In the last four lectures I have been taking you on a conducted tour through a series of regions that I have not in my clear memory ever visited. We have been travelling imaginatively but not I should wish to hold fantastically. Now I am returning to the cave in order to sum up and assess the value of the whole speculative expedition. It is important to stress that what I have written involves no use of and no appeal to any special sort of faculty beyond the mystical faculties inseparable from human existence which every man evinces in some degree as every man in some degree evinces mathematical capacity but which some possess so pre-eminently as to deserve the special name of ‘mystics’. These faculties we may say looking back on the whole course of our argument have nothing in their scope of vision or mode of operation that is not severely logical that may not in fact be regarded as the very crown and consummation of pure logic. Though they may seem on the one hand to involve an almost empirical encounter with an object unique peculiar and profound the properties of this object are all logical and categorial even if they differ utterly from those attributed to common-or-garden objects: it exists of necessity we cannot fully conceive of it without believing in it it is rather than has the round of its essential characters there is neither in it nor about it any application for the limiting notion of pure otherness though there is room in it and plenty of room for what we have called a graded ‘alienation’ sometimes reduced almost to zero and sometimes stretched almost to breaking point it requires this alienation which it also at a deeper level annuls it admits of no consistent alternatives and it involves various ‘coincidences’ of which the most impressive is that of the ontic modalities of what may or must be with the deontic modalities of what should be or ought to be. Whoever in mystical feeling approaches his absolute whether seen in this emphasis or in that has before him no garish empirical individual decked out with a surprising array of characters that astonish because they might have been so different but the Ancient of Days the inescapable the ever familiar not unfitly expressed by the tautology ‘I am that I am’.
Lecture X | Return to the Cave
These faculties further evince themselves not so much by bringing any particular marvel before us as by compelling us to see all contingent facts and phenomena in an astonishing novel light by changing the limits of the world rather than the facts in it to recall a remarkable mystical utterance of Wittgenstein's (Tractatus 6. 43). To view the world mystically is to decant all phenomena into a new language and a new logic a logic quite different from that of the square of opposition or the syllogism or the propositional or functional calculus but a pure logic a purely formal categorial framework none the less. In that logic it is as reasonable to say with Meister Eckhart that this blade of grass is this stone or this wood as in the ordinary logic it is reasonable to say that an A is an A or that if p then p and much more reasonable than to say at Frege's level of surface-discourse that the morning star is identical with the evening star. In that logic it is as reasonable to say that I ought to have pity on those whom I am ill-treating because in ill-treating them I am really injuring myself as in the surface-logic which dominates ordinary ethics I justify my utterance by the grotesque plea that I am thereby augmenting a total of happiness or other good that is enjoyed by no one at all. In that logic it is further right to attribute all that we do attribute to mutually exclusive things to ‘something far more deeply interfused’ which is not incapable of being φ qua ψ while at the same time it is also not—φ qua χ and so on. The kinds of utterance that we here permit ourselves presuppose the ordinary utterances whose rules they seem at times to violate but it is only on a very superficial view of the transformed forms and categories that they introduce that they can be thought of as absurd and self-contradictory. They in fact burst upon us with the same flooding obviousness as the most evident of mathematical truisms and the fact that they make no impression on certain minds in certain moods has no tendency to prove them empty. Mystical writers often say that what they say or saw is self-contradictory or make actual use of seemingly self-contradictory language just as they often likewise say that what they are expressing is ineffable but the fact that they believe themselves to be communicating something all-important shows that they do not really believe this to have the worthless emptiness of a mere self-contradiction just as the fact that they utter it and do so eloquently shows that they do not really think it to be ineffable. Mysticism like all things can be developed in a self-contradicting self-frustrating manner but the fascinating task of a mystical theology is precisely to avoid this to push towards the one consistent account of its absolute which being consistent also excludes any thinkable alternative—an absolute with alternatives would be no absolute—and so is not merely absolutely but necessarily true. The fact that an apprehension of a theorem in mystical logic may be deeply tinged with emotion does not show it to be void of cognitive content of genuine alternatives for our thinking even if these are not of a merely factual or contingent order. Even a theorem of the propositional calculus was called a praeclarum theorema by Leibniz and the theorems of mystical logic in which we ourselves as well as our symbols are transformed may well excite an admiration and enthusiasm more intense. The theorems we are here dealing with reflect widely diffused catholic wholly normal insights not only formulated by Plato Plotinus Aquinas Spinoza and Hegel but by Wordsworth Shelley Goethe Dante Wagner and many others. They represent as it were the horizon of human conception and vision the open sky into which every unblocked vista terminates. That some should not be able to see this horizon nor its paradoxical not nonsensical congruences only shows that some men are incurably myopic.
