THE THIRD CANON OF THOUGHT
A KEY TO THE ENIGMAS OF THE WORLD
The phenomenal and the noumenal side of man 'Man in himself.' How do we know the inner side of man? Can we know of the existence of consciousness in conditions of space not analogous to ours? Brain and consciousness. Unity of the world Logical impossibility of a simultaneous existence of spirit and matter. Either all is spirit or all is matter. Rational and irrational actions in nature and in man's life. Can rational actions exist side by side with irrational? The world as an accidentally produced mechanical toy. The impossibility of consciousness in a mechanical universe. The impossibility of mechanicalness if consciousness exists. The fact of human consciousness interfering with the mechanical system. The consciousness of other cross-sections of the world. How can we know about them? Kant on 'spirits'. Spinoza on the cognition of the invisible world. Necessity for the intellectual definition of what is possible and what is impossible in the noumenal world
We know very imperfectly what man is and our ideas of man are extremely erroneous and easily create new illusions. First of all, we are inclined to regard man as a certain unity, and to consider different details and functions of man as interconnected and all of them dependent on one another. Moreover, we see the cause of all man's properties and actions in his physical apparatus, in the visible man. In reality man is something very complex, and complex in many senses. Many sides of man's life are either totally unconnected with each other, or only connected by the fact that they belong to one and the same man; and man's life goes on simultaneously as it were, on different planes. Moreover, the phenomena of one plane touch another plane only partially and rarely, and may not touch it at all. And man's relations to the different sides of himself and of other people are not at all the same.
Man contains in himself all the three kinds of phenomena mentioned earlier, i.e. he represents a combination of physical phenomena, phenomena of life and psychological phenomena. And the interrelation of these three orders of phenomena is infinitely more complex than we are accustomed to think. Psychological phenomena in ourselves we feel, sense and are aware of; phenomena of life and physical phenomena we observe and form conclusions about on the grounds of experience. We do not sense the psychological phenomena of others, i.e. the thoughts, feelings and desires of another man. We deduce that he has got them from his words or by analogy with ourselves. We know that, with us, certain actions are preceded by certain thoughts and feelings. And so, when we observe the same actions in another man, we conclude that he has thought and felt as we do. Analogy with ourselves is our only criterion and method of judging and drawing conclusions about the psychological phenomena of other people, if we cannot communicate with them or refuse to believe what they tell us about themselves.
Supposing I were, to live in the midst of people, without any means of communicating with them or drawing conclusions by analogy; I should then be surrounded by moving and acting automatons, the meaning, significance and causes of whose actions would be totally obscure for me. Perhaps I would explain their actions by 'molecular motion', or by the 'influence of the planets', or by 'spiritualism', i.e. the actions of 'spirits', or by 'accident', an involuntary combination of causes; in any case I would not and could not see the psychological life of these people in those actions.
Altogether, I can only judge about the existence of thought and feeling by analogy with myself. I know that certain phenomena in me are connected with my possessing thought and feeling. When I see the same phenomena in another man, I conclude that he also possesses thought and feeling. But I cannot have a direct proof of the existence of psychological life in another man. Studying man only from outside, I should be in relation to him in exactly the same position as, according to Kant, we stand in relation to the surrounding world. We only know our means of perceiving it. The world in itself we do not know.
Thus I have two means of knowing a man in himself (i.e. his inner life) - analogy with myself and communication with him, exchange of thoughts. Without this a man for me is nothing but a phenomenon, a moving automaton.
The noumenon of a man is his psychological life, all that this psychological life contains, and all that it connects man with.
Both worlds are open for us in 'Man', although the noumenal world is open but slightly and imperfectly owing to the fact that it is perceived by us through the phenomenal world.
Noumenal means perceived by the mind and the characteristic feature of the things belonging to the noumenal world is the fact that they cannot be perceived by the same method as things of the phenomenal world. We may speculate about the existence of things of the noumenal world, we may find them by means of mental deductions, we may discover them by analogy, we may feel them, enter into some sort of communion with them - but we cannot see, hear, touch, weigh or measure them, we cannot photograph them or resolve them into chemical elements or into a number of vibrations.
Thus psychological life with all its functions and all its content -thoughts, feelings, desires, will, does not belong to the world of phenomena. No element of psychological life can be perceived by us objectively. It is just as impossible to see an emotion as such, as it is impossible to see the value of a coin. You can see the inscription on a coin but you can never see its value. It is just as impossible to photograph a thought as it is to visualize 'Egyptian darkness' in a bottle. To think otherwise, to experiment with photographingthoughts, simply implies inability to think logically. On a gramophone record there are scratches, elevations and depressions, but there are no sounds. Whoever will hold the gramophone record to his ear, hoping to hear something, will certainly listen in vain.
