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Love And Will
Meditation And Recollection
Self-adjustment
The First Form Of Contemplation
The Mystical Life
The Preparation Of The Mystic
The Second Form Of Contemplation
The Third Form Of Contemplation
The World Of Reality
What Is Mysticism?
Anaximenes And The Air
Animism, Ancient And Modern
Brooks And Streams
Development And Discipline Of Intuition
Earth, Mountains, And Plains
Fire And The Sun
Heracleitus And The Cosmic Fire
Introductory
Light And Darkness
Man And Nature
Mystic Intuition And Reason
Mystic Receptivity
Mythology
Nature Mysticism And The Race
Nature Not Symbolic
Nature, And The Absolute
Poetry And Nature Mysticism
Pragmatic
Rivers And Death
Rivers And Life
Seasons, Vegetation, Animals
Springs And Wells
Still Waters
Thales
The Beautiful And The Ugly
The Charge Of Anthropomorphism
The Expanse Of Heaven--colour
The Immanent Idea
The Moon--a Special Problem
The Ocean
The Waters Under The Earth
Will And Consciousness In Nature
Winds And Clouds



Mystic Intuition And Reason








So much for the nature-mystic's relation to the concept of the
Absolute. It would be interesting to discuss, from the same
point of view, his relations to the rival doctrines of the monists,
dualists, and pluralists. But to follow up these trails with any
thoroughness would lead us too far into the thickets and
quagmires of metaphysics. Fortunately the issues are not nearly
so vital as in the case of the Absolute; and they may thus be
passed by without serious risk of invalidating subsequent
conclusions. It may be worth our while, however, to note that
many modern mystics are not monists, and that the supposed
inseparable connection between Mysticism and Monism is
being thrown overboard. Even the older mystics, when wrestling
with the problem of evil, were dualists in their own
despite. Of the moderns, so representative a thinker as Lotze
suggested that Reality may run up, not into one solitary peak,
but into a mountain chain. Hoeffding contends that we have not
yet gained the right to career rough-shod over the antinomies of
existence. James, a typical modern mystic, was an avowed
pluralist. Bergson emphasises the category of Becoming, and, if
to be classed at all, is a dualist. Thus the nature-mystic is happy
in the freedom to choose his own philosophy, so long as he
avoids the toils of the Absolute. For, as James remarks,
"oneness and manyness are absolutely co-ordinate. Neither is
primordial or more excellent than the other."

It remains, then, to subject to criticism the third principle of
Mysticism, that of intuitional insight as a mode of knowing
independent of the reasoning faculties, at any rate in their
conscious exercise. Its root idea is that of directness and
immediacy; the word itself prepares us for some power of
apprehending at a glance--a power which dispenses with all
process and gains its end by a flash. A higher stage is known as
vision; the highest is known as ecstasy. Intuition has its own
place in general psychology, and has acquired peculiar
significance in the domains of aesthetics, ethics, and theology;
and the same root idea is preserved throughout--that of
immediacy of insight. The characteristic of passivity on which
certain mystics would insist is subsidiary--even if it is to be
allowed at all. Its claims will be noted later.

Now Nature Mysticism is based on sense perception, and this in
itself is a form of intuition. It is immediate, for the "matter" of
sensation presents itself directly to the consciousness affected; it
simply asserts itself. It is independent of the conscious exercise
of the reasoning powers. It does not even permit of the
distinction between subject and object; it comes into the mind
as "a given." When conscious thought grips this "given," it can
put it into all manner of relations with other "givens." It may
even to some extent control the course of subsequent sensations
by the exercise of attention and in accordance with a conscious
purpose. But thought cannot create a sensation. The sensation is
thus at the base of all mental life. It furnishes material for the
distinction between subject and object--between the outer and
the inner. The conscious processes, thus primed, rise through
the various stages of contemplation, reflection, abstraction,
conception, and reasoning.

The study of sense perception is thus seen to be a study of
primary mystical intuition. But the similarity, or essential bond,
between the two may be worked at a deeper level. When an
external object stimulates a sensation, it produces a variety of
changes in the mind of the percipient. Most of these may remain
in the depths of subconscious mental life, but they are none the
less real as effectual agents of change. Now what is here
implied? The external object has somehow or other got "inside"
the percipient mind--has penetrated to it, and modified it.
In other words, a form of mystical communion has been
established. The object has penetrated into the mind, and the
mind has come into living touch with the Real external to itself.
The object and the subject are to this extent fused in a mystic
union. How could the fusion take place unless the two were
linked in some fundamental harmony of being? Other and
higher modes of mystical union may be experienced; but sense
perception contains them all in germ. How vain, then, the
absolutist's attempt to sever himself from the sphere of sense!