Mystical logic has a claim to superiority based on the fact that it includes provision for an ordinary logic at the surface of things and that it claims to express changes in depth of vision rather than changes in surface content. When in mystical logic we say this blade of grass is this stone we do not wish to deny that it is as we may put it more intimately soft and green than it is hard and cold of that it is qua shown in a blade of grass that the absolute is more intimately green than qua shown in a stone. It has a claim to superiority further based on the philosophical discrepancies and antinomies with which ordinary ways of speaking and thinking are rife. But its application to the stuff of ordinary alienated experience is not smooth and easy but rather forced and arbitrary and one cannot help wondering what light is shed by deep identifications which make absolutely no difference on the surface? Is one not merely substituting the unwarranted confusing difficulties of a new way of speaking for the familiar tried difficulties of an old one? And does not one continue to have the same sorry piebald mutilated patched together world of things full of conflicts puzzles and frustrations because one claims to see in it the expression or rather the procession of a unity conceived in the transcendental terms outlined above?
It is here that our mystical logic leads to the strange extension that has occupied us in the last lectures. In order to work and to have significant application our mystical way of viewing things requires the existence of a whole series of states and experiences that will bridge the gulf between this alienated surface-world on the one hand and the mystical unity which explains its puzzles and appeases its stresses on the other. These states and experiences will involve a continuous passage from the world of sense-given bodies and of embodied persons interacting and showing themselves to one another in space and time but still profoundly separate and mutually irrelevant to an order of things in which the corporeal the spatially and temporally separate the personally apart the facts and values that have nothing to do with one another etc. etc. are gradually attenuated and set aside inter-penetration and coincidence everywhere taking the place of side-by-sideness and mutual indifference until in the end we achieve the mystical pole of unity where distinctions lapse in the pure zeal of self-affirming rationality and goodness. These intermediate states and experiences are necessary to the significance of mystical utterances: without them the seeing of things in relation to an ultimate deeper unity as having the real mutual belongingness which their surface form belies would however much informed by ecstatic feeling remain empty and verbal. And this is why developed mystical systems all include the intermediate states we have mentioned and necessarily locate many heavenly mansions beneath the highest or many levels of Dhyana before all is taken up into the perfection of wisdom or Nirvana. The apex of the whole system is nothing if not the limit of a whole ascending series and as in mathematics the limit of the series is not profitably separable from the whole series when summed up in a final embracing intelligible manner. What we are now saying does not differ in sense from what we said previously when we held that the persistent paradox of our earthly condition leads to the postulation of higher states in which that paradox would be lessened and removed. Then we were approaching the matter from the standpoint of the paradoxes and difficulties of this life whereas now we are approaching it from the other glorious end which our mystical consciousness persistently sets before us. Neither this dispersed life in which as Dante says1 ‘substance and accidents and their complexions’ are scattered abroad over the universe nor the opposed pole at which they occur ‘as it were fused together’ and ‘bound by love into a single volume’ could be anything at all were it not for the graded spectrum of states which connects them together and binds them into a unity.
We have therefore the position unacceptable to many that a pure logic pushes us towards a definite set of existential commitments some going beyond anything we have encountered in experience but which can none the less be confirmed in actual experience. The categories in terms of which we more or less successfully see our world or our part of the world point to other categories in terms of which we do not with any success see our part of the world but which apply to states and experiences beyond this life and point ultimately to the categories of mysticism which transcend while also subsuming in themselves all other forms of life and their categories. That the forms of thought and discourse should however point to an appropriate content has nothing surprising about it. The forms of ordinary talk in which the this and the that the here and the there the meum and the tuum are central imply though they may not assert a ready divorce of bodies places and persons from one another and their ready reidentifiability in many contexts and on many occasions whereas the forms of otherworldly discourse imply though they do not state a much less ready divorce and reidentifiability of bodies places and persons the sort of fusion and interpenetration of dreams in which in the end divorce and reidentification cease to be practicable at all. In both cases moreover we do not have a case of strict requirement so that the forms would be impossible without the contents and vice versa but rather a relation of graded affinity some materials being more suited more fitted to certain logical forms than others. No one doubts that certain data lend themselves better to mathematically precise treatment than do others and in the same way certain experiences lend themselves better to mystical treatment than do others. Our moments e.g. of ecstatic personal passion afford better material for interpenetrative mystical treatment than do our dealings with landladies income-tax collectors and computers and life at the levels where personal opacity is so attenuated that it is as right to say that we read people's behaviour in the light of their thoughts as that we read their thoughts in the light of their behaviour will obviously be as thoroughly amenable to mystical treatment as it is unamenable to mechanical and mathematical analysis. There is nothing therefore at all absurd in supposing that the categories which inspire our mystical utterances are such as to call for a peculiar material to which they are specially adapted and that this material will include much that goes beyond the things of this life and that differs progressively from them. Or to put the same thing as we put it in former lectures there is nothing absurd in supposing that the anomalies and discrepancies of this life may call for a comprehensive ironing out in a progressively mystical experience that lies yonder. If there are as we have held ‘heavens’ as unbelievably interpenetrative as the noetic cosmos of Plotinus or the world of the Avatamsaka-sutra are described as being and we can live and discourse in them then the claims of mysticism and mystical logic will have been vindicated whereas if we are never to encounter anything less parcelled mutilated ill-assorted torn asunder and fortuitously assembled than the things of this life then mysticism and mystical logic will be to that extent discredited or left unsatisfied. The phenomena of this life and anything that merely continues their dirempted pattern do not in themselves validate our mystical visions and utterances: they at best permit their imposition. But the phenomena of this life fitly supplemented by suitable otherworld experiences may make such a mysticism inescapable.