Including in himself two worlds, i.e. the phenomenal and the noumenal world, 'man' offers us the possibility to understand the mutual relationship of these two worlds in all nature. It should be remembered, however, that in denning the noumenon as psychological life we take only one of the innumerable facets of the noumenon.
Earlier we came to the conclusion that the noumenon of a thing consists in its function in another sphere, in its meaning which is incomprehensible in the given section of the world.*
Further, we came to the conclusion that the number of meanings of one and the same thing in different sections of the world must be infinitely greatand infinitely varied, that each thing must become its own opposite, return again to the beginning (from our point of view) and so on and so on, infinitely expanding, contracting again, etc.
And we must remember that the noumenon and the phenomenon are not different things, but merely different aspects of one and the same thing. Moreover, every phenomenon is the finite expression of
' The expression 'section of the world' is taken as an indicator of the unreality of the forms of each section. The world is infinite and all forms are infinite, but to encompass them with the finite brain-consciousness, i.e. with the consciousness reflected by the brain, we must imagine infinite forms as finite -and these are the sections of the world. The world is one, but the number of possible sections is infinite. Let us imagine an apple: it is one. But it is possible to imagine an infinite number of sections of an apple, taken in all directions; and all these sections will differ from one another. If, instead of an apple, we take a more complex body, for instance, the body of some animal, then sections taken in different directions will be even more unlike one another.
something infinite within the sphere of our perception through the organs of sense.
For us a phenomenon is a three-dimensional expression of the infinite.
This three-dimensionality depends on the three-dimensional forms of our perception, i.e. more simply, on our brain, nerves, eyes and fingertips.
In 'man' we have found that one side of his noumenon is his psychological life, that it is precisely in mind that lies the beginning of the solution of the riddle of those functions and inner implications of man which are incomprehensible from outside.
What is man's psychological life if not his function, unknowable in the three-dimensional section of the world? Indeed, if we should study and observe man objectively, from outside, by all the means accessible to us, we shall never discover his psychological life or define the function of mind. We must first of all know about the existence of our own psychological life, then enter into a conversation with another man (by means of sounds, gestures, words), begin to exchange thoughts with him and, on the basis of his answers, draw the conclusion that he possesses what we do; or draw the same conclusion on the basis of external signs (actions identical to ours in identical circumstances). By direct method of objective investigation, without the helpof speech, or without the aid of deduction by analogy we shall not discover any psychological life in another man. That which is inaccessible to a direct method of investigation, and yet exists, is NOUMENAL. Consequently we shall not be able to determine the function and meaning of man in a section of the world other than the world of Euclidean geometry which is alone accessible to 'direct methods of investigation'. Therefore we have every right to regard'man's mind' as his function in a section of the world different from the threedimensional section in which 'man's body' functions.
Having established this, we may ask ourselves the question: have we not the right to draw the reverse conclusion and regard the unknown function of the 'world' and of 'things' outside the three-dimensional section as their own kind of mind?
Our ordinary positivist view regards mind as the function of the brain. Without the brain we cannot imagine any mental life.
Max Nordau, when wishing to imagine the 'world's consciousness' (in Paradoxes) had to say that we cannot be certain that somewhere in the infinite space of the universe is not repeated on a colossal scale the same combination of physical and chemical elements as constitutes our brain This is very characteristic and typical of 'positivist science' Wishing to imagine the 'world's consciousness', positivism must first of all imagine a gigantic brain Does not this at once savour of the two-dimensional plane-world? In actual fact the idea of a gigantic brain somewhere beyond the stars shows the astonishing poverty and feebleness of positivist thought This thought cannot get out of the customary rut, and it has no wings to fly
Imagine some inquiring inhabitant of seventeenth-century Europe trying to visualize the means of transportation of the twentieth century and picturing to himself an enormous stage-coach, the size of a large inn, drawn by a thousand horses He would be very near the truth . . and at the same time infinitely far from it And yet even in his time there were some minds which worked in the right direction; the idea of a steam engine was already shaping itself, models were already appearing
The thought expressed by Nordau is reminiscent of the favourite theories of popular philosophy relating to an idea casually picked up, that the planets and stars of the visible world are merely the molecules of some great body, of which our universe is but an insignificant part. . . .
'Perhaps the whole universe is contained in the little finger of some great being,' says a philosophizing man-in-the-street. 'And perhaps our molecules are also worlds. Maybe my little finger also holds several universes!' And the man-in-the-street becomes frightened. But all such reasonings are nothing but a gigantic stage-coach.* Such reasoning is similar to the reflections of a little girl about whom I once read, I think, in the Theosophical Review. The girl sat by the fire; beside her slept a cat. 'Here is the cat, asleep,' thought the little girl, 'Perhaps it is dreaming that it is not a cat but a little girl. And maybe I am not really a little girl at all, but a cat, and I am only dreaming that I am a little girl. . . .' The next moment a piercing shriek shakes the house and the little girl's parents have a hard time to persuade her that she is not a cat but truly a little girl.
