In the present lecture we wish to complete the theology of which we made the abortive beginnings in Lectures IV and V. We tried to construct the object of religion as an idol of the cave and found that it never became more than such an idol a required synthesis that could not be effected and that was always splintering into absurd one-sided presentations. The religious object of our aspiration was one that embodied all the specific forms of value and embodied them in unity but which did not embody them as an instance or particular case of them all but as being the very values in question and being them together. It was also an object whose non-existence made no sense which was completely a se and which could not be conceived except as existing though all other things required it in order to be. And it was moreover an existent transcendental one that went beyond the distinction of the categories: it was as reasonable to speak of it as a character a relation an idea an act a process an attitude a manner or a nothing as a thing or a person. All these requirements are necessarily formulated within the cave but they cannot be fulfilled within it: they intend what they intend in an everlastingly empty manner. What exist within the cave are always instances of general kinds things satisfying formulable conditions and in their case there can be no question of a necessity of existence: the being of the instances adds something to the natures or essences they exemplify and the latter could very well not have been exemplified in them. The this-world embodiments of types and values are moreover only embodiments of one type or value at the cost of not embodying another; sacrifice one-sidedness limitation is of the essence of this-world existence. This radical one-sidedness of realization can of course not be removed by any series or system of embodiments however varied or prolonged. For despite Spinoza even when ‘infinite things in infinite ways’ are displayed before us it is radically impossible to exhaust all things that could be so displayed: series and systems however comprehensive always give rise to further series and systems and the notion of all possible series and systems remains an ‘illegitimate totality’. It is likewise clear that any coincidence of categories is no more than an empty desideratum within the cave: there it is always mere verbiage to identify an idea with a thing a thing with a relation a process with a truth etc. etc. Analytic philosophy rightly protests against such verbiage which from its point of view can only lead to a general disorganization of discourse.
Lecture IX | The Life of God
The addition to this world with its maximum distinction of categories and maximum separation and fixity of individuals of another world in which this distinction separation and fixity gradually fade away enables us to make better sense of the requirements of religion than is possible right within the human cave. The fading away of numerically multiplied individuality is a feature of much imaginative and thought-experience where we deal with types rather than individuals: in dreams e.g. individuals are always fading away into other individuals who mean the same to us in some respect and there is no reason why there may not be a purely noetic experience in which everything that comes before us is typical is general. The possibility of such noetic experience is of course parasitic upon the possibility of individual instantiation (or an approach to such) in other experiences and Plato was wrong to make it independent in power and status but this parasitism applies to everything in relation to everything else and does not remove what is real and characteristic at each level. If there can be experiences of detached general patterns there can likewise be experiences of detached values and disvalues meaning by these intentional objects uniting descriptive content of high generality e.g. equality of distribution with the prescriptive and emotion-rousing forces necessary to all values. (That these two sides of genuine values have an a priori connection is a point for which we have previously contended.) We are tempted to treat these detached values of justice love understanding etc. as mere abstracta which can mean nothing apart from their infinitely numerous often incompatible instances but this is to forget not only that the particular is as dependent as the universal but that the detached goals in question may be objects of love for a high-level
Nou/j or Mind which is essentially and not casually directed upon them which in being directed upon them can be said to intend and love only itself and which in being directed upon them all undividedly also unifies them all and holds them all together. We may in short place a pure and necessary love for the highest values at the heart of the cosmos a burning flame of the purest zeal and in this love subject and object will only be vestigially distinct: the love with which these values should be loved is the love with which they are loved and vice versa and norm and nature are one. And the highest values are all united since the love of them all is indivisible even if in concrete cases one must yield precedence to the other. The mystical pole of the world where this flame of love burns has further an intelligible necessity of existence which nothing in cave-life can possess. It is not the existence proper to instances from the standpoint of instances it can even be denominated as a limit a case of nonexistence but it none the less is presupposed by the sense and content of all instances and of all instantial minds. There can be instances of various sorts some embodying one value and some another and some deviating much or little from their ideal exemplars but the whole framework of their possibility lies in the pure zeal of which we have been speaking our thought being based on the quite unfashionable Platonic assumption that there is a two-way connection between value and being nothing being capable of being which is not in some respect a specification or distortion of good as nothing is good which does not in some perfect or imperfect or distorted form exist.