What emerges from what we have said is however a return to our original uncertainty and indecision. While we can elaborate a mystical or an alienated merely thisworld logic and free it from all inconsistencies and develop its consequences fully the final adoption of it its acceptance as adequate and as ‘true’ depends on what will be encountered yonder beyond the limits of this mortal life. There if we ever are there we shall be able to see that only one scheme of seeing and saying things covers all that is or could be but here where our understanding of possibilities is so shallow we haver incompetently among several notional schemes and are unable to give a firm preference to one over the other. If we see that ‘a many’ is only conceivable in the firm bonds of an absolute self-explanatory unity we still experience a truant longing to conceive what is condemned as inconceivable a Russellian or Wittgensteinian or Humean world where there are countless independent terms connected by bonds adventitious to the things themselves and to one another. Necessities may deploy themselves before us but their bona fides never stands beyond question: we have no longer the simple guidance of the imagination as appealed to by Hume or a happy recourse to linguistic rules and the material mode of speech as appealed to by Carnap. The theorems of mysticism in particular admit of no remote external understanding: teaching a doctrine of interpenetration and identification they can be fully understood only when such identification either has been or is on the verge of being accomplished: we ourselves we may say need to be or become the material of such theorems and live through their logical connectives their dissolving copulas in our proper person. All this means that in this life the whole mystical vision hangs in jeopardy however much it may be elaborated or expanded. This is in fact the condition of the cave and the cave cannot be transcended even by the eloquence permitted to a Gifford lecturer.
What then may we ask has been the use of this long argumentative excursus by which many auditors have been so plainly put off and some wearied? It has not been at all like those comfortable modern discussions in which whatever the yielding obscurity of the materials discussed one has always the treatable hardness of words and their uses to deal with. The answer lies in holding that even if the many mansions sketched by us and the mystical goal beyond them are a mere backcloth to this-world conditions they are yet essential to their description and to the activities carried on in them: they are part of this world's phenomenology a part not arbitrarily made but constituted before us in a necessary manner. We cannot help seeing this torn vexed atomistic world as leading off and up into the pure zone of those blessed limiting coincidences much as the foreground of Palladio's stage at Vicenza through cunning slopings and foreshortenings leads up to the background of his perfect Renaissance city. And as the charm of Palladio's background lies in the alternative pull of its nearly successful illusion and the obviousness of the devices which both make it and undermine it so the other worlds which enfold our own always tremble on the verge between poetry and enthusiasm on the one hand and sober prose and logic on the other. Like Socrates at his trial we always face two possibilities two a priori likelihoods or
eivkota on one of which the things of our world slope off to a real background which enables them to make mystical sense and into which we shall ourselves one day enter whereas on the other possibility we have merely a visionary picture masking a not unkindly encounter with nothingness. These two possibilities involve however the same intended goal or objective—whether bracketed or unbracketed is unimportant—and life in the cave is always lived in the light whether authentic or visionary of what lies beyond it. Faith and unfaith are not in fact so far apart in this case as they are in others: they succeed one another in our alienated nature like the pleasure and pain felt in Socrates’ leg on his memorable last morning. What we must now again stress is that the light that seems to stream from beyond the cave and the mystical prospects it sets before us form no idle consoling background to our earthly enterprises but are the necessary presuppositions of their being carried on at all. We shall end our lecture by recalling in summary much that has already been emphasized.