All this shows that philosophizing needs a certain skill. Our thought is surrounded by a great many blind alleys And positivism,
* The error lies here not in the idea itself but in the literal analogy In itself the idea that molecules are worlds and worlds are molecules is absolutely correct and is worthy of attention and study, it may serve as a means for a right understanding of the world My readers will have to meet with this idea later and then they will see how much is contained in this idea and how much is explained by taking this idea as one's starting point But the same thought, enclosed in a literal analogy without the idea of the Unknown and the Unknowable, is destroyed and becomes a caricature always and everywhere trying to apply the rule of three, is a blind alley in itself.
Our analysis of phenomena and the relation we have established between physical phenomena, phenomena of life and psychological phenomena permits us to affirm quite definitely that psychological phenomena cannot be a function of physical phenomena - or phenomena of a lower order. We have established that the higher cannot be a function of the lower. And the division of the higher and the lower is also based on the perfectly real fact of the different potentialities of different orders of phenomena -of the different amount of latent force contained in them (or liberated by them). And, quite naturally, we have the right to label as higher those phenomena which possess a greater potentiality, a greater latent force, and as lower phenomena possessing a lesser potentiality, a lesser latent force.
Phenomena of life are higher as compared with physical phenomena.
Psychological phenomena are higher as compared with phenomena of life and physical phenomena.
It is clear which must be the function of which.
We cannot say without making the crudest logical mistake that life and mind are functionally dependent on physical phenomena, i.e. we cannot call them the result of physical phenomena. On the contrary, everything forces us to recognize physical phenomena as the result of life, and physiological life as the result of psychological life.
But of what life and what mind? This is the question. Naturally it would be absurd to regard the earthly globe as a function of the vegetable and animal life proceeding on the earth, and the visible starry world as a function of the human mind. But nobody disputes this. The occult understanding speaks of another life and another mind, partial manifestations of which are our life and our mind. It is important to establish the general principle that physical phenomena, as the lower, depend on phenomena of life and mind, as the higher.
If we accept this principle as established, we shall be able to proceed further.
The first question which arises is: in what relation does the psychological life of man stand to his body and his brain?
This question has been answered differently at different times. Psychological life was regarded as a direct function of the brain (Thought is a motion of matter'), thus, naturally, denying any possibility of thought or feeling without a brain. Then there were attempts at establishing the parallelism of mental activity and the activity of the brain. But the character of this parallelism has always remained veryobscure. Yes, evidently the brain works parallel with thinking and feeling, a break-down or a disorder in the activity of the brain brings about an apparent break-down or a disorder in mental functions. Still, the activity of the brain is nothing but motion, i.e. an object phenomenon, whereas mental activity is a phenomenon objectively undefinable, subjective, and at the same time more powerful than anything objective. How to link it all together?
Let us try to look at the activity of the brain and of the mind from the point of view of the existence of two data 'the world' and 'inner life', accepted by us in the very beginning.
If we look at the brain from the standpoint of inner life, the brain will be a part of the 'world', i.e. a part of the outer world lying outside mental life. Thus mind and the brain are different things But our observation and experience tell us that the mind can operate only through the brain. The brain is that necessary prism passing through which a pan of the mind manifests itself to us as intellect. Or putting it in a slightly different way, the brain is a mirror, reflecting the mind in our three-dimensional section of the world. This means that in our three-dimensional section of the world not the whole of mind is seen (we do not know its real dimensions) but only as much of it as is reflected in the brain. It is clear that if the mirror is broken, the reflection must also be shattered, or, if the mirror is damaged it will give a distorted reflection. But there are no grounds for supposing that when the mirror breaks the object it reflects also becomes broken, i.e. in this case, mind.
The mind cannot suffer from disorders of the brain, but its manifestations can suffer greatly and can even disappear altogether from the field of our observation. It is clear, therefore, that disorders in the activity of the brain lead to a weakening or a distortion, or even a complete disappearance of mental faculties, manifesting in our sphere.
The idea of comparing three-dimensional and four-dimensional bodies enables us to assert that not all activity of the mind passes through the brain, but only a part of it.*
* In all that has been said above it would be more correct to substitute for the word brain the word body, organism New trends of scientific psychology bring us precisely to the understanding of the psychological value of different functions which have been unknown till recent tunes and are even now but little investigated The mind is connected not only with the brain but with the whole body, with all the organs, with all the tissues The theory of hormones, the study of the activity of the glands and many other things round which science is now revolving, already show that the brain is by no means the sole conductor of the menial activity of man Each of us is in reality an abiding psychical entity far more extensive than he knows an individuality which can never express itself completely through any corporeal manifestation. The Self manifests through the organism; but there is always some part of the Self unmanifested.*
The 'positivist' remains dissatisfied. He will say: prove to me that thought can take place without the brain, then I will believe.