The flame of pure zeal we have mentioned which is also a flame of pure insight we therefore place at the centre of our mystical geography. It would however be both wrong and absurd only to place it there. A religious object which lies outside of the contingencies which radiate from it and which approximate to it or fall short of it would be a vain flame burning in the void and would not in fact represent the highest values in union since there would be countless valuable things however one-sided and imperfect that would not be part of it. As Hegel rightly saw absolutes and infinites that merely lie beyond the conditioned and finite are also merely another case of the conditioned and finite: the true absolute must embrace and annul the conditioned and finite must leave no place for anything beyond itself. This is not necessarily a pantheistic opinion: it is rather as Hegel said of Spinozism an acosmistic one one that annuls the cosmos. It is the same vision which haunted the thought of Augustine when he found it hard to point to anything anywhere that was not even in its defects the product of some form of Grace. The mystical centre of the universe must therefore be thought of as one of those points which by their fluxion generate a whole geometry: it must be as much everywhere as at the centre. Each existent individual even a corrupt and distorted one must represent some specification of its pure variability and this is what we sometimes feel when we see some rather poor object or person suddenly bathed in ineffable glory: there is always something in everything that resists every attempt to batter or abuse it and which reveals the Most High in propria persona. The effort of the various things in the world towards this or that form or distortion of goodness may be regarded as their effort their work and we can treat the world's centre as merely inspiring them as moving them through love. But we can just as well see in the pattern and behaviour of all individual beings the infinite creativity of the mystical centre as well as its universal redemptive activity.
The use of words like ‘creation’ and ‘creativity’ requires much caution. They must not be taken to cover gratuitous creation ex nihilo nor the Brahmanic exercise of maya nor even the work of the ‘productive imagination’ which is the philosophical variant of these notions. We have accepted the principle of the Germanic theology held by a long line of thinkers from the mediaeval mystics to Hegel that a perfection that does not work itself out in creating and redeeming a world is a self-contradictory perfection it is an empty abstract thing and not a true perfection at all. The contingencies and even distortions of finite being are as necessary to the all-creator as he is to them the pure generalities of a perfect orientation are nothing if they do not terminate on actual objects they can transform: one must create in order to be uncreate. There is no derogation from absolute perfection in its need for imperfect materials: nothing suffers derogation because it lacks powers that would involve absurdity and self-contradiction. Perfection must be carried out concrete and it can only be so in so far as it descends into the abyss of instantiation decides among alternative contingencies gives itself full being. The precise form of that being is arbitrary but that there should be some such contingent approximate expression of perfection or at least that it should be in principle possible that there should be such is not arbitrary but unavoidable. The words ‘creation’ and ‘creativity’ have further disadvantages in that they carry with them pictures of a fabrication which precedes its products. The mystical pole of the world does not create in this way: its creation is rather a matter of presupposition of timeless logical entailment. Its being can only deploy itself in a world of contingencies ranging from arrangements of inert masses in space up to the highest development of personal and social consciousness in man. This presupposition might seem an external dependence and so to derogate from absolute perfection. It is not however an external dependence though the full proof that it is not is seen only in the transforming redemptive activity which pervades the cosmos and which is shown in the emergence of life and mind out of inert masses in the emergence of rational personality out of animality and in the constant development of human beings towards higher and higher levels of detached supra-personal interest which extends as we hold beyond the limits of this present life. It is in the fully liberated enlightened sainted human person—the Sage the Messiah the Buddha—that the ownership of the world and its phenomena by absolute perfection becomes fully evident. This contingent world is created by absolute perfection in the sense that it is its destiny never wholly fulfilled in time to be in all its windings details and even imperfections wholly mastered and dominated by absolute perfection and that there never was a state in which it was not in process of being so mastered. This temporal vision may however well be short-circuited at a sufficiently high level of experience so that something like a creation ex nihilo something like a conjured-up maya something like the philosophical myths of the ‘productive imagination’ may well be found to have a strain of sense and truth. The cosmos of inert tilings in space though not conjured up or dreamt up by anyone or anything depends so absolutely on the absolute life that emerges through it and that uses it to show itself to itself that it may not unfitly be said to be the maya the conjured-up dream-image of the latter: the ‘conjuring-up’ is however a timeless logical relation rather than a process in time. At the same level of insight the cosmos of inert things in space may arguably reveal itself as the mass-display of innumerable undeveloped conscious lives as in the cosmologies of Leibniz and Whitehead: what is the resistance and foil to the absolute must still be that absolute and so must exhibit its essential properties even if in some limiting deterioration.
