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Love And Will
Meditation And Recollection
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
Light And Darkness
Man And Nature
Mystic Intuition And Reason
Mystic Receptivity
Nature Mysticism And The Race
Nature Not Symbolic
Nature, And The Absolute
Poetry And Nature Mysticism
Rivers And Death
Rivers And Life
Seasons, Vegetation, Animals
Springs And Wells
Still Waters
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 Receptivity

The general character of the nature-mystic's main contention
will now be sufficiently obvious. He maintains that man and his
environment are not connected in any merely external fashion,
but that they are sharers in the same kind of Being, and
therefore livingly related. If this be sound, we shall expect to
find that wherever and whenever men are in close and constant
touch with nature they will experience some definite sort of
influence which will affect their characters and their thoughts.
Nor, as will already have been obvious, are we disappointed in
this expectation. Let us turn to a somewhat more detailed study
of the evidence for the reality and potency of the mystic
influence continuously exercised by physical phenomena on
man's psychic development.

As has been stated, the nature-mystic lays considerable, though
by no means exclusive, stress upon what he calls "intuition."
His view of this faculty or capacity is not quite that of the
strict psychologist. Herbert Spencer, for instance, in his
"Psychology," uses the term intuition in what he deems to be its
"common acceptation"--"as meaning any cognition reached by
an undecomposable mental act." Of course much would turn on
what is implied by cognition, and it is impossible to embark on
the wide sea of epistemology, or even on that of the intuitional
controversy, with a view to determining this point. Spencer's
own illustration of an intuited fact for knowledge--relations
which are equal to the same relation are equal to one another--
would appear to narrow its application to those so-called self-
evident or necessary truths which are unhesitatingly accepted at
first sight. The nature-mystic, however, while unreservedly
recognising this kind of intuition (whatever may be its
origin) demands a wider meaning for the term. A nearer
approach to what he wants is found in the feats of certain
calculating prodigies, who often seem to reach their astounding
results rather by insights than operations. The celebrated
mathematician, Euler, is said to have possessed, in addition to
his extraordinary memory for numbers, "a kind of _divining
power_," by which he perceived almost at a glance, the most
complicated relations of factors and the best modes of
manipulating them. As regards the calculating prodigies, a
thought suggests itself. It has been almost invariably found that
as they learnt more, their special power decreased. Has this any
bearing on the loss of imaginative power and aesthetic insight
which often accompanies the spread of civilisation?--or on the
materialisms and the "brute matter" doctrines which so often
afflict scientists?

But even this expansion of meaning does not satisfy the
nature-mystic. Perhaps the case of musical intuition comes still
nearer to what he is looking for, inasmuch as cognition, in the
sense of definite knowledge, is here reduced to a minimum. On
the other hand there is more at work than mere feeling. The soul
of the music-lover moves about in a world which is at once
realised and yet unrealised--his perceptions are vivid and yet
indefinable. And it is important to note that the basis is

And thus we say of mystical intuition that it is a passing of the
mind, without reasoned process, behind the world of phenomena
into a more central sphere of reality--an insight into a
world beyond the reach of sense--a direct beholding of
spiritual facts, guided by a logic which is implicit, though it
does not emerge into consciousness. It is intuition of this fuller
and deeper kind which in all likelihood forms the core of what
some would call the aesthetic and the moral senses.

And here an interesting question presents itself. The older
mystics, and the more orthodox of modern mystics, would have
us believe that the intuition for which they contend is purely
passive. The mind must be quieted, the will negated, until a
state of simple receptivity is attained. Is this contention valid? It
is difficult to break away from venerable traditions, but the
nature-mystic who would be abreast of the knowledge of his
day must at times be prepared to submit even intuition itself to
critical analysis. And in this instance, criticism is all the more
necessary because the doctrine of pure passivity is largely a
corollary of belief in an unconditioned Absolute. If union with
such an Absolute is to be enjoyed, the will must be pulseless,
the intellect atrophied, the whole soul inactive: otherwise the
introduction of finite thoughts and desires inhibits the divine

Now it was noted, when intuition was first mentioned, that, like
sensation (which is an elementary form of intuition) it provides
"matter" for the mind to work upon. So far, it may rightly be
deemed passive--receptive. But only half the story is thus told.
The mind reacts upon the "matter" so provided, and gives it
context and meaning. Even the sense-organ reacts to the
physical stimulus, and conditions it in its own fashion; much
more will the mind as a whole assert itself. Indeed it is only on
condition of such action and reaction that any union, or
communion, worthy of the name, can be effected. And should it
be suspected that the distinction between "matter" and "form" is
too Kantian and technical (though it is not intended to be such)
the matter can be stated in more general terms by saying that in
all forms of intuition, from the lowest to the highest, the mind
goes out to meet that which comes to it--there is always some
movement from within, be it desire, emotion, sympathy, or
other like affection. In short, the self, as long as it is a self,
can never be purely passive.