I shall answer him by the question: What in this case will constitute proof?
There are no proofs and there cannot be any. The existence of mind without the brain (without the body), if it is possible, is for us a fact which cannot be proved like a physical fact.
And if my opponent is sincere in his reasoning, he will become convinced that there cannot be no proofs -because he himself has no means a/ascertaining the existence of mind acting independently of the brain. Indeed, let us suppose that the thought of a dead man (i.e. of a man whose brain has ceased to work) continues to function. How can we ascertain this? We cannot. We have means of communication (speech, writing) with beings who are in the same conditions as ourselves, i.e. whose mind acts through the brain; the existence of mind in such beings we can deduce by analogy with ourselves. But the existence of mind in other beings, irrespective of whether there are such beings or not, we cannot ascertain by our ordinary means.
This last fact gives a key to the understanding of the true relation between the mind and the brain. Our mind, being merely a reflection thrown back by the brain, can only notice other reflections similar to itself. We have established earlier that we can make conclusions about the mind of other beings by means of exchanging thoughts with them and by analogy with ourselves. Now we can add that, because of this we can only know about the existence of minds similar to ours and can know no others, whether they exist or not, until we find ourselves on their plane.
If we should one day feel our mind not only as it is reflected by the brain but in a wider sense, we would simultaneously have the possibility of discovering beings, analogous to ourselves, whose mind is independent of the brain, if such beings exist in nature.
But do such beings exist or not? What can our thought, such as it is now, tell us concerning this?
Observing the world from outside, we see in it actions proceeding
* From Frederick Myers's essay on the 'Subliminal Consciousness', as quoted in W. James's book The Varieties of Religious Experience, New York, Longmans Green, 1917.
from rational, conscious causes, such as the work of human beings appears to us; and we see actions proceeding from unconscious blind forces of nature, such as the movement of waves, ebbing and flowing tides, the flow of rivers, etc., etc.
Such a division of observed actions into rational and mechanical seems naive even from the positivist point of view. If we have learned something bythe study of nature, if the positivist method has given us anything at all, it is the conviction of the essential unity of phenomena. We know, and we know this for certain, that things basically similar cannot result from dissimilar causes. And scientific philosophy knows it too. Therefore it also regards the above-mentioned division as naive and, aware of the impossibility of such a dualism -that one part of observed phenomena proceeds from rational and conscious causes and another part from irrational and unconscious - it finds it possible to explain everything as proceeding from irrational and unconscious causes.
Scientific observation tells us that the apparent rationality of human actions is nothing but illusion and self-deception. Man is a plaything in the hands of elemental forces. He is only a transmitting station of forces. Everything thathe thinks he does is in reality done for him by external forces which enter into him with air, with food, with sunlight. Man does not perform a single action by himself. He is only a prism through which a line of action is reflected in a certain way. But as a ray of light does not originate from the prism, so the action does not originate from man's intellect.
In confirmation of this there is advanced, among other things, the 'theoretical experiment' of German psycho-physiologists. They assert that, if it were possible from the moment of birth to deprive a man of ALL EXTERNAL IMPRESSIONS: of light, sound, touch, heat, cold and so on, and at the same time keep him alive, such a man would not be capable of ANY, EVEN THE MOST SIGNIFICANT ACTION.
It follows from this that man is an automaton, similar to the automaton on which the American physicist Tesla worked and which, obeying electric currents and long-distance wireless waves, was supposed to perform a whole series of complex movements.
It follows that all man's actions depend on external stimuli. The smallest reflex requires an external irritation. A more complex action needs a whole series of preceding complex irritations. Sometimes there is a great lapse of time between the irritation and the action, and a man does not feel any connection between them. Consequently he regards his actions as volitional, whereas, in actual fact, volitional actions do not exist. A man cannot do anything by himself, just as a stone cannot jump into the air at will: it is necessary for something to throw it up. In the same way a man needs something to give him a shock, and then he will develop exactly as much energy as the shock (or preceding shocks) have imparted to him - and not a whit more. This is what positivism teaches.
From a LOGICAL STANDPOINT this theory is more correct than the theory of two kinds of actions: RATIONAL and IRRATIONAL. At least it establishes the principle of the essential UNIFORMITY. Indeed, how is it possible to suppose that in a large machine some parts move according to their own wish and judgment? It should be either one or the other. Either all parts of the machine possess a realization of their function and act according to this realization, or all of them are worked by the same motor and are brought into motion by the same driving belt. The enormous service rendered by positivism is that it has established this principle of uniformity. It remains for us to determine in what this uniformity consists.