The other-world system we have been constructing also renders intelligible that real transcendentality or surmounting of category-differences which we have seen must be attributed to the mystical pole of that system. For the point of union in the whole system derives its character from its relations to the peripheral elements of the system and from the relations between them which its presence can be said to effect and in this sense it is intelligible that it can be most variously spoken of that it can even be said to be a coincidentia oppositorum. As presupposing and involving the un-reflective inert being of bodily masses whether conceived as centres of sensation or not the system's centre is the perfection of body and it has all the blessed reliability and simplicity of bodily being which often provides such a welcome contrast to the shifting tangle of personal relations. When Parmenides saw his absolute as a well-rounded sphere his vision was estimable and not laughable. In the same way obviously the system's centre is the perfection of conscious personality which is not to say that it is a conscious person or set of persons nor one person or set of persons among others. In the same way the system's centre is the source of all that interconnection among things and states of things which underlies space time and causation: the system's centre is the bond the relation par excellence. It is also the act of acts since it is evinced in the origin and the steady redemption of all things. We need not be tedious and explain how it is also rightly denominated Love or the Way or the Truth or even the Perfection of Emptiness. This peculiar break-down of category-difference is intelligible precisely because it presupposes their non-break-down at the middle latitudes of the cosmos just as a line or point can be the limiting form of many distinct and incompatible figures.
We may now attribute to the mystical centre of our system a cyclic alternation akin to the alternation between earthly life in the flesh and life in the subtle other world which we attributed to the soul. Here we are again following the traditional Indian cosmology but there are traces of similar doctrines in the West e.g. in the writings of Empedocles. The world must move from a period of contraction or pralaya to a period of expansion or manvantara in which the full diversity of creaturely being can be extruded. These two cosmic periods must alternate unceasingly because each is necessary to the other: the absolute perfection cannot be conscious of itself as absolute—through the medium no doubt of more or less elevated adoring finite minds—can give no meaning to its doffing of finite expressions of all sorts to its own complete aseity and self-sufficiency except in so far as it has put on all those finite masks or vestures except in so far as it has given a seasonal independence to the beings whose claims it now sets aside. In the same way the absolute perfection cannot engage in the infinite novelty and freshness of finite being except in so far as it has retreated from old patterns into the penetralia of its own innermost being and so gained vigour for a ‘new leap forward’. The cosmology which our Aryan ancestors left us is therefore in principle far removed from the unalloyed world-weariness which a sojourn on the hot plains of India must soon have induced: so far was it from hating samsara that it was ready for an endless succession of such samsaras. The career of the various individual souls in a world-period their graduation from passion and narrow egoism to reasoned impersonality may further be regarded as part of the transcendent divine life of that period: the redemption by the central absolute of individual souls which in the end become its self-associated channels and instruments is part of the outgoing and the ingoing life of the absolute itself. We may if we like further speak of two periods in the life of the mystical centre of the universe a theistic period in which it has all the properties of total ‘otherness’ beloved by some recent German protestant theologians but in which in virtue of the relative independence enjoyed by peripheral beings of all sorts it is not really an absolute not an all-inclusive being at all. This period is succeeded by the truly pantheistic or acosmistic period in which as St Paul says God is all in all. Theism of the protestant theological type is therefore bound up with the peculiarities of a particular world-period. It is an important doctrine since it preserves the axiological purity of the absolute in the time of its ontological demotion. The alternative to it are those somewhat dreadful forms of pantheism in which God vanishes into the all rather than the all into God and a divine licence is given to every human enormity e.g. wild lust cruelty as in certain cults of Hinduism.
