I have been attempting in the first five lectures of the present series to reform the cave immanently to remove its unbearable tensions by way of co-ordinating ideas or ways of looking at things without attempting to go beyond the cave and its varied phenomena. The conception with which I attempted to allay tension was a variety of religious absolute one that was thought of both as a necessary existent and the basis of all contingencies something that could not be thought of as absent from reality however much its manifestations might vary and something that in the second place was a principle of the higher values that emerge when we cease to be merely interested in this or that and become interested in the interesting as such and in the manner of its interestingness. The absolute we were working with was however essentially teleological in its explanatory role: it was the sense or goal or raison d'être or Hegelian ‘truth’ of the world rather than anything that was thought of as underlying it or creating it. The world was as it was with all its tangle of opposedly tending phenomena in order that the rational supra-personal interpersonal life of man should emerge and develop and should transform its natural and social environment to accord with its own rational patterns. And this teleological perspective meant that all things inert and senseless or even contrary to the rational nisus of man were seen as the mere raw material or preparation for the latter that without which rational interpersonal life would be impossible and which seen in this regard loses everything that is untoward and unsuitable about it. The world's not being as it should be comes to be seen as a higher-order case of its being as it should be once it is seen as being a necessary condition of ‘the one thing that counts’ our rational intersubjective self-conscious being.
Lecture VI | Otherworldly Geography
The objection to this deeply penetrating transforming view of things lay however in its essentially arbitrary somewhat feverish character: on reflection it readily seemed a forced gloss put on the immense indifferences and resistances of material being to the small-scale aspirations of man. To see all the inert ugly problematic things around us in this happy resolving light could readily seem an exercise in collective egoism and unwarranted morale-building and seen as such it readily switches over into a sinister view—whatever the deep difficulties of the latter—in which man and his rational purposes are a mere momentary iridescence shed upon the inert ugly problematic things just mentioned.
There were also difficulties in the fact that the proposed religious absolute proved on examination to be a poor specimen of its kind. There is conceptual violence involved in treating what is from many points of view a highly dependent readily disrupted phenomenon as what gives sense to the vast complex web of phenomena on which it depends. There is even more conceptual violence in seeing its imperfections in the forced teleological perspective we impose upon them not merely as instances of perfection but as in some sense ‘moments of the Idea’ one with absolute perfection itself. Our conscious life certainly has an inherent nisus towards the rational idea of perfection but this rational idea obstinately lies beyond it and cannot without conceptual forcing be made part of it at least not in the conditions of this earthly life. But if we then look around and study the immense luminous appearances which the rational idea of perfection casts on the cave-ceiling the various objects of religion they also reveal the antinomies and discrepancies which haunt all cave-phenomena. Necessary existence is nothing that can be clearly envisaged in the cave and a joint embodiment of all values which consists in being them rather than having them and so avoiding their incompatible instantiation is not anything we can reconcile with cave-limitation and so necessarily deteriorates into one distressing distortion or another. We have on the one hand multiplied abstractions which never rise above being merely intentional objects or exalted negations which never really establish their difference from the nothingness or the unconsciousness which is devoid of religious value: we have on the other hand the existences dignified with many adjectives expressive of omnitude which none the less do not escape the scandal of particularity and contingency. They are not in fact beings that embody all values but arbitrarily exclude many. They are for the most part grandiose magnifications of human persons with particular one-sided policies and tempers and with much more sensitiveness to violations of their own amour propre than to those of the core of values which they embody. All rational life points towards a religious absolute and yet it seems impossible to bring such an absolute into the circumstances of cave-life.
It is here that there will have to be a third turn of the wheel in our lectures reminiscent of the three historical turns of the wheel of the Buddhist Dhamma in India. We shall embark on a radically new policy: we shall attempt to pass beyond the closely knit phenomena of this world to phenomena which while never grossly disconnected from the things in this world and diverging continuously from them none the less end by differing from them so deeply as to deserve the title of ‘otherworldly’. These otherworldly phenomena have an important role to play in what by contrast we call this world and may in virtue of this role be said always to be in this world and to serve as its necessary background to and from which our thought and experience normally shuttle back and forth. But though thus involved in this-worldly dealings otherworldly phenomena still are parted from the latter by a barrier which gives them a distant half-discerned visionary character. They are somewhere else quite out of the main nexus and traffic of cave-factors and the transition to them necessarily involves an element of suddenness which it is not unreasonable to connect with unusual experiences as well as with the great standard cruces of birth and death. What I shall be attempting to do in all this is neither to extend experience in the sense of encounter with particulars in some unusual speculative fashion much less to build on experiences of a unique extraordinary or occult character; if I am right experience in the sense of alien irruption will become blessedly less and less important as one rises in that upper world. It is in fact through philosophy and philosophy alone that we are drawn towards that upper world which supplements our own and which is framed precisely on the recipe that when seen in connection with this-world phenomena it must iron out the conceptual wrinkles that we cannot otherwise get rid of. The problems and puzzles of philosophy so far from being based on avoidable linguistic misunderstandings will be guides towards a truly understanding use of language: they will function like the discontinuities and unevennesses in a woven fabric which point to explanatory continuities running on the other side.