The positivist view of the world asserts that the beginning of everything is unconscious energy, produced by unknown causes at some unknown time. Having passed through a long series of imperceptible electro-magnetic and physico-chemical processes, this energy manifests itself for us in visible and tangible motion, then in growth, i.e. in phenomena of life and finally in psychological phenomena.
This view has been examined already and the conclusion drawn that it is quite impossible to regard physical phenomena as the cause of psychological phenomena, whereas psychological phenomena, on the contrary, often serve as an indisputable cause of physical phenomena observed by us. The observed process of psychological phenomena arising under the influence of external mechanical shocks does not in the least mean that physical phenomena originate the psychological ones. They are not the cause but merely the shock upsetting the balance. In order that external shocks should provoke psychological phenomena an organism is needed, i.e. a complex and animated life. The cause of psychological life lies in the organism, in its animation which may be defined as the potential of psychological life.
Moreover, from the very essence of the concept motion, i.e. the basis of the physico-mechanical world, we have drawn the conclusion that motion is not at all a self-evident truth, that the idea of motion arose in us from the limitation and incompleteness of our sense of space (the slit through which we observe the world). And we have established that the idea of time is not deduced from observation of motion, as is usually supposed, but the idea of motion results from our sense of time - and that the idea of motion is quite definitely a function of the time-sense which, in itself, is the limit or the boundary of the spacesense of a being of a given psychological make-up. It has also been made clear that the idea of motion could have arisen from the comparison of two fields of vision. And generally the whole analysis of the fundamental categories of our perception of the world - of space and time -has shown that we have no grounds whatever for regarding motion as a basic principle of the world.
And if this is so, if it is impossible to assume the existence of an unconscious mechanical motor behind the scenes of the world's structure, one is forced to suppose that the world is alive and intelligent. Because either one or another thing is true: either the world is mechanical and dead, 'accidental', or it is alive and animated. There can be nothing dead in living nature, just as there can be nothing alive in dead nature.
After going through a long period of unconscious and semi-conscious existence in the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms, nature attains its last great development in man, and asks itself: What am I? Man is the organ of the self-consciousness of nature.
So wrote Schopenhauer in his Aphorisms and, of course, it is a very beautiful picture. But we have no grounds whatever for considering man as the crown of all nature's creation. He is only the HIGHEST WE KNOW.
Positivism would be quite right and its picture of the world would not have a single defect if there were no reason in the world anywhere or at any time. Then, willy-nilly, it would be necessary to admit that the universe is a mechanical toy, accidentally formed in space. But the fact of the existence of mind 'spoils all the statistics'. It cannot possibly be left out.
We have either to admit the existence of two principles - 'spirit' and 'matter' -or to choose one of them.
In this, dualism is destroyed because, if we admit the separate existence of spirit and matter and carry our reasoning further, we are bound to come to the conclusion either that spirit is unreal while matter is real, or that matter is unreal and spirit is real; in other words that either spirit is material or matter is spiritual. Consequently one has to choose one or the other - either spirit or matter.
But to think really MONISTICALLY is more difficult than it seems, I have met many people who called themselves and sincerely regarded themselves as 'monists'. But in actual fact they never departed from the most naive dualism and never experienced even a spark of understanding of the world's unity.
Positivism, regarding 'motion' or 'energy' as the basis of everything, can never be 'monistic'. It cannot deny the fact of mind. If it were able to disregard this fact completely, all would be well and the universe could pass for an accidentally formed mechanical toy. Unfortunately, however, even positivism cannot deny the existence of mind, nor can it destroy it. It can only bring it down as low as possible, calling it a reflection of reality, the essence of which lies in motion.
But in that case how to deal with the fact that the 'reflection' possesses an infinitely greater potentiality than the reality?
How can this be? From what is this reality reflected or through what is it refracted in such a way that, in its reflected form, it has an infinitely greater potentiality than in the original form?
A consistent 'materialist-monist' would be able to say only that 'reality' is reflected from itself, i.e. that 'one motion' reflects from another motion. But this is nothing but dialectics and it does not explain what mind is, because it is something different from motion.
However much we may persist in calling thought motion, we know that they are two different things: different as regards our perception of them, things belonging to different worlds, incommensurable and capable of existing simultaneously. Moreover, thought can exist without motion, whereas motion cannot exist without thought, because the necessary condition of motion -time -comes from the mind. If there is no mind, there is no time, as it exists for us. If there is no time, there is no motion.
We cannot escape this fact and, thinking logically, are forced to admit two principles. But, if we consider the very admission of two principles illogical, we are bound to accept THOUGHT as a single principle, and regard motion as an ILLUSION OF THOUGHT.
What does it mean? It means that there can be no 'monistic materialism'. Materialism can only be dualistic, i.e. it has to recognize two principles', motion and thought. Our concepts are connected with language. Our language is profoundly dualistic. It is a terrible drag. I have already said once before, what a drag language is on our thought, making it impossible to express the relationships of the existing universe. In our language there is only one eternally becoming universe. The 'Eternal Now' cannot be expressed in our language.