It is here important to advert to the notion of ecstasy which plays an essential part in the scheme we are constructing. The notion of ecstasy implies that while we do not predicate identity of any finite creaturely being with the mystical pole of the universe neither do we ever predicate sheer otherness of them. We allow the possibility that a finite creaturely being can become one with the mystical pole of the universe can be brought into coincidence with it which coincidence does not however exclude the possibility of a subsequent falling apart. Each finite creaturely being has its ecstasy its appropriate going beyond itself into the mystical pole of unity where it also becomes one with everything else and this ecstasy is no strange emotional exaltation but a necessary limiting possibility of creaturely being and also in a reverse regard of eternal non-creaturely being. In the case of inert matter ecstasy seems merely a thinkable possibility though the sacrament of the altar perhaps furnishes a valid counter-example: stocks and stones we may say are too securely lodged on the periphery of being to retreat into their absolute source and re-emerge refurbished and shining. But conscious beings are capable of a transformation and reduction to that pure zeal for impersonal good which is also the core of their being as of everything else and to the extent that this takes place the distinction between conscious being and deity becomes altogether formal like the distinction between an ellipse whose minor focus is zero and a straight line. In our ‘highest moments’ we feel ourselves to be mere extensions expressions of an all-perfect absolute and since this absolute is not a person among persons external to finite persons as they are external to one another—thought at certain stages in cosmic history it may well seem to be so—there is no reason to think that there is anything intrinsically false in such feelings. The ecstasies we have mentioned extend to the ordinary ecstasies of devoted dedicated persons of all sorts though there are of course ecstasies of a more full-fledged trance-like type involving loss of ordinary consciousness for a period. Such trance-like ecstasies seem to have been enjoyed by Socrates Plotinus Buddha St Teresa and many other great proficients of the path of unity. The importance of these full-dress ecstasies can however be much exaggerated and nothing is so lowering to true spiritual tone as the mutual vying in regard to claims to have enjoyed
samādhi or satori as is common among some Indians and some Zen Buddhists. Ecstasies will plainly differ in value according to the person who enters into them and one whose conception of absolute perfection is thin and one-sided will have an ecstasy similarly thin and poor. Madame Guyon had many ecstasies and was a genuinely devout inspired woman but it is agreed that she was also very stupid and hence learnt little and communicated little through her ecstasies. Those who as in our western civilization hardly ever systematically practice ecstasy are not further from the mystical pole in consequence. The near-ecstasy with which Wittgenstein ends the Tractatus Logico-philosophicus is all the more precious on account of its roots in the dry technicalities of truth-tables and logical constants. The general merit of ecstasies is however itself logical: they set at nought the unmodifiable identities of certain formal systems and force us to formalize better if we formalize at all.
We may now add to the general impertinence of our theological pronouncements some attempts to detect a trinitarian structure in the mystical core of our universe: these attempts will however be modelled on Neoplatonic rather than Christian originals. To the mystical centre of the universe we must attribute a core of purely necessary being which consists in nothing but the unspeciflc zeal for the whole round of impersonal values which we have already said is not merely an attribute of deity but deity itself. This zeal will however be one with its own self-affirming consciousness and in moments of world-dissolution or acosmism it will be all that there is to the life of deity. Not that it would however be possible without other outgoing phases in which it was not all that there was to deity: it is only by contrast with these outgoing phases that its universal dissolution is the dissolution of anything and hence a real state at all. Secondary to this central hypostasis is the hypostasis which we have already recognized in our lecture on the the noetic cosmos: this will be a form of the absolute life widened to cover an intellectual grasp of all possible essences or ideal patterns of whatever type or category in all their systematic interweavings. In the form of life in question there will be a large element of contingency for it will include as we have held all those patterns of natural kinds which might well have been absent or different as well as all those qualitative and relational natures e.g. colours tonal intervals etc. whose being remains obdurately contingent even when the existence of their instances is not in question. In the life of the hypostasis in question time slows down to the point of utter arrest without losing its internal order which means as we have seen that this hypostasis counts rather as an unreachable limit necessary to the understanding of states that come nearer and nearer to it than as a reachable actuality. (The distinction between the unreachable and the actual is however quite blurred at this point.) The third hypostasis in our divinity will however involve change and movement as well as differentiation and contingency: it will in fact pervade and brood over the whole world-process in all the intricacies of its detail and history. Possibly it should be thought of as pluralized for many distinct cosmic systems.