We shall not in all this be attempting a Platonic flight from a half-intelligible world of shadowy opinion to an intelligible world of stable being but from a world of experience which is only unintelligible as long as it is seen without its necessary continuation and complement to a fully continued version of the same. The other world divorced from its function of illuminating and regulating what goes on in this one will in fact be as essentially unintelligible as this one is if correspondingly divorced. The other world is in fact not so much another world as another half of one world which two halves only make full rounded sense when seen in their mutual relevance and interconnection much as at another level we saw that the moulded shaped space of the world could be nothing without the bodies that diversified it and those bodies without their moulded shaped space.
The accommodation that promised to remove the tensions in our world was we held teleological: an inner purpose alone could explain that semblance of maladroit collusion that we could not help encountering everywhere. But this teleological accommodation could not be maintained with phenomena limited to this world but was always switching over into a non-teleological epiphenom-enalism. With the backing of the phenomena of another world such a switch-over may be avoided the teleological accommodation maintained and the phenomena ‘saved’ in the sense of being freed from the discrepancy and antinomy that would otherwise always haunt them. The move we are making is only a stage more complex than moves frequently made in the past. A ‘future state’ has often been brought in to make morality meaningful or to justify us in following its dictates. We however are introducing a future state to make all our rational enterprises meaningful and justifiable including our ordinary dealings with men and things as well as the more elaborate experimental dealings of science and technology. In doing this we are following Plato who likewise founded the sciences and the higher flights of practice upon experiences had in another world. We are also in a way following Descartes and the seventeenth century rationalists who brought in God as the supreme guarantor of our various forms of rational faith. We however are taking the unusual step of making Heaven rather than God the guarantor of our rational enterprises God being conceived as what occupies the apex or zenith of this Heaven rather than Heaven conceived as a place presided over by God. The objects of religion are for us the supreme pole of the other world and the antipodes of our own. The extraordinariness of all that we are premissing is perhaps mitigated by an injection of gradualness. The other world will only reach conditions unlike and opposed to our own after it has followed a course whose starting point is in fact in our own world and whose first stages very much resemble states in our own. This postulated gradualness contrasts however as said before with a certain suddenness at the actual point of contact with our own world. Birth and death are acknowledged by all to be large changes and so are any terrene ecstasies that might translate us to one or other of the doubtless numerous celestial zones. The speculative extension we are positing though it postulates actual testing experiences and is to that extent like science is not like science in that the spur to all our speculative activity are not puzzles of detail such as the anomalous expansion of water or the Michelson-Morley experiment but philosophical aches and tensions that affect the whole of experience and are strongest at the meeting-points of different fundamental categories. Our basic conceptions also have ‘affinities’ like our most detailed empirical notions: they point to likely completions and continuations and point away from unlikely discrepant ones. Where scientific tensions only lead us to postulate new types of particle or modifications of fundamental scientific formulae philosophical tensions lead us to complete our world with a whole new type or set of types of worlds. But since such completion is speculative it can never be stronger than its base the philosophical tensions it is devised to allay or remove. But in the actual other fife it will of course cease to be a speculative construction and by a vision and experience we cannot hope for in science we may see the total system of phenomena as so dominated by a teleological order that any other way of seeing them becomes forced and artificial. This beatific vision for beatific it will certainly be cannot be superseded by a rival perspective: those who enjoy it and who see things in its context cannot but be clear that it sums up the sense and ‘truth’ of everything.