Thus our language depicts to us an admittedly false universe: dual, when in reality it is one, and eternally becoming, when in reality it is eternally existing.
If we realize how much this fact changes everything, if we understand to what extent our language hides from us the true picture of the world, we shall see that it is not only difficult but absolutely impossible to express in our language the true relationships of things of the real world.
This difficulty can be overcome only by the formation of new concepts and expanded analogies.
Later I shall make clear the principles and methods of this expansion, methods and principles which we already possess and which can be extracted from the store of our knowledge. For the moment it is important to establish one thing -THE NEED OF UNIFORMITY -the monistic character of the universe. . . .
As a matter of principle, it is immaterial what to regard as the beginning:spirit or matter. What is important is to admit their oneness.
But what then is matter?
On the one side it is a logical concept, i.e. a form of thinking. No one has ever seen matter, nor will he ever see it: matter can only be thought. On the other hand it is -illusion taken for reality. Matter is a section of something, a non-existent, imaginary section. But that of which matter is a section does exist. It is the real, four-dimensional world, perhaps a many-dimensional world.
Wood, the substance from which a table is made, exists but we do not know the true nature of its existence. All we know about it is the form of our perception of it.
And, if we are no longer there, it will continue to exist, but only for a perception working in the same way as ours.
But in itself this substance exists in some entirely different manner, HOW, we do not know. One thing is certain; it does not exist in space and time these forms we impose on it. Probably all similar wood of different centuries and different parts of the world forms one mass -one body, perhaps one being.It is certain that the particular substance (or part of substance) from which this table is made, has no separate existence other than in our perception. We do not understand that a thing is only an artificial definition by our senses of some undefinable cause which infinitely transcends the thing.
But a thing may acquire an individual and separate soul of its own. And in that case a thing exists independently of our perception. Many things possess such souls, especially old things, old houses, old books, works of art, etc.
But what grounds have we for thinking that there exists in the world a mind other than our human one and that of animals and plants?
First of all, of course, the thought that everything in the world is alive and animated and that manifestations of life and animation must exist on all planes and in all forms. But we can see mind only in forms analogous to ours. The most important thing is that we have no reason to consider our mind as the only and highest form existing in the universe.
The question stands thus How could we learn about the existence of the mind of other sections of the world, if they exist?
By two methods, through COMMUNICATION, EXCHANGE OF THOUGHTS and by means of CONCLUSIONS BY ANALOGY.
For the first it is necessary that our mental life should itself become similar to theirs, should transcend the limits of the three-dimensional world, i.e. a change of our form of perception and representation is required.
The second may result from a gradual expansion of the faculty of drawinganalogies. In trying to think outside the usual categories, in trying to look at things and ourselves from a new angle, and simultaneously from many angles, in trying to liberate our thinking from the customary partitions of time and space, we gradually begin to notice analogies between things, where previously we had seen nothing at all. Our mind grows, and with it grows the capacity of drawing analogies. With every new degree reached, this capacitybroadens and enriches our mind. Each moment we advance more rapidly, each new step becomes easier. Our mental life becomes different. And then, applying oneself one's expanded capacity of drawing analogies and lookingabout, we suddenly notice around us a mental life the existence of which we never suspected before. And we understand why we could not see it before. It lies on another plane, not on the plane on which our mental life had previously existed In this way precisely this capacity of drawing new analogies is the beginning of changes which lead us to another plane of being
The mind of man begins to penetrate into the world of noumena which is akin to it. Together with this, man's view of the phenomenal world undergoes a change. Phenomena may suddenly acquire in his eyes an entirely new grouping As already said, similar things may prove different, different thingssimilar, totally separate, unconnected things may prove to be parts of one large whole of some quite new category, whereas things which appearindissolubly connected and forming one whole may in reality prove to be manifestations of different minds, having nothing in common and even beingignorant of one another's existence. Such in fact may prove to be any whole of our world, a man, an animal, a planet, i.e. consisting of different minds, representing, as it were, a battlefield of different beings.
In every whole of our world we see a great many opposite tendencies, inclinations, strivings, efforts. Each whole is as it were a battleground of a great number of opposite forces, each of which acts by itself, strives to attain its own ends, usually to the destruction of the whole. But the interaction of these forces constitutes the life of the whole. And in everything there is always something acting which limits the activity of separate tendencies. This something is the mental life of the whole. To establish the existence of this life by means of analogy with oneself or by way of communication with it and an exchange of thoughts is impossible for us. But a new way opens up before
us. We see a separate and entirely new function (the preservation of the whole) Behind this function we presuppose the existence of a separate something. This separate something, possessing a definite function, is impossible without a separate mental life. If the whole possesses mental life, then separate tendencies of forces must also possess a life of their own. A body or an organism is the point of intersection of the lines of these lives, a meeting-place, perhaps a battlefield. Our 'I' - this is the battlefield in which, each moment, one or another emotion, one or another habit or tendency takes the upper hand, subjugating the others for that moment and identifying itself with the 'I'. But the 'I' is also a being, possessing its own life; only it is very little aware of what it consists of and is constantly becoming connected now with one part of itself, now with another Have we any right to presume the existence of BEINGS in the organs and parts of the body, in thoughts and emotions of man? We have, because we know that there is nothing purely mechanical, and that every something possessing a separate function MUST be animated and can be called a being.