The three hypostases of our rather poor account are not very remote from Plotinus's One or Good his Divine timeless Mind and his reasoning directive World-Soul. We do not ourselves doubt that Plato believed in basically the same trinity as comes out in the passage from the Second Epistle so much quoted by the Neoplatonists and that the doctrine probably went back to Pythagorean sources. Those who question these things do so because a modern Oxford or Cambridge philosopher would not have held a trinitarian doctrine that he expounded only in riddling words: we know however that Plato was not in this respect like a modern Oxford or Cambridge philosopher if indeed he resembled such in any respect at all. We shall not attempt to decide whether Gibbon's gibe regarding the Christian Trinity—taught by Plato revealed by St John—has substance or not. There is however one point in which the trinity postulated by us differs both from the Neoplatonic and the Christian trinity: in the order of dignity assigned to its members. In Neoplatonism the One or Good alone is truly self-sufficient: there is a one-sided dependence of the Divine Mind on it and a one-sided dependence of the World-Soul on the Divine Mind. In Christian theology the equal status of the divine persons is officially stressed but it remains the case that the terms ‘generation’ and ‘procession’ suggest a one-sided dependence of what we may call the ‘later’ persons of the trinity on the ‘earlier’ ones and this is certainly part of the popular Christian picture. But in our theology which as you will remember stems from the Germanic theology the priorities are precisely reversed. The Father if so one may call our first hypostasis produces the Son or second hypostasis out of need rather than Neoplatonic superabundance: the pure zeal for absolute values would be a hollow sham were it not directed to their embodiment at least in blue-print in a possible cosmic order. In the same way the Son or Logos or timeless blue-print of a world is a hollow sham if its pattern is not carried out in an actual process of creation and redemption and this time-involved existentially immanent work is essentially the role of the Holy Spirit the third person in the Christian trinity. It is to this the least emphasized member of the Christian trinity that our emphasis is principally given in which alone we see the complete concretion of absolute being. Divinity if one may so express it is redemptive activity and whatever else it may also be said to be or involve is only rightly attributed to it as part of such activity. Once in Japan I saw a shrine filled with innumerable images of the myriad-armed goddess Kwannon each of which arms at each moment saves an entire world; I had a most valuable visual lesson in theology which I am now communicating to you. There is however always something false about stressing priorities in regions where factors logically belong together: one could at best say that my priorities were no falser than others.
It is here probably the place to consider more carefully the relation between two contexts in which the contingent content of the world can be taken as occurring: in embodied finite separated things on the one hand and as part of the self-expression of the one mystical unity which underlies them on the other. It is contrary to the whole notion of a mystical absolute that anything should be wholly and simply put outside of it as having an independent nature or being as doing or being anything in which that mystical absolute plays no part or in which that part is merely remote indirect or hierarchically ancestral. These possibilities are not excluded because ruinous to finite things with whose notion they might superficially seem to assort but because ruinous to a mystical absolute itself. But on the other hand it is just as ruinous to a mystical absolute not to put finite things and their properties rather far from it: over a great range of the world and history—excluding that is rare moments of transfiguration or ecstasy—we do not wish the states of contingently existent things to be straightforwardly attributed to the mystical absolute though they will of course have to attributed to it in some manner. The dilemma is how to attribute something necessarily imperfect to perfection without either attributing it to something else which falls outside of perfection or denying the genuine imperfection and frequent evil of the imperfect. Put in another way we want the mystical absolute somehow to be all cases of finite instantial being and also not to be them its character as a something which is rather than has perfections being categorially different from that of things which merely have them. This dilemma assumes a most interesting and unhappy form in the philosophy of Spinoza where all that is untoward in passion and self-assertion is held to be due to the ‘mutilated’ ideas in a finite mode of thinking which ideas present things apart from their full context in the absolute unity of the one substance but for which ‘mutilated’ ideas there is really no place in that one substance at all since however much a mode A may present some matter inadequately it is absolutely united in the one substance with other conscious modes which present complementary aspects so that there can be no proper place in the system for genuine mutilation. What we plainly want is an account which can find room both for a mutilated and an unmutilated view of things and can combine them inseparably: everything must at once be attributable to the pervasive divine unity yet also to finite subjects at various logical distances from it.
The dilemma seems however to have arisen out of a persistent use of surface-categories valuable and indispensable in dealing with phenomena on the world's periphery in connection with relations in that inner subtler world whose whole construction arose out of a need to transform such surface-categories. On the periphery of the world what comes before us can be ‘pinned down’ and identified for our common references in a sufficiently unambiguous manner though by the use of varied complex criteria of which modern linguistic researches have made us so conscious: perfect identity seems in no sense a limiting state to which only graded approximations exist. It seems an altogether-or-not-at-all state and contrasts with diversity otherness which admits of no mitigation from closeness of resemblance or parity of origin. This kind of identity-or-diversity of this body to that body of this embodied person to that person etc. though not in fact perfectly achievable in the natural sphere—since only abstract aspects manifest perfectly clean-cut diversity—seems none the less definitory of that sphere and its contents and serves also as the presupposition of all looser more fluid notions. We can only loosen where something has started off tied and fixed we can only liquefy where something has started off hard and solid. But as we retreat into the inner reaches of non-physical experience identity and diversity as we knew them become harder and harder to apply and we are guided by their memory rather than by their former precise intent. It becomes in fact more easy to operate with some concept of logical distance or ‘alienation’ than with sheer otherness and contrasting with this a concept of logical nearness or approxirmation to identity. In that slippery otherworld environment one may say nothing can be trapped and embraced alone or kept firmly apart from everything else and procedures of identification and distinction no longer apply exactly.