The first immeasurable benefit from our speculative upper-world visit is the blow which it deals to the forms and principles of the common logic or at least to their unsupplemented simple-minded use. There are of course things that we can ‘pick out’ from other things and identify more or less satisfactorily on many occasions. There are of course clearly distinct lights in which such things can be viewed and correspondently abstracted characters and relations which are in every way as definite as these lights. There are further the great natural facts with feet both in the empirical and the ideal sphere of repugnance and similarity. But even at the ordinary level we feel deep unease at the arbitrariness of the lines we draw between things continuously identical and things definitely diverse and are always inclined to make identity narrower and stricter or looser and more embracing. And this treacherousness of the subjects of our discourse makes for a corresponding treacherousness in predication and relation for while we can always maintain abstract diversity among predicates and relations inter se such being the very nature of abstraction we cannot satisfactorily stop a thing which has one of them from having another of them even when that other predicate or relation quarrels with the first and introduces a dimension of differentiation or alienation into the subject of our discourse. There is here always the temptation to postulate a fictitious part or element which has one of the quarrelling predicates or relations and another fictitious part which has another a mode of argumentation used by Plato to establish the existence of the parts of the soul and by Zeno to establish the existence of innumerable points of rest in the course of a flying arrow. But a nobler and franker approach simply admits that lower clearer forms of negation are always yielding to higher subtler ones and that it is possible not to be something both in the straightforward style of a lack or a privation or in the subtler style of transition or differentiation etc. in which subtler styles it is correct and not absurd to say that if one is not something one also need not lack some property in a simple straightforward manner. Thus a moving arrow is neither here nor not here in the sense in which being ‘not here’ means being at some other precise place: it is not here in a sense which covers the additional possibility of being in motion of not being anywhere quite precise. In much the same manner as argued before futurity brings in a higher mode of negating the simple possibilities of positive and negative occurrence which confront us in the present and the past: there is a subtler not-going-to-happen which includes the possibility that the issue is as yet undecided as well as the down-to-earth not-going-to-happen which means that it has been decided in the negative and which would be better expressed as a going-not-to-happen. If we are forced into these subtleties even in our dealings with blameless physical matters in space and time how much more certainly shall we be forced into them when we deal with the data of the interior life where all is describable in terms of quarreling analogies and where we can never get down to straightforwardly identifiable characters which have nothing analogical about them. The basic mental feature of intentionality involves something that has often been described as presence-in-absence or existence-in-non-existence: we can neither comfortably say that Desdemona's guilty passion for Cassio was something nor that it was nothing nor that it was ‘present in’ nor that it was ‘present outside of Othello's mind. And in the higher reaches of thought we have states describable alike by their packed fullness of content and their utter emptiness not less contradictiously in fact than the absolutes of religion and pure mysticism. The ‘light’ of attention is also a case of relief or of emphasis or of grasping the active ‘assent’ of judgment is also a passive bowing to the might of fact superficially conflicting characterizations if there are any.
If now instead of dwelling on a few queer borderline cases we conceive of worlds and experiences where hard-and-fast differentiations are continually breaking down we shall become more and more willing to rise from lower and narrower to higher and wider senses of negation and to say of things that in the usual acceptation of not-being-so-and-so they are neither so-and-so nor yet not so-and-so or even to say with the Buddhists that certain things are neither so-and-so nor not so-and-so nor both nor neither. The only thing wrong with the Buddhists is that they stop at this point and are not willing to go on to a sixteenfold or a thirty-two fold negation and so on without definite limit. Only thus can they evade the elenchus which commits them to a onesided thesis. For since negations in concrete thought are never absolute but have positive presuppositions which can be dragged forth and further denied we can escape between the horns of all but a wholly empty dilemma and escape to new poises which will enable us not to come down on either side. Such evasion has long been practised in philosophy: where legitimate it is also obligatory and is in fact the heart and soul of philosophical method. But in the upper world and still more at its mystical apex this continued rejection of a lower consistency and this continued retreat to a higher consistency is the very principle of its structure and hence meditation on the possibility of that upper world and its apex will have the salutary effect of freeing us from the snares and delusive restrictions of the common logic. Illogical and inconsistent in a merely self-frustrating manner we need not and should not be but we may and should cultivate a boundless willingness to look for the contrary in the seemingly contradictory and to remain open to possibilities of a higher order than any that we have as yet envisaged or perhaps ever shall be able to envisage. This boundless willingness or openness is the true sense of certain mystical negations which superficially violating the proprieties can be said to have achieved a pregnant non-saying of the certainly as yet and perhaps in principle unsayable.