All the beings, the existence of which we may presuppose in the world of many dimensions, may not know one another, i.e. they may not know that we are connecting them together into various wholes in our phenomenal world, just as in general they may have no knowledge of our phenomenal world and its relationships. But themselves they must know, although we cannot determine the degree of clarity of their consciousness. It may be clearer than ours, or it may be more nebulous, dreamlike. Between these beings there may go on a continuous, though imperfectly realized, exchange of thoughts, similar to the metabolism of a living body. They may experience certain feelings in common, certain thoughts may arise in them all, simultaneously as it were, under the stimulus of common causes. According to the lines of this inner communion they must divide themselves into different wholes of some categories either entirely incomprehensible to us or only partially suspected. The essence of each of such separate beings must consist in knowing itself and its most intimate functions and relations; it must feel the things which are analogous to itself and must be able to tell about itself and them. In other words, this consciousness must consist in always having before it a picture of itself and its most intimate relations It is eternally reviewing this picture, as it were, and immediately transmits it to another being upon entering into communication with it.
Whether these beings belonging to sections of the world other than ours exist or not we cannot tell in the existing conditions of our perception. Only a transformed mind can sense them Our ordinary perception and thinking is too absorbed in the sensations of the phenomenal world and in itself and therefore does not reflect impressions coming from other beings, or reflects them so feebly that they do not become fixed in it in any perceptible form And we do not realize that we are in constant communication with the noumenon of everything surrounding us, both far and near, with beings both similar to us and totally different from us, with the lives of everything in the world and with the life of the whole world. If, however, the impressions coming from other beings are so strong that our mind senses them, it immediately projects them into the external phenomenal world and seeks a cause for them in the phenomenal world, exactly like a two-dimensional being living on a plane seeks on its own plane the causes of impressions which come from the higher world.
Our mind is limited by its phenomenal perception, i.e. is encompassed in itself. The world of phenomena, i.e. the form of its own perception, encloses it like a ring, like a wall, and it does not see anything apart from this wall
But if it manages to escape beyond this surrounding wall, it inevitably sees a great many new things in the world.
If we get rid of self-elements in our perception, writes Hinton (A New Era of Thought), then —
it will be found that the deadness which we ascribe to the external world is not really there, but is put in by us because of our own limitations It is really the self-elements in our knowledge which make us talk of mechanical necessity, dead matter When our limitations fall, we behold the spirit of the world as we behold the spirit of a friend something which is discerned in and through the material presentation of a body to us
Our thought means are sufficient at present to show us human souls, but all except human beings is, as far as science is concerned, inanimate Our self-element must be got rid of from our perception, and this will be changed*
And is the unknowableness of the noumenal world indeed as absolute for us as it sometimes appears?
In the Critique of Pure Reason and other writings, Kant denied the possibility of 'spiritual vision' But in Dreams of a Spirit-seer he not only admits this possibility but also gives it one of the best definitions we have ever had up to now He asserts unequivocally
I confess that I am very much inclined to assert the existence of immaterial natures in the world, and to put my soul itself into that class of beings
These immaterial beings immediately united with each other might form, perhaps, a great whole which might be called the immaterial world [Every man is a being of two worlds of the immaterial world and the material world, and] it will be proved, I do not know where or when, that the human soul also in this life forms an indissoluble communion with all immaterial natures of the spirit-world, that, alternatively, it acts upon and receives impressions from that world of which nevertheless it is not conscious while it is still man
We should regard the human soul as being conjoined in its present life with two
worlds at the same time, of which it clearly perceives only the material world, in so
far as it is confined with a body, and thus forms a personal unit
It is, therefore, indeed one subject, which is thus at the same time a member of the visible and of the invisible world, but not one and the same person, for, on account of their different quality, the conceptions of the one world are not ideas associated with those of the other world, thus, what I think of as spirit, is not remembered by me as man, and, conversely, my state as man does not at all enter into the conception of myself as a spirit
[Birth, life, death are only states of the soul Consequently, our body alone is perishable our essence is not perishable and must have existed even at the time when our body had no existence The life of man is dual It is composed of two lives the animal and the spiritual The first life is the life of man and, in order to live this life, man needs a body The second life is the life of the spirit, man's soul lives that life separately from the body and must live in it after its segregation from the body]**
In an article on Kant in the Northern Messenger (1888) A L Vohnsky says that both in Vorlesungen and in the Dreams of the Spirit-seer Kant refuses to admit the possibility of only one thing the possibility of a physical perception of spiritual phenomena
* C H Hinton, A. New Era of Thought, London, George Allen & Unwin, 1910, PP 36, 37
** Immanuel Kant, Dreams of a Spirit seer, London, 1915, P 52
Thus Kant recognizes not only the possibility of the existence of a spiritual conscious world, but also the possibility of communion with it.