It is with the relations of the divine unity considered as we have considered it in its concrete moving third hypostasis to creaturely existents and particularly to human spirits in various states that we are here attempting to deal and we may say that such creaturely existents are at most times more or less alienated from the third hypostasis in question this alienation being marked for us by the ‘oddness’ monstrous or inconsiderable of identifying them with the moving perfection in question or of attributing their characters and activities directly to that perfection. It is queer and odd e.g. to say of the Divine Substance of Spinoza that it is made of iron and can run from London to Edinburgh in six hours but it is not so queer and odd to say of the same Divine Substance that it thinks of itself as underlying all modes and hence Spinoza thinking the latter thought is less alienated from the Divine Substance than the Flying Scotsman performing the former feat. In the same way perverse and evil developments are by definition the acts of things greatly alienated fallen away from the divine perfection: if we attribute them to the divine perfection as we are in some suitably remote manner obliged to do we do so with intellectual as well as moral distaste and with the theological perplexities which turn on the problem of evil etc. The difficulty of performing the attribution in question is in fact a precise measure of the alienation involved. Alienation is not then a relation without degrees like the identity and diversity which it replaces: a greatly alienated being is not a being wholly separated from the divine perfection but only representing a remote extension of it and its performances like those of everything else can with proper remoteness be attributed to it. It is of the essence of a necessary absolute that there is nothing for which it is not in the last resort responsible nothing which is not in the last resort itself. The queer power of stretching identity further and further till it nearly breaks is what we understand by ‘alienation’: if anyone finds the notion obscure let him but contrast what happens in his eyes head and hands with what happens in his toes intestines or the small of his back. The extremities of our bodies are on standard occasions those parts of ourselves where we feel and are least ourselves though it must be conceded that where we feel and are most or least ourselves varies from one occasion to another. This language of being ‘most’ or ‘least oneself’ must not be dismissed as subjective and poetic: it is we have held the language ultimately needed to deal with the mysteries and difficulties of the world and is therefore to be preferred to an exact language which in the last resort applies to nothing.
Our reflections on alienation may here be used to throw light on the existence of evil and deviant forms both in the absolute source of all being and in the contingent contents of the cosmos. Mere limitation of character and being i.e. finitude is not an evil: completed concrete being is always necessarily finite in the sense that it realizes one possible series of definite contents and thereby excludes countless alternatives. Even the divine unity considered in and for itself has a contingent as well as a necessary nature even if in its case the distinction between the definite possibilities that it has realized and those that it has failed to realize is infinitely less important than it would be in the case of other things. It is impossible to exist without excluding possibilities of existence—even non-realization of anything positive is a limiting existential possibility—and hence limitation is in a sense the price of full existence and is not as such evil at all. Nor is there intrinsic evil in the sort of limitation which gives something a defined place in a comprehensive scheme or system in which it is made to fit in with or cohere with other things. In talking of ‘fitting in’ we are of course meaning infinitely more than the empty consistency of formal logic which might as readily cover complete misfit or incoherence as complete coherence. Fitting in means that there are positive affinities between patterns which occur in the world that they contribute to higher-order patterns characterized by the same good form and simplicity that we find in the lower-order patterns and so on. What are however a root-case of evil are circumstances in which fitting in is at points positively frustrated in which one pattern simply clashes with another prevents it from deploying itself fully in which patterns are distorted perverted half crushed out of existence by other patterns. We can readily conceive what we may speak of as garden-universes in which only easy maintenance of lovely arrangements occupy the happy gardeners that inhabit them where everything is brought to the fullest realization of its nature and helps at the same time to make everything else do so. Such a garden-universe would have the qualities of a celestial ‘Buddha-field’ transferred to earth: it would have none of the grim prison-like features of the human cave. We can likewise readily conceive a system in which the frustration of form by form their mutual clash and distortion achieves much higher levels than it does in our actual cosmos in which there is perhaps not even a consistent pattern of ruin to comfort us aesthetically. As opposed to these limiting possibilities—which from a deeper point of view are probably not possibilities at all—we have a system like our cave where the fitting in or clash of patterns is a matter over which no consistent pattern presides which is as we say largely governed by chance. Such a loose chance-governed system may be mediocre in the sphere of intrinsic value: it is plain however that it permits the emergence of conscious human values that neither of the other systems permit. For all the higher human values involving invention construction and discovery depend on the existence of an order which while not inherently shaped towards values also permits their imposition. In a garden-world the best possibilities of gardening would be missing and gardening being personal and spiritual is necessarily valued by man's spiritual nature at a higher assessment than the gardens it labours upon. It is plain further that a world full of loose variable chance connections is not only a suitable field for constructive exercises of freedom in the direction of positive value but also for destructive pernicious exercises in the direction of disvalue. But it is plain that the highest moral values only emerge when there is a definite possibility of actions that go against them: only if the direction of one's activity is not inevitably limited to them but can be freely directed to them can it achieve a remote analogy with the divine devotion which acts not out of anything instantial or circumstantial or dispositional or already there but solely in virtue of being goodness itself. The highest moral virtues therefore presuppose precisely this rough-and-tumble chance-governed world we inhabit and this is necessarily a world in which there are many evil purely destructive clashes.