Intuition, we have seen, must be deemed to be independent of
conscious reasoning processes. But this is not to say that it is
independent of reason, either objectively or subjectively. Not
objectively, for if the world is a cosmos, it must be rationally
constituted. Not subjectively, for man's reasoning faculties may
influence many of his mental activities without rising to the
level of reflective ratiocination. And thus man's communion
with the cosmos, of which he is himself a part, will be grounded
in the reason which permeates the whole.

If we go on to ask what is the relation between intuition and
conscious reflective processes, the answer would seem to be
somewhat of this kind. "Intuition, in its wide sense, furnishes
material; reason works it up. Intuition moves about in worlds
not systematised; reason reduces them to order. Reflective
thought dealing with the phenomena presented to it by sensation
has three tasks before it--to find out the nature of the objects, to
trace their causes, and to trace their effects. And whereas each
intuitional experience stands alone and isolated in its
immediacy, reason groups these single experiences together,
investigates their conditions, and makes them subserve definite
conscious purposes.

But if mystics have too often made the mistake of underrating
the powers and functions of reflective reason, the champions of
logic have also been guilty of the counter-mistake of
disparaging intuition, more especially that called mystical. That
is to say, the _form_ of thought is declared to be superior to the
_matter_ of thought--a truly remarkable contention! What is
reason if it has no material to work up? And whence comes the
material but from sensation and intuition? Moreover, even when
the material is furnished to the reasoning processes, the
conclusions arrived at have to be brought continuously and
relentlessly to the bar, not only of physical fact, but also to that
of intuition and sentiment, if serious errors are to be avoided.
Systematising and speculative zeal have a tendency to run ahead
of their data.

Bergson has done much to restore to intuition the rights which
were being filched or wrenched from it. He has shown (may it
be said conclusively?) that systematised thought is quite
unequal to grappling with the processes which constitute actual
living. Before him, Schopenhauer had poured well-deserved
contempt on the idea that the brain, an organ which can only
work for a few hours at a stretch, and is dependent on all the
accidents of the physical condition of the body, should be
considered equal to solving the problems of existence.
"Certainly" (writes Schwegler) "the highest truths of reason, the
eternal, the divine, are not to be proved by means of
demonstration." But this is no less true of the simplest
manifestations of reality. Knowledge is compelled to move on
the surface when it aims at scientific method and demonstrated
results. Intuitive knowledge can often penetrate deeper, get
nearer to the heart of things and divine their deeper relations.
When intuitions can be gripped by conscious reasoning
processes, man gains much of the knowledge which is power.
But the scope of knowledge in the fullest sense is indefinitely
greater than that of science and philosophy.

Nor is it hard to see why the sphere of reflective thought is thus
comparatively limited. For modern speculations, and even the
straitest psychology, have familiarised us with the idea of a
larger self that is beyond the reach of conscious analysis.
Obscure workings of the mind--emotions, moods, immediate
perceptions, premonitions, and the rest--have a potent part to
play in the actual living of a life. Consider in this connection
such a passage as the following, taken from Jefferies' "Story of
My Heart." It means something, though it is not scientific.

"Three things only have been discovered of that which concerns
the inner consciousness since before written history began.
Three things only in twelve thousand written, or sculptured
years, and in the dumb, dim time before them. Three ideas the
cavemen wrested from the unknown, the night which is round
us still in daylight--_the existence of the soul, immortality, the
deity_. These things . . . do not suffice me. I desire to advance
farther, and to wrest a fourth, and even still more than a fourth,
from the darkness of thought. I want more ideas of soul-life. . . .
My naked mind confronts the unknown. I see as clearly as the
noonday that this is not all; I see other and higher conditions
than existence; I see not only the existence of the soul, but, in
addition, I realise a soul-life illimitable. . . . I strive to give
utterance to a Fourth Idea. The very idea that there is another
idea is something gained. The three gained by the cavemen are
but stepping-stones, first links of an endless chain."

Of course, we are here reminded of Wordsworth's "obstinate
questionings of sense and outward things"; of his "misgivings of
a creature moving about in worlds not realised." Intuition is
feeling its way outwards beyond the sphere of the known, and
emotion is working in harmony with it, the reason still fails to
grip. Morris' description of a like sense of unrealised
possibilities applies, in varying degrees, to men of all sorts and
conditions, though the poets of whom he speaks are the most
favoured.

"Blind thoughts which occupy the brain,
Dumb melodies which fill the ear,
Dim perturbations, precious pain,
A gleam of hope, a chill of fear--
These seize the poet's soul, and mould
The ore of fancy into gold."

Language is thus employed to proclaim its own inadequacy.
And who can fail to see that between the rich complexity of the
workings of the whole mind and the means by which we would
fain render them articulate, there yawns a gap which no effort
can bridge over? Even the poet fails--much more the scientist!
To refuse to take cognisance of the fresh spontaneity of feeling
and intuition is to rob life of its higher joys and its deeper
meanings.





Next: Man And Nature

Previous: Nature, And The Absolute



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