It is in the light of the upper world likewise that we may best understand that infinitely varied ampliative logic which has had such infinite historical difficulty in freeing itself from the false support and equally false discredit of the common logic. The inferences worthiest of the name are those in which a conclusion does not follow with formal rigour from its premisses but represents an unchartered a not yet licenced extension of them: inferences characterized by rigorous formal consequence are best regarded to borrow a page from some modern philosophers as mere displays infinite no doubt in their richness and variety of the working of certain content-indifferent system-bound notions. Yet Aristotle who above all men thought ampliatively in his treatment of lifeless and living nature also assimilated his thought to that of a geometrical system which though far from being formally rigorous in the modern sense was yet making brave strides in that direction. And mediaeval and Cartesian thought was the glorious interesting thing it managed to be only because its reasonings however much cast in formal mould constantly took steps and imported principles for which no formal deductive warrant could be found. The protests of Bacon and later of the empiricist and idealist logicians seemed to have pushed formalism into the secondary position where its virtues and virtuosity could be profitably exercised when lo it staged a come-back covering with an infinite variegation of tinkling symbols its essential noble sterility. Men were so bemused by all this difficult magnificence that it ceased to be plain to them that what was now being played out before them was not in an ordinary sense reasoning at all. And the issue was clouded by the fact that it was possible to formalize and thereby to trivialize each genuine piece of reasoning by inventing a series of rules and premisses which covered by anticipation any inferential steps that one wanted to make. There came to be much lip-service to ‘language-games’ allegedly not trivial and formal but genuine ‘forms of life’ but the rules which governed such forms of life were thought of as being merely conventional or contingently natural and not as enshrining the very spirit and essence of the logical itself. It was the consequences of such games the outcome of their strict or loose rules which alone commanded interest: such and such was part of the way in which the word X is used followed from the ways in which certain words X were used etc. That the use of words followed notional pressures affinities between concepts which sprang from a deep and not a trivial identity seemed the very essence of superstition.
Everyone knows however how certain states of affairs seem ready and appropriate continuations of others the same thing carried a little further even though there may be no formal fault in holding them not to be so continued and that this is what ordinary men mean by the consistent and the logical. This was the consistency and the logic at work even in logic and mathematics and in many a priori disciplines before a half-century of effort had programmed their premisses so as to yield all their conclusions so that the latter were emptied of significance as of all inferential force. And this is certainly the consistency and the logic inseparable from the observed stuff laid before us by nature. A certain habit of being and mode of proceeding marks a distinct thing or node in the world-fabric and dictates a continuation which while differing from it none the less will not differ enough from it to disrupt ‘identity’ distinct nodes in the world-process have a mysterious identity of kind which keeps them not so far apart in their further behaviour styles of behaviour point inwards to characteristic styles of feeling complex physical situations point inwards to thoughts that sum them up natural convictions point to corresponding facts and vice versa belief in something points to conduct appropriate to what is believed and so on in innumerable cases. In all these cases we have phenomena which while involving difference distance apartness none the less have the profound kinship and mutual adjustment to which we only feel that we do full justice when we recognize an identity pervading them all which nowhere breaks into that limiting independence involved in the notion of total otherness. This identity remains however a nebulous groping concept at the level of this-world experience and only unveils itself fully as we go on our speculative journey inwards into regions where distinctions between individuals and kinds between thoughts and their objects between inner private states and their bodily public manifestations between full readiness and execution and so forth become less and less sharp and all leads upward to that flame of pure zeal in which all these distinctions collapse into unity. The intermediate ascent is however necessary to the peripheral identity which is otherwise ‘merely mystical’ in the vulgar empty sense.
What we have been saying has been in a distant way said by many late nineteenth century Anglo-Saxon idealists with their belief in a single seamless ‘Reality’ the subject of all judgments all of whose nuances were ‘internally related’. Only if we may so put it they sought absolute unity where it is not truly to be found in the phenomena of this dirempted alienated sphere and their absolute reality accordingly assumed the painful form of a vastly extended total system a sort of cosmic British Empire with members bound together by strict Victorian causal determinism beribboned with a few superadded links of sentimental teleology. Whereas if we are right this earthly sphere only hints at the genuine coincidences the concentrated identity which higher spheres will render explicit and hence necessarily involves the gulfs the indifferences the limited independences the mechanical encounters the disruptive interferences the distortions and perversions which it would be folly not to recognize in this life. Being Victorian progressives the idealists in question found their fulcrum or centre in this present world and if some of their less guarded utterances may be held against them they made London with its Queen Parliament slums clubs docks learned societies and far-flung connections both their earthly and their spiritual Zion. Whereas the identity which pervades the world and is expressed in all its continuities is no unity of interlocking separate parts but an unextended secret thing like the Vairocana Buddha of Interpenetration to which the Emperor Shomu built his temple at Nara. We must find a fulcrum outside of this world if we are to lift the heavy load of puzzles which weighs on us in this world and no therapy can hope to heal us if we are unwilling to be transported even hypothetically to the world's point of unity.