If we turn from natural to moral evil it is plain likewise that the possibility of the highest moral goodness presupposes the possibility of the greatest moral evil: this may be to some extent guarded against hedged around with difficulty but not such difficulty as renders its practice and the love of its practice impossible. Moral evil is of a variety of sorts its simplest varieties involving the subordination of higher interests to naked primary interests while its secondary varieties involve the preference of what interests the person himself to what interests persons in general. That such brutishness or selfishness may assume an endless gamut of subtler forms enlisting all the higher forms of disinterest in the service of a glorified beastliness or self-interest is a possibility we need not document nor need we document its unaltered directive presence behind manoeuvres often called ‘hypocritical’ in which this presence is the last thing to be confessed. But in addition to these primary and secondary varieties of moral evil there are varieties in which deviation from the demands of the highest values acquires its own higher-order zest and becomes closely associated with the genuine values associated with personal freedom. In these tertiary forms of moral evil are the performances of the great sadists the wanton deluders the great plungers into monstrous depths of all sorts. That all these forms of moral evil exist is empirically well-attested and their possibility is part of the phenomenology of the moral sphere but what concerns us now to stress is that these possibilities of perversion even the most wanton ones are involved in part of the possibility of the highest forms of moral value.
All this however can only be dealt with theologically in terms of the notion of ‘alienation’ which we were unfolding a little way up. Evil natural and moral is in one way not an expression of the essential value-causality of the universe this is not active in it in propria persona yet evil natural and moral is not the expression of some wholly other agent otherwise it would not have the profound justification that we have just given it. In evil natural and moral we have we may say an agency alienated from that of the central value-source of the cosmos but this word ‘alienated’ means that while the ordinary notion of strict identity with the central agency in question certainly does not apply to the agency involved any notion of strict diversity otherness is as little applicable. What we have as I have said is a graded situation where certain forms of agency can become less and less ‘owned’ more and more ‘disowned’ by the central causality of the universe until in the end they are practically but never totally not its own at all. The S.S. man deliberately liquidating some innocent being in agony is so distant from the core of divinity as to be practically an agent quite other than divinity. Distance from divinity is however also distant divinity and this is reflected in the fact that all he does reflects perverted realizations of absolute values e.g. of the personal life whose destruction he mocks and that his possible existence is part of the highest saving justice and compassion. There is we may say something about the Most High irresistibly reminiscent of Pontius Pilate; he does and must do things that he must also officially disown. Calvinistic theology employing the sole plea of ‘unsearchableness’ here does no better than the perplexed practical Wotan in Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung. This is a point however where the desire to keep the hands or skirts of the absolute clean ought not to move us. A person can only keep himself clean from the corruptions of the society he lives in at a quite artificial abstract level and he requires to be both stupid and complacent to do so: really the surrounding corruption infects every tissue of his being and could be avoided only by contracting out of life altogether. If such ‘keeping clean’ is impossible and undesirable for man we must not think it possible for the central perfection of the universe. That the zeal at the world's centre is absolutely and incorruptibly clean is in fact only possible because it becomes more and more sullied as it moves out towards the periphery because in variously alienated sundered forms it can depart more and more from its central self. It must fall away from itself in order to be able to bring itself back to itself. The shocking character of what we are saying reflects only the creaks and groans of our logic and our language as we approach the final truth of things. If there is and must be a vein of sublimated immorality in all men whom we deeply love and admire there is and must be a similar vein in the absolute.
