Intuitions Of Reality

(5.) There are other evidences of this depth and hidden nature of things,

towards which an examination of our knowledge points. For "in feeling and

intuition appearance points beyond itself to real being." So ran our fifth

proposition. This subject indeed is delicate, and can only be treated of

in the hearing of willing ears. But all apologetic counts upon willing

ears; it is not conversion of doubters that is aimed at, it is relig

which seeks to reassure itself. Our proposition does not speak of dreams

but of facts, which are not the less facts because they are more subtle

than others. What we are speaking of are the deep impressions, which

cannot properly be made commensurable at all, which may spring up directly

out of an inward experience, an apprehension of nature, the world and

history, in the depths of the spirit. They call forth in us an

"anamnesis," a "reminiscence" in Plato's sense, awakening within us moods

and intuitions in which something of the essence and meaning of being is

directly experienced, although it remains in the form of feeling, and

cannot easily, if at all, find expression in definable ideas or clear

statements. Fries, in his book, "Wissen, Glaube, und Ahnung," unhappily

too much forgotten, takes account of this fact, for he places this region

of spiritual experience beside the certainties of faith and knowledge, and

regards these as "animated" by it. He has in mind especially the

impressions of the beautiful and the sublime which far transcend our

knowledge of nature, and to which knowledge and its concepts can never do

adequate justice, facts though they undoubtedly are. In them we experience

directly, in intuitive feeling, that the reality is greater than our power

of understanding, and we feel something of its true nature and meaning.

The utterances of Schleiermacher(3) in regard to religion follow the same

lines. For this is precisely what he means when he insists that the

universe must be experienced in intuition and feeling as well as in

knowing and doing. He is less incisive in his expressions than Fries, but

wider in ideas. He includes in this domain of "intuitive feeling" not only

the aesthetic experiences of the beautiful and sublime, but takes the much

more general and comprehensive view, that the receptive mind may gather

from the finite impressions of the infinite, and may through its

experiences of time gain some conception of the eternal. And he rightly

emphasises, that such intuition has its true place in the sphere of mind

and in face of the events of history, rather than in the outer court of

nature. He, too, lays stress on the fact that doctrinal statements and

ideas cannot be formulated out of such subtle material.

The experience of which we are speaking may be most directly and

impressively gained from the great, the powerful, the sublime in nature.

It may be gained from the contemplation of nature's harmonies and

beauties, but also of her overflowing abundance and her enigmatical

daemonic strength, from the purposeful intelligibility as well as the

terrifying and bewildering enigmas of nature's operations, from all the

manifold ways in which the mind is affected and startled, from all the

suggestive but indefinable sensations which may be roused in us by the

activity of nature, and which rise through a long scale to intoxicated

self-forgetfulness and wordless ecstasy before her beauty, and her

half-revealed, half-concealed mystery. If any or all of these be stirred

up in a mind which is otherwise godless or undevout, it remains an

indefinite, vacillating feeling, bringing with it nothing else. But in the

religious mind it immediately unites with what is akin to it or of similar

nature, and becomes worship. No dogmas or arguments for disputatious

reasoning can be drawn from it. It can hardly even be expressed, except,

perhaps, in music. And if it be expressed it tends easily to become

fantastic or romantic pomposity, as is shown even by certain parts of the

writings of Schleiermacher himself.