We may now introduce a geographical analogy which we shall follow throughout the ensuing lectures. This is the analogy of earthly geography in so far as this varies from latitude o° at the equator to latitude 90° at the poles. Celestial phenomena as seen from the earth vary vastly according to latitude and so do many climatic and other phenomena which relations to the main celestial bodies induce. There is e.g. an extremely paradoxical contrast between the almost uniform sequences of days and nights at the equator and the vastly varying periods of day and night at the poles but there is also a gradual transition from one to the other which does much to alleviate that paradox. Near latitude 0° there are likewise wider possibilities of movement in latitude which steadily contract as one moves towards the poles until at the poles all lines of longitude come together and same-latitude movement freezes into immobility. At the poles too one has the paradoxical situation that all great-circle movement must be due north or due south whereas at the equator there is great-circle-movement in every possible direction. The paradoxes are of course quite trivial once one understands them as are the comparable paradoxes involved in the pushing on or back of the clock as one travels or the perennial marvel of the day lost or gained as one crosses the Pacific. But the analogy is apt since I wish to suggest that otherworldly conditions have the same sort of wholly understandable and therefore quite trivializable relation to this-worldly conditions that life in high latitudes has to life at the equator. Only whereas the facts of this-world geography depend ultimately on contingencies such as the sphericity rotation and revolution of the earth is a given cosmic position and at given angles velocities and directions the facts of what we may call spiritual geography are on the view suggested all necessary facts of being matters that could not conceivably have been different and on which all contingencies depend for their very possibility. It may be possible to construct a formally consistent system which would take no account of them but what is there set forth will only be abstractly possible: fully thought out and considered no supposable system could be other than the system in question and what runs contrary to it will deserve at a deep level to be ruled out as self-contradictory.
In the system we are considering there will be an ‘equatorial’ zone of maximum differentiation whether of individuals kinds or categories and the closest possible approach to the exhaustively determined individuality and to the clear-cut identity and diversity that our formal systems normally postulate. But as we pass away from that zone and go up steadily in latitude there will be a steady vanishing of the harsh definiteness and distinctness of individuals and a steady blurring or coming into coincidence of the divisions among kinds and categories until in the end one approaches and perhaps at last reaches a paradoxical unitary point of convergence where the objects of religion may be thought to have their habitat. Alone these are as absurd in their coalescence as the dispersed matters at the equator are absurd in their dispersion but together they make up a wholly intelligible system and the only intelligible system that there ever could be. In our geography also as in earthly geography the distinctions of the equator will always be retained in reduced or virtual form as one nears the pole—they will not be simply lost in a blurred outcome—just as the unity of the pole in a sense overarches the whole range of equatorial difference the pole being always due north or due south of every equatorial point. What we have said involves an extremely questionable use of metaphors and pictures on which no possible weight can be laid: its value will depend entirely on what use we make of it. We shall now try to give a meaning to it all by asking ourselves: What happens when one moves up along a spiritual line of longitude passing from ordinary physical life at the equator to the mystical conditions that prevail at the poles? How are our categories transformed and brought together in the process? And how does the whole journey up and the corresponding journey down illuminate the problems of life in the human cave?
It may first be held in harmony with Platonic Thomist Hindu and Buddhist teaching that movement away from the equator of dispersed physical existence to the mystical pole of the world involves a gradual attenuation of the sensuous element and a corresponding increase of the ‘empty’ the ‘formless’ (which for Thomism is the formal) the purely noetic type of experience. Sense has two distinct and independent cognitive features: it illustrates or carries out or fulfils a cognitive reference and provides it with its element of Anschauung of intuitive contact: it also obtrudes irrupts does violence to us in highly characteristic fashion. Sense-awareness may be said to be a case of compulsive illustration. The former trait that of being illustrative it shares with imagery: imaging something may have all the manifested illustrated character of sense-encounter. The latter trait it shares with many experiences emptily cognitive or emotional and conative. Much that as we say we feel with our bones e.g. the infinity of space is phenomenologically compulsive and so are many accesses of emotion and many odd practical impulses. In sense however both traits are united and it is in sense that we most frequently feel the compulsive causality of independently existent body an indubitable phenomenological fact out of which many philosophers have manufactured highly objectionable theories. The intrusive pictorial character of experience and the empiricistic methods that assort with it are what is characteristic of low-latitude spiritual existence and what some expect to find in high-latitude states as well: it is however precisely what must fade out as we progress to higher spheres until in the end at some Arctic circle of spirituality it vanishes altogether. All this is doubtless painful and meaningless in an era of scientific thought which turned away from the experimental findings of the Würzburg psychologists in the present century as from the earlier findings of James and Stout let alone from those of Aristotle and the schoolmen who preceded these a wilful ignorance that has been vastly extended by Wittgenstein's random broodings on the subject. Anyone who has done even rudimentary introspection knows how full and rich are our awarenesses of complex situations and possibilities—this is particularly true of dreams—which are only illustrated in the most vestigial manner if they are illustrated at all. To read Titchener's unsurpassed analyses of the purely sensuous element in many of our complex awarenesses is almost inevitably to be converted to the Würzburg doctrine of imageless thinking which Titchener above all desired to discredit.