The notion of ‘alienation’ may now however be used not merely to express a relation but a process and we need not be afraid to say with Hegel that the life of the divine absolute is essentially a process of self—alienation which is the presupposition and prelude to the reinstatement of a stricter identity. It is like two optic pictures wandering apart in double vision yet brought back to entire fusion and coincidence. Only whereas for Hegel the alienation in question is exclusively a this-world affair on our view it covers another world or worlds as much as our own. The use of the term ‘self-alienation’ stress that there is a departure from a limiting form of the strictest identity but also that this limiting form continues as it were to watch over the whole process and to be responsible for it and to re-emerge in its final outcome and to be only fully what it is true self-identity when it is brought back to being itself out of alienation. There is here a great temptation to logical simplification in one direction or another. We are tempted to say that it can only be through ignorance illusion error magical role-playing or what not that what are at bottom the same agent can appear as different ones and that the so-called reinstatement of the original identity is simply the realization that it was always really there. This is to ignore the fact that alienation is as necessary to unalienated self-identity as the latter is to the former. The differences the distances between logical subjects in the world their divergences from perfect sameness are as essential to any emergent absolute self-identity as the latter is to such differences. It is one may say paradoxically but not illogically that it is only by moving away from itself by in a sense not being what it is that the absolute can come to be what it really is. But the acute logical discomforts engendered by these utterances reflect no surrender to an ultimate intellectual indiscipline: they reflect only our dawning sense of the working logic of alienation and of its application both at the periphery and at the central heart of things.
This is perhaps also the place to speak a little of the total unconsciousness the mental emptiness which is often thought to exist at the centre of things so that what we have there is not merely a physical but a spiritual void. Concreteness and definiteness of being and character and of mental orientation must persist it would seem in however attenuated a form up to the limiting centre of things and there it seems they must vanish altogether just as there is no rational number which multiplied by itself yields the number 3 though there are an infinity of rational numbers which multiplied by themselves come as close as one could wish to yielding the number 3. The ‘negative theology’ of the west must be confessed to have great merits in that it removes from the core of the universe the finite thisness or thatness which it can only have peripherally. The
Shunyatā or Voidness-doctrine of the Mahayana has comparable merits and has in addition the authority of that supreme proficient the Buddha. But on the view developed in the present lecture the negative theology is more misleading than illuminating. Having held that all forms of alienated existence and the whole process of alienation and the return from alienation are essential to the central life of the cosmos we cannot make that life wholly void. Even its dismissal of positive contingent content at the end of a world-period would mean nothing if the content had not previously been posited: the world's positive content we may say persists in its dismissal. Pulsating richness rather than emptiness is then a suitable characterization of the absolute and it is their abstract concern with negativity which has weakened the spiritual hold of the higher non-popular forms of Buddhism and Hinduism causing the one to die out altogether in the country of its origin while the other became overgrown with monstrous distortions. There seems scope here for a reformed Christianity blending its essential positiveness with the subtler cosmology and methodology of the eastern religions. At the heart of the universe we may therefore place a pure zeal for impersonal good everlastingly worked out in a series of possible forms and temporally active in the putting forth from and the leading back to itself of an alienated world. At no point even of ultimate retreat could there be anything in it not vibrantly conscious and alive as we well know in the brief instants when we are taken up into it.
On the scheme we have been developing the religions of earth are all more or less misleading reflections of a life relations and processes which extend beyond the cave. Often they may start by stressing the deep change in categories and being which the higher life involves as in Semitic statements of the self-existence uniqueness and glory of God.-But often this is only a prelude to a crude transfer of categories appropriate at the world's periphery to the higher hypostases involved and to their relations to earthly being. Alternatively in an attempt to avoid all this one may get systems as elaborately negative and as mistakenly destructive of logic as one gets in certain brilliant developments of Buddhism. Obviously the oppositions of the common logic must be transcended if one is to go far on one's spiritual travels but this can be done only by devising new and subtler uses of negation identity etc. covering wider possibilities that the common logic fails to envisage. Ultimately what one has must always be a positive doctrine and should remain such even though it will have to be indefinitely modified as one's insight and one's nose for alternatives sharpens. All these religious developments may be said to be shadows of the religion yonder: it is not here but in the upper world that we shall worship and meditate as we ought.
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