Hegel built all his philosophy on the possibility of a direct perception of truth, on spiritual vision.
Now, approaching the question of the two worlds from the psychological side, from the side of the theory of cognition, we must firmly establish the fact that before we can hope to learn anything of the noumenal sphere, we must define all we can define of the properties of the many-dimensional world, using for this the purely intellectual method of reasoning. Very likely we shall not be able to define very much by this method. Perhaps our definitions will be crude, will not quite correspond to the subtle differentiation of relations in the noumenal world. All this is very probable and should be taken into account. And yet we must define what we can and find out, first of all, with all possible exactitude, what the noumenal world cannot be, and then, what it can be, i.e. which relations are impossible and which are possible in it.
This is necessary in order that we could, on coming into contact with the real world, distinguish it from the phenomenal world and, above all, that we may not take for the noumenal world a simple reflection of the phenomenal world. The reason why we are ignorant of the world of causes, the reason why we are imprisoned in the phenomenal world, is precisely that we do not know how to see where the one ends and the other begins.
We are in constant contact with the world of causes, we live in it, because our mind and our function in the world, incomprehensible to us, is a part of it or a reflection of it. But we neither see nor know it, because we either deny its existence, consider that everything existing is phenomenal and that nothing that is not phenomenal exists; or we accept it but strive to know it in the forms of the three-dimensional phenomenal world; or else we seek and cannot find it, because we lose our way in the midst of the deceptions and illusions of the reflected phenomenal world which we mistake for the noumenal world.
It is in this that the tragedy of our spiritual searchings lies. We do not know what it is we search for. And the only means of freeing ourselves from this tragedy is a preliminary intellectual definition of the properties of what we search for. We must not approach the world of causes without these definitions, with nothing but indefinite sensations, for in that case we shall get lost in its borderland.
This was understood by Spinoza who wrote that he could not speak of God, not knowing his attributes.
When I learnt Euclid's elements [he wrote] I first understood that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, and I clearly perceived this property of a triangle although I was ignorant of many others. As regards spectres, or ghosts, I have never yet heard of an intelligible property of theirs, but only of phantasies which no one can grasp.*
We have established certain criteria which permit us to appraise the world of noumena or the 'world of spirits'; and we must make use of them.
First of all we can say that the world of noumena, i.e. the real world cannot be three-dimensional and cannot contain anything three-dimensional, i.e. commensurable with physical objects, similar to them in outside appearance, possessing form. In other words, the noumenal world cannot contain anythinghaving extension in space and changing in time. And, above all, it cannot contain anything dead, inanimate, unconscious, although the level of consciousness may be different. In the world of causes everything must be conscious, because it is in itself -consciousness, the soul of the world.
Moreover, we must bear in mind that the world of causes is the world of the miraculous. That which appears ordinary to us can never be real. The real appears miraculous to us; we do not believe in it, do not recognize it. Consequently we do not feel the mysteries of which life is full.
Only the unreal is ordinary. The real must appear miraculous.
The mystery of time permeates everything. It is felt in every stone which may have witnessed the glacial periods, and the ichthyosaurus and the mammoth. It is felt in the tomorrow which we do not see but which perhaps sees us and which may prove to be our last day or, on the contrary, a day of some achievements of which we know nothing today.
The mystery of thought creates everything. As soon as we understand that thought is not a 'function of motion' and that motion itself is only a function of thought; as soon as we begin to feel the depth of THIS MYSTERY, we shall see that the whole world is a kind of vast hallucination which does not frighten us and does not make us think that we are mad, only because we are accustomed to it.
The mystery of infinity is the greatest of all mysteries. It tells us that all the galaxies - the whole visible universe -have no dimensions as compared with infinity; that they are equal to a point, a mathematical point which has no extension whatever, and that, at the same time, points which are not measurable for us may have a different extension and different dimensions.
* The Correspondence of Spinoza, trs. A. Wolf, London, George Allen & Unwin, 1928, Letter LVI -to Boxel, 1674.
In 'positivist' thinking we make efforts to FORGET ABOUT THIS, NOT
TO THINK ABOUT IT.
At some future time positivism will be denned as a system which enables one not to think about real things and to limit oneself strictly to the domain of the unreal and the illusory.