So far we have been showing the value of otherworld excursions for theory: we may now try to show it for practice. Practice plainly involves a realm of goals or values the objects of desire or endeavour and a contrasted world of reality in which they have to be executed or carried out. To a mind inured to the provincial arrangements of this life nothing seems clearer than the distinction between the hard world of natural fact which assaults us through the senses and to which we submit with pleased but sometimes with plaintive masochism and the strengthless world of our wishes lost in a fine fume of fantasy and only acquiring a wavering hold on the realm of fact through the fortuitous link of human muscles. To suggest that these two realms are interdependent that the one exists to secure the carrying out of the other seems infinitely silly and romantic nor does it appear plausible to hold that desire wish is itself the living negation of the independence of the two realms an ought which is also an is. But if we pass in thought only a little way up the speculative ladder these provincial arrangements are eroded: there is no longer the plain distinction between the hard world of natural sense-given fact and the inner world of desire. Desire writes itself large on the semi-sensuous landscape in beautiful or regrettable patterns and the permanent common goals of desire approach the perpetuity and the publicity of mountains. Values are certainly facts in that upper world as all facts are living embodiments of values. This is even more true of the impersonal values studied in Lecture III which arise in our earth-bound minds through an arduous anguished process in which step by step we disassociate ourselves from the contingent material of our wishes and from the particularity of our personal existence and come to desire only what can and must be of interest to everyone and for everyone. Through this process we are led gradually to all those ideals of welfare freedom justice beauty knowledge love and virtue which specify the nisus we are describing and end ultimately by recognizing the unity of which they are the facets and which is them rather than merely has them. Through this ethico-religious process our practical life comes under the yoke of an infinitely persuasive Logos able to kindle the hearts and wills of others as it kindles our own but still lingering in the mists of abstraction and aspiration still reconcilable even with an ethic of decisions recommendations and persuasive definitions. In our speculative upper world however impersonal values and their unity in a single infinitely inclusive dynamic absolute stand together like the grouped glorified figures on some earthly altar. They are the supremely inescapable facts among the shifting semi-subjective shapes of that upper world. And they may well have at lower levels the sort of magnificent semi-sensuous symbolization that they have in the last cantos of Dante's Paradiso a work written by one who was plainly better than an eye-witness. It is because in that upper world it would be totally absurd to oppose an impotent realm of ideal desiderata to the hard facts of actual existence that we even in this world feel steeled against the assaults of all those who make values expressions of contingent personal preference. In the idlest personal wish we have not merely something that can cause something else by some secret physical mechanism or by Humean mental custom but causality itself naked authentic and intrinsically motive and in those deeply serious supra-personal wishes which are drawn by a necessary attraction to the just the lovely and other forms of excellence we have nothing less than the absolute central causality of the universe the pure zeal ultimately responsible for everything in other words l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle.
Practice further involves that deep concern for the personal interests and higher well-being of others for which it is totally idle to seek a satisfactory foundation in the surface phenomena of the world. If modern philosophy has taught us anything it has shown the utterly transcendent character of the stipulations by which a world of experient mutually cognizant egos is set up the total a priority of the whole notion of mental otherness the impossibility of illustrating it in a medium whose structure involves it among other forms of alienation. Such a position can be used to undermine all deeper concern for the happiness and higher well-being of others and only the contingent personal amiability of Wittgenstein and other modern philosophers disguises this fact. The lucidities of the Marquis de Sade may well succeed the sentimentalities of the solipsists and the behaviourists and there are not a few signs of this coming to pass. But if as our upper-world legend has put before us in not unimaginable outline there are states in which the distinction of persons becomes largely a courtesy distinction as often in dreams where we know people's thoughts or decisions before they utter them or act on them and where the provenance and ownership of a thought is unimportant and the difference between thinking a thought and thinking about it is quite blurred and where sympathetic sufferings and personal sufferings have ceased to be plainly different and the whole common stock of experience is so vast that not its shared core but its unshared fringes its residue of apartness alone creates a problem all this is wholly different and our concern with the feelings and visions of others becomes wholly justified. Only the seepage down from such higher levels explains the unmovedness of the homo naturalis metaphysicus by the arguments of the solipsist or the criteriologist: in the quietude of his being he underpasses the whole brilliant surface-discussion.