Leaving aside as a mere mistake the belief that cognitive experience is necessarily sensuous or consists in a manipulation of sensuous elements or in anything but an intention of the mind to what it is actually concerned with we may yet point out that empty noetic experience is in no sense devoid of an analogue of sensory content: everything illustrated in sense is also capable of existing in and for the intellect (though the converse should on our view be rejected as untenable). The precise pattern of an odd face or the turns and twists of a melody or anything else however dependent on sense for its full presentation may live on intact as ‘an abiding mood in the soul’ (to use Lotze's telling phrase) long after its sensed or imagined presence has vanished. And there is further a necessary logical relation of sensuous to noetic presentation in the case of all things capable of being sensorily given at all: they could not be noetically given if they were not also capable of being sensuously given and we may add vice versa. Applied however to the special issue on hand the life beyond body must display the same sort of fading away of the sensory element that we experience in our thinking. The lower regions of this life may well be a rupa-loka or form-world where there is much that has the hard definiteness and observability of the things of sense and alleged communications from these regions—for which we do not vouch in the least—would seem to confirm. But as one rose in this world compulsiveness and illustration would abate everything would become more dream-like (though not necessarily confused as in dreams) until in the end we entered an arupa-loka or formless zone—the Thomistic realm of pure form is despite terminology no different—where nothing at all was sensuously or imaginally given. Here the most diverse characters—even such as are necessarily disjoined in their instances—could be given together without clashing and even combined in interesting empty patterns incapable of sensuous realization. Used with an intention towards sensous fulfilment such patterns might provide standard examples of contradiction thoughts necessary to the realization of their own contradictoriness and also serving certain propaedeutic and analogical purposes. But such patterns would permit also of another use: to bring before us that subjective life of thought which though entirely actual and non-contradictory itself none the less has it as its chief glory that it can be of directed to the non-actual and the self-contradictory and so by contrast can grasp the categorial import of what is real consistent and absolutely necessary. And such patterns also will permit us to form a conception of the life of a God whose peculiarity it is to contain in a real consistent intellectual embrace the whole round of possibilities whose complete instantiation would (in virtue of their incompatibility and higher-order inexhaustibility) be a logical impossibility. In the higher latitudes of the world experience in the sense of crude pictorial irruption from without would cease to afflict us though we should still be in touch with the most detailed elaboration of every notional possibility in all its implications and contrasts and this would be richer rather than poorer than such experience. And everything that was carried out at lower levels might likewise reappear in purely notional form much as the raw observations of the scientist gained with such labour ‘in the field’ reappear on the well-lit well-ordered shelves of some great library.
Having made myself somewhat ridiculous by these descriptions—which at least do not purport to set forth Swedenborgian travels—I shall go on to say that progress from low latitudes to the mystical pole of the world must also necessarily involve the steady liquidation of corporeality. This must be held not on account of any mere liking for
to aswmaton but on account of the intolerable tensions in the notion of body its precise adjustment to a cognitive apparatus to which it professes to be indifferent its inseparability from a sensitivity from which it professes independence its inability to explain its solid occupancy of space its reference back of its character and behaviour to those of its parts while demanding that it should not lose all that character and behaviour in the dark slide of an infinite regress etc. etc. Idealism or spiritualism will establish itself but not by any sudden act of argumentative legerdemain nor without maintaining matter at lower levels and leaving it to form the disciplinary walls of our cave. What I understand by body will be clear from what I held in my previous phenomenological study of the bodily world: bodies come before us as impinging actively on our senses as themselves causing us to take note of their existence and properties as affecting others as they do ourselves as having great solidity constancy and inertia as appearing variously but as always being much simpler than their varied appearances would suggest as occupying space in some very exclusive manner as being there regardless of anyone's perception or non-perception and as being modifiable only by changes which are themselves bodily. These traits give bodies their primacy in the bodily world and also their surd character since they afford no true anchorage for the subtle life by which they are understood and manipulated. As one leaves the zero of bodily existence the bodily will no doubt still be evident in experience but its power to regiment that experience will gradually diminish. The bodies in higher spheres will not affect all who see them in precisely the same manner they will have some but not all the malleability of imagery the laws that govern their changes will be in part the subtle associative laws that obtain (we may believe) in the brain rather than the rigid laws that govern inorganic substances and will show a sensitiveness to significance purpose relevance appropriateness logical connection and so forth which is not conspicuous in matter down here. The indifference of bodies to perception will likewise be mitigated and the spectators and auditors will to some extent determine not the mere nuances of bodily appearance and interpretation but the actual bodies that are there. Bodies will in fact fulfil the function of enabling conscious persons to have common themes of reference and communication without oppressively forcing on them in and out of season what they do not care to see and know. Life will be lived in what will have many features of an imaginary environment except that some definite degree of solidity and collectivity will still be present as they are not in pure imagination and dreams. As one moves upwards towards the mystical pole this bodily scenery will become much eroded though its thematic content will still afford common reference-points to communicating intelligences together with many much more abstract contents not very differently from the manner in which the episodes and landscapes of some past vacation are revived and talked over by those who have been through them together. Possibly too at very high levels a mayavic purely posited and imagined character in our present sense-world may become apparent. What is more or less an unacceptable philosophical myth in Kant and Fichte may become a living experience: we may be able to go behind the scenes and see how our present stage has been set up and rigged. We may share in other words in the work of a productive imagination instead of merely reading about it in some of the most obscure pages in the history of philosophy. However this may be bodies as we know them in ordinary sense-encounters will be but limiting cases of the more pliable vanishing bodies of higher spheres and seen in this context we can grasp many of their most paradoxical features without difficulty and can also grasp the disciplinary role they fulfil in the cosmos as being the perfect exemplars of hard objectivity. We can see how the more fluid higher-latitude bodies would be impossible without such hard wholly objective ones: the latter alone are fully corporeal and the bodies in higher states batten on the memory of such full bodiliness. On the other hand all the adaptive accommodating features of earthly bodies their congruity with perception their subjection to vital and conscious control etc. spring from the derivation from the bodies in higher spheres. Bodies earthly and heavenly can well be said to be parasitic upon one another.