Consider from this point of view the following passage from
Jefferies. "With all the intensity of feeling which exalted me, all
the intense communion I held with the earth, the sun and sky,
the stars hidden by the light, with the ocean--in no manner can
the thrilling depth of these feelings be written--with these I
prayed, as if they were the keys of an instrument, of an organ,
with which I swelled forth the notes of my soul, redoubling my
own voice by their power. The great sun burning with light; the
strong earth, dear earth; the warm sky; the pure air; the thought
of ocean; the inexpressible beauty of all filled me with a
rapture, an ecstasy, an inflatus. With this inflatus, too, I prayed."
How strong throughout the activity of the soul--culminating in
prayer! And by "prayer," Jefferies distinctly states that he
means, not "a request for anything preferred to a deity," but
intense soul-emotion, intense aspiration, intense desire for fuller
soul-life--all the marks of the highest forms of mysticism, and
proportionately strengthened soul-activities.

And what, then, shall be said of Wordsworth?

"I deem that there are Powers
Which of themselves our minds impress;
That we can feed these minds of ours
In a wise passiveness.
Think you, 'mid all this mighty sum
Of things for over speaking,
That nothing of itself will come,
But we must still be seeking."

Is not this, it may be asked, in harmony with the older doctrine?
Not so. There is a rightful and wholesome insistence on the
necessity for a receptive attitude of mind. Jefferies, too, was
intensely receptive as well as intensely active. But Wordsworth
is contrasting concentration of the mind on definite studies and
on book-lore with the laying of it open to the influences of
nature. He calls this latter a "wise passiveness"--a "dreaming":
but is nevertheless an active passivity--a waking dream. All the
senses are to be in healthy working order; a deep consciousness
is to be gently playing over the material which nature so
spontaneously supplies. And so it comes that he can tell of

"A Presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts."

Is not this the same experience as that of Jefferies, only passing
through a mind of calmer tone. And if at times Wordsworth also
is lifted into an ecstasy, when

"the light of sense
Goes out, but with a flash that has revealed
The invisible world,"

his mind is not in an Absolutist state of passivity, but, on the
contrary, is stirred to higher forms of consciousness. The
experiences may, or may not be such as subsequent reflection
can reduce to order--that is immaterial to the issue--but at any
rate they imply activity. We may safely conclude, therefore, that
intuition in all its grades necessitates a specialised soul-activity
as well as a specialised soul-passivity.

It will have been apparent in what has preceded that there are
many grades of intuition, rising from sense-perception to what
is known as ecstasy. Some may doubt the wisdom of admitting
ecstasy among the experiences of a sane, modern nature-mystic.
Certainly the word raises a prejudice in many minds. Certainly
the fanaticisms of religious Mysticism must be avoided. But
Jefferies was not frightened of the word to describe an
unwonted experience of exalted feeling; nor was Wordsworth
afraid to describe the experience itself:

"that serene and blessed mood
In which the affections gently lead us on--
Until the breath of this corporeal flame,
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul;
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things."

This is in many respects the same type of experience as that
described by Plotinus--"the life of the gods, and of divine and
happy men"--but shorn of its needless degradation of the
body and the senses, which, with Wordsworth are still and
transcended, but remain as a foundation for all the rest. There is
yet another and very significant point of difference. Porphyry, a
disciple of Plotinus, tells us that his master attained to the
ecstatic condition four times only in the six years which he
spent in his company. How often Wordsworth attained to his
form of ecstasy we do not know. But there is the little word
"we" which occurs throughout his description: and this
evidently links the past on to his readers. That is to say, he does
not sever his experience from that which is open to ordinary
humanity. He called for and anticipated genuine sympathy. Nor
was he wrong in making this demand, for there are few
sensitive lovers of nature who are not able to parallel, in some
degree, what the English high-priest of Nature Mysticism has so
wonderfully described. And as for the lower and simpler grades
of feeling for nature, given that the conditions of life are
"natural," they are practically universal, though often

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