It is not necessary for us to underline the importance of those other-world penalties for injustice and cruelty which consist in practically becoming one's victims and in reliving their mortifications and their torments and the way in which they make personal what is impersonal. The many magnificent under-world descriptions of the Platonic dialogues make all of this clear. The Socratic doctrine that it is never profitable for anyone to do harm or injustice to anyone is at the level of this-world existence a trivial sophism which confuses purely personal with absolute evil. But in the deepest regard it is the truth of the matter for since others are not really the absolute others that our alienated language would suggest to mishandle and abuse them is to mishandle and abuse ourselves. The pains of hells and purgatories do no more than give ritual explicitness to this truth. It is also unnecessary to point out that our immense respect for the personality of men and even of animals indicates an extension of their being beyond the limits of this life: they may not be deprived of physical life on the specious excuse that once dead they will not repine at such deprivation promises made to them must be fulfilled after death etc. etc. Even if some of our taboos concerning euthanasia and abortion might seem unwarranted in an otherworldly perspective they perhaps represent a strange compromise between such a perspective and the dubiety which is part and parcel of it. Whether or not the dissolution of the person at death is a genuine fact it is something to which we are strangely obliged not to accommodate ourselves in our conduct or not to accommodate ourselves fully. The athanatistic implications of many ordinary obligations have not been sufficiently studied by moralists.
We have said enough about the light thrown on theory and practice by the otherworldly Jacob's ladder we have postulated: let us now be Kantian and say something about its relation to art beauty and the aesthetic. Concentration on this-world phenomena has reduced aesthetic philosophy to a shambles where no general statement is permissible: there are no specific aesthetic emotions no peculiar aesthetic objects no rationally connected reasons for aesthetic approval or disapproval not even a supreme value of the beautiful which now is succeeded by a hydralike wealth of independent heads like the dainty the gorgeous the classically severe the lyrical etc. (I once heard Austin discoursing for a whole afternoon on the ‘dainty’ and its contrast with the ‘dumpy’.) The practical effect has been to concentrate effort on the unexplored interstices of the aesthetic where the aesthetic goal can be achieved in perverse and defiantly deviant ways. In reality that goal is not altered when a man's glazed breakfast pinned to a chair and set at right angles to the gallery wall or the crushed entrails of a motor car replace the Entombment of Michelangelo or the courtesans of Utamaro. In the little time left me I can only be sweeping and I shall simply say that whatever their surface differences of theme material form method etc. all the objects of aesthetic appreciation can with illumination be said to express precisely the same message and that a mystical one. Hence the rapt gaze of all who really enjoy beautiful sights and sounds a gaze that goes through what is immediate to a not easily utterable target and which is so much counterfeited by imitators and so embarrassing to the sincere but unmystical that they prefer to concentrate on technical or historical minutiae details of contingent content and quickly run away from the beautiful altogether. The mystical message of all such objects is simply the overcoming of alienation in overriding unity such as occurs progressively as we move towards the mystical pole of the cosmos. The alienation of aesthetically esteemed objects lies in their contingent material their dealing with star-crossed lovers or wild swan in flight or game and fruit or what not as well as with spatially and temporally extended items organized in various ways: sometimes there are two distinct tiers of inner significance and sensibly perceived form sometimes the inner significance is indistinguishable from the outward pattern which may be said paradoxically to express or bring out itself. The overcoming of the alienation consists in the manner in which the contingent material and sensory items are all made to co-operate and interpenetrate so that one and the same total character or pattern whether sensory or notional comes out in all of them. The pattern or character which comes out may of course be anything whatever simple or complex lowest-order or higher-order or categorial. It may lend itself simply to aesthetic treatment or may be superficially at odds with such treatment: what is jarring discrepant bathetic feeble confused decayed half-formed jejune patched together loathly etc. are if seen as such as fit objects of aesthetic presentation as their more readily loved opposites. But whatever it is we always look through the character of pattern presented to a certain abstract triumph the triumph of concentration over random dispersion the complete worsting and utter subjugation of the latter the sort of abstract triumph which occurs at the end of a world-period when inadequate random forms vanish into the pure zeal which has breathed itself into them and which now withdraws from them and makes use of them only to feel and know itself.
Aesthetic enjoyment may therefore be said to point to upper world conditions in which alienation is far more effectively overcome and in which all existence becomes infinitely expressive. But existence at those levels is possibly less full of aesthetic delight than existence down here since the ease of the medium gives a certain facility and absence of poignancy to the product. Beauty would seem in fact to be essentially a value of exile which we experience down here when we look towards degrees of unity and interpenetration which cannot be achieved in a sensuous spatio-temporal medium. But it is only because earthly organizations of material suggest the unity and interpenetration yonder that they acquire the right to be regarded as beautiful. It is because it suggests rather than achieves that our intercourse with beauty is also so often unsuccessful and painful why our visits to our best-loved works of art are often a total failure why our aesthetic sensibilities can be deranged by the slightest physical malaise or fatigue why aesthetic impotence is a malady far more readily fallen into and far more depriving than the impotence of sex. The whole life of Ruskin with its oscillating depression and final collapse is an eloquent proof that the roots of beauty lie yonder and that the attempt to take violent possession of it by mentally eating up all the buildings in Europe and every stone in Venice can only lead to the dark night of the soul and to final madness.