If movement from our this-world equator to its otherworldly pole involves an attenuation of corporeality it will also obviously involve an attenuation of the spatiality which serves as a foil and a substratum to corporeality. This attenuation does not of course mean that there will not always be at any level something which answers to the continuous duly arranged appropriately distanced side-by-sideness of whatever appears or has being so that whatever exists also coexists and is a node or phase in a cosmos or world. Only superficial thought can conceive that there could be a plurality of interconnected items without something like a common medium which is the pre-existent possibility of their conjoint unconfounded duly ordered being and the sensuous space of sight and touch merely carries the sundering role of such a medium rather far and brings it to such clearness that many have indeed forgotten the unbroken endless continuity which is equally of the essence of space. Hearing bodily feeling various qualitative orders as well as such intellectual orders as those of probability or spatialized chronology involve spaces in which the items are much less clearly set apart and it is to be expected that as one rises in spiritual latitude spatial order will tend to be more and more of this interpenetrating than of a strictly sundered type. The spatiality of higher spheres may further be credited with a variability which will put the most irregular non-Euclidean versions of this-world spatiality utterly in the shade. It will be a spatiality in which the remote can suddenly become near or the near remote or in which journeys can be protracted or shortened as in dreams. It is also not unplausible to suppose that the higgledy-piggledy distribution of contents characteristic of this-world spatiality will be remedied: things will be drawn close or set apart with some regard to their mutual affinity and relevance. The sort of tidiness that thought imports into its materials will become more and more evident and there is little danger we may suggest of some shocked fundamentalist straying into the wrong set of post-mortem scenery. It will further be a spatiality which goes further and further away from the sheer numerical diversity which only seems to characterize space at our level and which gives rise to so many worries concerning indiscernible diversities in symmetrical universes. As we rise in latitude simple location will vanish: everything will be predominantly somewhere but more distantly present everywhere else and all journeys will therefore have the Plotinian property of in some degree taking their starting-points with them. This means that nothing will have any graspable individuality that is independent of character and general context and the flowers in an endless wallpaper will merely be a curious diplopic manifestation of an identical flower. The attenuation of spatiality at higher levels will also enable us to grasp phenomena that are strange at our own: the field-phenomena and actio in distans which are seen throughout nature the relevance of space to bodies and of bodies to space the quasi-intentionality of the brain and other organs their response to remote realities rather than the influences which immediately impinge on them and above all the curious behaviour of specimens of the same natural kind which keep in step with one another no matter how widely they may be distributed. If our loosely assembled Newtonian world stems from a much more tightly engaged Plotinian one we can better understand many of its Neoplatonic features.
