Ethics, and the explanation of the slow and painful birth of ethical ideas and the man-ideal. The Will-dialectic which marks him off from other beings is at once man's distinction and his misfortune, his privilege and his peril. “Man,” says Cardinal Newman, “begins with nothing realised, and he has to make capital for himself by the exercise of those faculties which are his natural inheritance. Thus he gradually advances to the fulness of the divine purpose in him. Nor is this progress mechanical, nor is it of necessity; it is committed to the personal efforts of each individual of the species; each of us has the prerogative of completing his inchoate and rudimental nature, and of developing his own perfection out of the living elements with which his mind began to be. It is his gift to be the creator of his own sufficiency; and to be emphatically self-made. This is the law of his being.”5 “The advance of historical study,” says Professor Pringle Pattison, “has long lifted us above the notion of an abstract conscience promulgating to all men the same perfect moral law.” Time and experience are needed for ethical growth; because, for this, man has to know himself, and to comprehend the whole of himself, in his relations, personal and political. The philosopher's task, as an ethical historian, is to bring into explicit relief that which is immanent from the first in the man-mind organism, and to explain, if he can, apparent deviations from the straight line of logical development, as well as retardations and retrogressions. Knowledge is slow and “wisdom lingers”. There is a process. But all moves towards Truth—the truth of man as well as the truth of all things in and through man; and the End and Ideal and Law are in the Truth and nowhere else. It no more follows from the fact of growth that there is no absolute morality, than it does that there is no absolute physics.

And when I speak of the absolute truth in ethics, I mean the ascertainment of that whereby the creature called Man can alone attain to his full fruition; I do not raise the question as to the precise meaning of Good and Evil in Absolute Being as if He or It were a “thing” made up of properties. We have to seek the truth of all things—the meaning of all experience in and for a created Whole, and the truth in that is the truth of God on this plane of His immeasurable Being. The rest I leave in hands that are not mine, and all other men must do the same. I am hurried along and have scarcely time to take note of the questions that arise, before I vanish from my place in “The Absolute”.

But even if the highest is never realised in me, either here or elsewhere, I see the ever-advancing tide of God, and have faith in Man and his destiny. Something is going on, something is being worked out. Let us pause in the midst of our self-indulgent sceptical moods and answer the question: “Is the tendency making for good or evil?” If for good, then there is absolute morality as an ideal mediated through man on this plane of the divine life; and through that alone can a man reach a higher than this, a greater than he knows; although his progress here can be, because of the infinite in all ideals, an asymptotic curve at best. Were the ideal realised in man he would no longer be man, and the words Good and Perfect would have no meaning. Man on this plane of Being is on his way, and the way is rough. The present subserves and predicts the future. The True, The Good and The Beautiful in their absoluteness are The Absolute. When I have attained to the vision of this, I have exhausted the resources of my finitude.

Let us then come to the simple conclusion: On the attuitional plane Man is an aggregate of particular desires and impulses and emotions. On that plane he seeks satisfaction for one particular after another according to the circumstances of the moment. But Man being a dialectic has to transmute the disorderly particulars into a rational synthesis. This rational synthesis must have a regulative principle over and above the mere fact of the formal dominance of the dialectic itself. This regulative principle must be the ideal or Truth of Man—more or less vaguely understood as the experience of the ages grows. The note of the complex ideal is Harmony: this is the rational synthesis in the domain of feeling and values. This word denotes the successful energising of the dialectic in the search for truth and law among conflicting motives to action. Now, at this moment and always, Harmony (or at least action that will not conflict with harmony) is the law of Man as an ethical being whether he is aware of it or not. To-day and through the ages the dialectic impulse compels the silent, but insistent, questions (crude and rudimentary as the answer of the prehistoric barbarian may be), “What is the supreme Good?” and “How am I, a man, to mediate the supreme Good by identifying it with my Self as purposed ‘end’ of my activity here and now?”

Note.—See Appendix, Note 10.

  • 1.

    The genesis of Ego is anew treated in the meditation on Immortality. In using the term “evolved” the reader will understand that I do not even remotely commit myself to the banality of evolution out of Nature; it is the evolution of God as finite that I always speak of.

  • 2.

    Tennyson's De Profundis.

  • 3.

    See relation of Finite and Infinite.

  • 4.

    As I am dealing with Ethics, I omit the real of outer sense which man has also to subdue.

  • 5.

    Grammar of Assent, p. 342.