Having suggested the relevance of the world to come to our theoretical practical and aesthetic life here I now wish to be a little more personal and say something about one or two of the points of earthly existence at which some people and myself among them do feel that there is a relative lack of opacity between earthly existence and upper-world being. There are an extraordinary number of extremely simple delights which seem as it were to be the residue of some earlier untainted creation and which involve if only in symbol that blending and interpenetration of essence in which upper-world being arguably consists. The breathing in of air the touch and sight of water being warmed by the sun or by fire the eating of simple foods repose under soft clean covers the touch and scent of flowers the flow of unstrained human conversation: all of these have and retain something inherently marvellous and seem as it were to be natural metaphors for quite ineffable satisfactions. And I may further follow Wordsworth and refer to all those experiences of early childhood which certainly become more and more ‘apparelled in celestial light’ the further they retreat from us and largely furnish the paradigms for our notions of the heavenly. Only I should not with Wordsworth lay such emphasis on meadow grove and stream glorious as these undoubtedly were as on the domestic and social arrangements that then surrounded us with their indescribable mixture of beauty joy and trust. Modern existentialism has sketched the unauthentic ‘they’ which so tiresomely surrounds us in early experience with its dreary judgments and its conventional prescriptions but why not dwell on the authentic the deeply accepted ‘we’ of which each of us was so intimately and so happily a part? In the structure of that ‘we’ a sound phenomenology or existentialism will surely distinguish the two primal figures not loathsomely caught in some Freudian ‘primal scene’ but in those endless offices of sweetness and care in which parental being consists. And it will surely find room for a phenomenological characterization of the brotherly the sisterly and the cousinly and will perhaps find room for a special chapter on aunts that interesting transitional category between maternity and random femininity devoting perhaps a special study to the romantic aunt who dark interesting and beautiful brings into the nursery the rumour of strange voyages and amazing encounters as well as sympathies almost unbearably touching. There should also surely be an existential chapter concerned with the ‘home town’ that blessed location whose streets served only to link one happy habitation with another each a warm centre of family affection of love between masters and servants of domestic order and purity of life. Later in life too there are certain authentic reflections of the heavenly if also of the purgatorial in those experiences of early love where two worlds of experience seem magically linked so that one can wander in astonishment among the strange landscapes lights and jewelled trees of another's world as also in those successive awakenings to whole worlds of human endeavour and to human enterprises still in progress and in pilgrimages with blessed companions to those cities mainly Italian which like God are not merely beautiful but beauty itself. My selection of heavenward-pointing items has been highly personal: many others might have been mentioned especially those that have to do with one's own children or with beloved persons who have gone beyond the shadows and deceits of the cave. I can only plead that the same personal selectivity is evident in the work of those existentialists and phenomenologists who have painted pictures of a human existence stained in care guilt and anxiety where the prospect of an ultimate nothingness is only one shade less dreadful than falling into the hands of a Kierkegaardian God. And I should further claim that as values are the norms which give sense and possibility to the deviant and the evil so the heavenward indications that I have mentioned are the normal the normative ones and that the dire pictures projected on to the cosmos whether by Danish melancholia or by central European social collapse are subsidiary and interstitial. What I wish to point out is that the whole of life is shot through with these astonishing experiences no doubt differing greatly from one person to another but which so deeply presuppose light streaming from beyond the cave that they make no sense without it.
I have now come to the end of these Gifford Lectures on The Discipline of the Cave and The Transcendence of the Cave. Though my audience has been exiguous—the most exiguous in fact in my whole experience—it has never been unattentive nor I think uncomprehending and I have greatly valued the opportunity of putting some of my less readily expressed fringe-convictions into moderately clear coherent form. I am very grateful to the authorities of St Andrews University for affording me this opportunity which has also pleased me particularly as coming from Scotland. I am deeply proud of all my ancestors whether English Scottish Suabian Hanoverian Dutch or French Huguenot men blown by many motives to South Africa but all also by that gust of the spirit which drives me too but of none am I more proud than of that old Calvinist sea-captain whose name I bear who sailed his ship the Alacrity to St Helena round the Cape and to Tasmania who so abhorred a graven image that his only portrait is a sketch drawn privily from the rear and who now reposes in the graveyard of the Auld Kirk at Cullen. It is on account of these precious Scottish ties that I have not only ventured to tell you my mind but to open my heart.
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