Next in order obviously to an attenuation of spatiality is an attenuation of temporality a subject fraught with many pitfalls. That progress along a line from zero latitude to the pole is progress from the most parcelled piecemeal blatantly successive form of time to the most undivided or ‘eternal’ form accords well with mystical feeling and accords also with our profound sense of the intimately discrepant nature of time its basic ambiguity among priorities it being unclear whether the spread-out ordered temporality which appears frozen in the past (and some say in the future as well) is a mere projection of the impassioned changing life which rushes unceasingly through the focus of the present or whether the latter gains all its sense and content from the former. This quarrel of essence is mitigated if what we experience here is a limiting case of an experiential series in which the pinched focus of the present steadily expands till it achieves the embracing momentariness the punctum starts often spoken of by the schoolmen. This embracing momentariness is often conceived as an immense or infinite acceleration of experience so that a whole world-period or the whole of time is telescoped into an experienced instant: it could be more fitly conceived as an immense slowing down of experience so that a single pulse of experience covers the whole vast or infinite stretch in question. What we must at all costs avoid is that assimilation of the future to the past which blurs what we have held to be a fundamental categorial difference and in so doing turns time into something that is not time at all. It is part of what we mean by the future tense that what we say in it may be in part at least irremediably disjunctive inclusive of alternatives between which there is not though there will be a categorical settlement. The Law of Excluded Middle prescribes that there will be a sea-fight tomorrow or that it is not the case that there will be one but it does not prescribe the quite different disjunction that there will be a sea-fight tomorrow or that there will be no sea-fight tomorrow. These categorial trivialities must be true for experiences and phenomena at any level even degenerately in their last limiting reduction at the mystical pole. The future is only settled there because in the infinite slowing-up there achieved all happenings are held in a single drop of realization. This does not mean that an attenuation of temporal order with all its internal indecisions and stresses is not present at that level much as it is present in our vision of the past. Nor does it mean that we can steal a march on the future by some ecstatic rise to that level: ecstasy as we shall argue moves along its own separate life-line and it is an ecstasy for this or that being at one point of time with all his one-sidednesses and limitations not an ecstasy for everyone or for all times. Prophecy only is possible inasmuch as countless alternative futures may well be displayed at higher levels and may at times teach us what will almost certainly happen or what will happen if we take no counter-measures etc. By and large however the gradual transcendence of temporality as we go upwards enables us to understand the real encapsulation of the past in the present and the settled character of the past's content which is otherwise so extraordinarily puzzling. History can be reconstructed and the future more or less reliably projected because at a higher level which is for us unreachable they are all actually there. Our own true and useful language of tenses will of course not be useful at that limit except in bracketed fashion as applying within the stages it summarizes. It is doubtless an aspiration towards that mystical limiting stage that has led so many modern logicians and analytic philosophers to prefer tenseless to tensed forms of symbolism and expression.
If spatiality and temporality become condensed and transformed on the journey towards the mystical pole the same will apply to the individuality with which they are bound up. Individuality at any level is a thing demanded and postulated rather than a thing actually given which is why Plato believed individuals and their properties to be objects of opinion not knowledge. What we have before us in sense-perception etc. is what we try to pin down as a ‘this’ but what proves on examination to be merely a something in which there is nothing to grasp but a wholly general characterization. The ‘this’ the paradigm of individuality is as Hegel held perennially elusive. Relatively however individuals can be pinned down at the ordinary this-world level identified and reidentified on many occasions and made the standard subjects of ordinary this-world discourse. They are not then the same in their numerical multiplicity with any species they may embody. At the higher levels of being however individuality will become more and more indistinguishable from the species it embodies and there will not even appear to be numerically distinct things to which general characterizations are applicable. All this seems wholly meaningless to modern reflection to which numerically distinct individuals directly encountered in sense-experience are the sheet-anchor of absolute faith all else being an empty hypostatization of an abstraction. For us however the highly specific illustrated somethings one encounters in sense-perception do not differ wholly or in principle from the less specific more general somethings that one encounters in thought. It would however be misleading to say that at higher levels one moves in a world of mere species: better to say that at higher levels the distinction between species and specimen becomes idle and inoperative. One has individuality there in the sense of complete self-sufficient being but it is a being where one can no longer distinguish between the mere instance which lower-world spatiality and temporality seemed to offer us in endless multiplicity and the sort it exemplifies. With this goes a gradual vanishing as held before of the puzzles connected with the identity of indiscernibles or with the inductive importance of natural kinds. The kind dominates the individual at our level because at higher levels the kind or the species is the individual. And obviously we have gone some way towards understanding the theological mysteries according to which our religious absolute is not merely wise just beautiful etc. but rather wisdom justice beauty etc. themselves. The analogy with dreams and dream-like creative writing is also evident: in a dream the figure before one is generic or specific rather than pin-pointedly individual and one shifts from one vague identification to another without loss or difficulty. All this does not mean as said before that this higher level attenuation of a distinction does not point to its more fully fledged presence at lower levels. The generic or specific being of higher spheres would be quite void of sense of dignity were there not also the would-be merely numerical individuality that we encounter down here. Equally however there is nothing uniquely paradigmatic about individuality down here: it too shifts spreads and eludes and is unintelligible apart from the yet more dissolved individuality yonder.
So far we have limited ourselves to the impersonal aspects of phenomena: we may now consider their personal conscious features. These too must be gradually set aside or profoundly modified as we journey upwards if the notional uneasinesses they occasion are to be genuinely resolved at all. Bodies and the bodily we saw must be gradually resolved with all their air of proud indifference to conscious experients: if this is so the organized bodies in which minds or egos are embodied must likewise be set aside. Their curious necessity for the continuity and full expression of conscious egos and for their communication with other egos while yet maintaining an essence alien to all consciousness their remarkable vergence towards memory and understanding in the brain and elsewhere while yet proclaiming their incapacity for such performances their dominance by mechanical laws which permit none but a miraculous entry for the causality of freedom: all these are features of organized bodies which are only tolerable if seen as odd limiting cases of features better shown at higher levels. At such higher levels there will still be organized bodies some of which may be more or less permanent and glorious integuments of conscious egos but they will differ in many respects from our natural bodies. Expression which is here so much hampered by lamenesses stiffnesses deformities maimings of countless sorts will there be infinitely freer limited only in fact by the resources of the expressive person. And we need not doubt that at higher levels changes of shape such as are related in legends may well be as easy as changes of clothes are down here. Expression will further be aided by the less clear distinction between private images and public percepts and a person's silent meditations may well inscribe themselves on the environment at least at will. Wittgenstein often derided the comic-strip mode of representing a man's thoughts by a captive print-filled or picture-filled cloud floating above him but what he found so categorially absurd may well be an everyday fact in higher spheres. Ultimately perhaps at the formless levels of being we may cease to need even glorified bodies of bliss. Bodies and the bodily will however survive in notional attenuations and Socrates will doubtless be as irremediably snub-nosed and short of stature there as here.
I now come to features of extreme importance and difficulty on which it is easy to fall into error: these are the features of mental separateness and ego-distinctness which normally go together in this life and about which so many insoluble difficulties congregate. Our references to foreign interior states are as confident as they are unillustrable and unfulfillable and this constitutes a great surd of cave-existence as is also occasioned by our deep sense of our own personal identity which underlies rather than involves the use of any possible set of criteria or marks of identity. These surds will be rationalized if in the life to come persons somehow become less opaque to one another and are able in some manner to interpenetrate as mystical feeling has always held that they can and will do and as in many states in this life we feel momentarily that they are doing. It is here important that we should not merely regard mental separateness and ego-distinctness as a low-level phenomenon which will simply dissolve or prove illusory at higher levels a single self emerging which will comprehensively recall and attribute to its sole self states which when they occurred did so in mutual ignorance and profound disconnection. This though superficially consistent with the ‘deep’ character of the ego which is such that though intrinsically capable of declaring itself it is also intrinsically capable of existing undeclared is inconsistent with the profound importance of personal separateness and its entwinement with all our higher values. Nor must we on the other hand conceive of the separateness of persons as maintained in all its present sharpness at higher levels and merely mitigated by new modes of direct cognition so that soul speaks directly to soul. Telepathic experiences or experiences of spiritual communion are not in principle different from ordinary modes of communication through bodily behaviour on which as we have seen they are parasitic in this life and which must exist yonder as much as here. If in another world the priorities are reversed and a telepathic hunch is more basic than an observed gesture the profound absurdity of our understanding of others is not thereby alleviated. Obviously the distinction of persons must have the same sort of irremovable categorial place in the world as distinctions of time and tense and if either can be thought to ‘vanish’ in certain ultimate attenuations this is a vanishing in which what vanishes must be retained qua vanished and must be intrinsically capable of a full reappearance. Certainly there must be a profound identification yonder to which it is however essential that it should be the point of convergence of distinct routes which can again be followed and which introduce multiplicity even into what is profoundly simple. Dear St Teresa in her accounts of her relations to her Divine Friend here obviously strikes the correct the experienced note: their encounters were like a light temporarily losing itself in a larger light and yet afterwards resuming its separateness or like water in some vessel temporarily losing itself in a larger body of water from which it could again be taken. It would be a rash and superficial interpreter who would see anything really different in the Tat tvam asi of the Upanishats. The communication of egos at such higher latitudes are blessedly beyond the puzzlements of the Wittgensteinian Blue Book but the puzzlements of that book would be impossible without the communication effected at that level whose authenticity they in fact throughout presuppose.
Another distinction that we may suppose to be gradually attenuated as we progress towards the mystical pole is the difference between intentional conscious act on the one hand and intended object on the other. This distinction so much misunderstood in modern British philosophy we have endeavoured to set forth in our first series of lectures in all its categorial peculiarity above all avoiding the confusion which turns an intentional object something thought of as being such and such into an object which really is such and such and then when this proves impossible erecting it into some sort of intermediate object or replacing it by the assemblage of its elements etc. The self-transcendence involved in intentionality is neither a real relation to what lies beyond the act nor a relation among real constituents in the act: it is in fact not properly regarded as a relation at all though it may be consummated and validated by a relation. These categorial peculiarities are however deeply puzzling; there is deep difficulty in conceiving both X and an intention towards X as two independent existences when there is also so deep so wholly internal an affinity among them. This difficulty is however attenuated if at higher levels there are intentional objects which necessarily ‘coincide’ with objects that have being and if such objects cannot fail to have the constitution they are thought of as having. But this is precisely what is possible when the objects of thinking are the truncated ideal objects of pure thinking which are little beyond outward-turned forms of our own intentional approaches: to be triangle-wise in one's orientation to objects only differs by a shade from being abstractly oriented to triangularity as such. In purely ideal references conceiving and conceived have we may say merely a courtesy distinction a point made by Aristotle when he held the mind to be a place of forms. In other words the being of ideal entities is their being in and for minds and the being of minds is perhaps no more than the being and use of such ideal entities involving however a peculiar kind of personal multiplication covenanted in the make-up of the ideal entities themselves. It is then our profound sense of the virtual vanishing of intentionality at the highest level which both makes its presence puzzling at lower levels and also serves in the end to remove that puzzlement. If we can understand intentional references and the transcendent realities which they may fit as having as it were a common root in phenomena capable of being really given and experienced at higher levels their puzzling character will be lessened. They will seem like two broken halves of the same coin which necessarily fit each other's cavities and bulges.
Finally we may opine once more in accord with mystical feeling that movement towards the mystical pole involves a steady attenuation of the tension between fact and value in which superficial thought sees no problem but in which deeper thought sees the gravest of problems. For plainly despite Hume we cannot but see profound absurdity either in the existence in ourselves of extraordinary aspirations toward world-transcending values or in the almost total indifference of the world to such aspirations and their goals. The very notion of a value includes some tendency to compel acceptance on the part of all conscious beings and even some tendency to exact conformity from unconscious things. Hence the extreme naturalness and credibility of miraculous violations of the bodily order: they involve the understandable intervention of another order. All these reflections gain strength when we reflect on the governing presence of good form simplicity unity and other logical values in the merely bodily world which men of science utterly rely upon in their investigations however much they may give positivistic ‘justifications’ of such reliance. But the falling apart of what is and what should be also has its intelligible possibility an absorbed consideration of which readily blunts our sense of the opposed affinity. It is in the conditions beyond this world as traditional religion has always maintained that we have the firm warrant which gives rationality not only to our attempts to better ourselves and the world practically but also to know it theoretically. The phenomena of this world alone give absolutely no firm warrant to either. All this does not mean that there may not be many shapes of evil in that other world either as deviant or as interstitial phenomena necessarily given with the values they presuppose or even as fully developed perversions backed with a far more horrible intelligence and energy than are ever encountered on this earth.
At the mystical pole of our whole geography we may place an object of infinite and no longer puzzling perfection which we need no longer conceive as a mere supreme instance of incompatible values but as the living principle of all those values themselves. With the removal of instantiation a necessity of existence is no longer the puzzling thing that it is at lower levels and we dimly understand how such a being may be utterly self-existent and how all other existences may depend on it for what they are. To this mystical pole of all being all peripheral things will have their necessary life-lines along which movement is possible in either direction and their consequent relation to the mystical pole in question is as little to be regarded as one of sheer mutual exclusiveness as of sheer coincidence and identity. In a sense the life of the mystical pole pulses out towards the remotest periphery and the latter may be thought of as being as necessary to it as it is to the periphery. (I here follow Meister Eckhart Hegel and the ‘Germanic Theology’.) But it is spread out not only over all beings but also over all categories: it is not only the perfection of conscious personality as envisaged in traditional theism but also the perfection of blessedly unconscious thinghood the perfection of pure adjectival being or character the perfection of relational connection the perfection of suffering of truth of loveliness of social communion even of that pure Nothingness which the Chinese and Japanese have found so appealing. What we have asid is however merely the rhetorical recognition of a unique logical and ontological status to which we shall try to give more flesh and blood in a later lecture.
In ending this lecture on mystical geography I shall no doubt have disappointed many who expect the sort of journey I have been describing to be rather like an ordinary excursion in latitude a voyage of discovery to the Indies in which many strange things would be reported but strange things of the same sort as those of which one has had experience here. If reports are to be trusted there are regions of the life beyond that might well satisfy a celestial tourist armed with the right sort of Baedeker In its upper reaches however the reticence of St Paul is more appropriate than the graphic eloquence of St John the Divine. Many feel the utterances of the higher mystics to be distressingly lacking in content but what would they have? Detailed stories reminiscent of the social columnist? For these there could only be a marginal place in the limiting ecstasy. The sort of journey I have been describing is a journey away from contingent empirical diversity towards the necessary pole of unity in which all comes together. While it is not best understood as a journey towards emptiness and negation it is idle to expect it to lead us to garish new things.
From the book: