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and cones of the retina may be the occasion for the appreciation of beauty in sky or sea or flower, but they are surely not the cause of it. The concrete event which confronts me is, very likely, the occasion for the august pronouncement of moral issues which my conscience makes; but it cannot be said that the concrete event in any proper sense causes this consciousness of moral obligation. The famous answer of Leibnitz to the crude sense-philosophy of his time is still cogent. To the phrase, "There is nothing in the mind that has not come through the senses,' Leibnitz added, 'Except the mind itself.' That means that the creative activity of the mind is always an important factor in experience, and a factor that cannot be ignored in any of the processes of knowledge.
Unfortunately, we have done very little yet in the direction of comprehending the interior depth of the personal mind, or of estimating adequately the part which mind itself, in its creative capacity, plays in all knowledge-functions. It will be only when we have succeeded in getting beyond what Plato called the 'bird-cage' theory of knowledge, to a sound theory of knowledge and to a solid basis for spiritual values, that we shall be able to discuss intelligently the 'findings' of the mystic.
The world at the present moment is pitiably 'short' in its stock of sound theories of knowledge. The prevailing psychologies do not explain knowledge at all. The behaviorists do not try to explain it, any more than the astronomer or the physicist does. The psychologist who reduces mind to an aggregation of describable 'mind-states' has started out on a course that makes an explanation forever impossible, since knowledge can be explained only through unity and integral wholeness, never through an aggregation of parts, as if it were a mental 'shower of shot.'
If we expect to talk about knowledge, and seriously propose to use that great word truth, we must at least begin with the assumption of an intelligent, creative, organizing centre of self-consciousness, which can transcend itself and can know what is beyond, and other than, itself. In short, the talk about a 'chasm' between subject and object - knower and thing known is as absurd as it would be to talk of a chasm between the convex and the concave sides of a curve. Knowledge is always knowledge of an object, and mystical experience has all the essential marks of objective reference, as certainly as other forms of experience have.
Professor J. M. Baldwin very well says that there is a form of contemplation in which, as in æsthetic experience, the strands of the mind's diverging dualisms are merged and fused.' He adds: 'In this experience of a fusion which is not a mixture, but which issues in a meaning of its own sort and kind, an experience whose essential character is just this unity of comprehension, consciousness attains its completest, its most direct, and its final apprehension of what Reality is and means.' It really comes round to the question whether the mind of a self-conscious person has any way of approach, except by way of the senses, to any kind of reality. There is no a priori answer to that question. It can be settled only by experience. It is, therefore, pure dogmatism to say, as Professor Dunlap in his recent attack on mysticism does, that all conscious processes are based on sense-stimulation, and all thought as well as perception depends on reaction to sense-stimulus. It is no doubt true that behavior psychology must resort to some such formula; but that only means that such psychology is always dealing with greatly transformed and reduced beings, when it attempts to deal with persons like us, who, in the
richness of our concrete lives, are never reduced to 'behavior-beings.' We have interior dimensions, and 'that is the end on 't'! Some persons-and they are by no means feeble-minded individuals are as certain that they have contact with a world within, as they are that they have experiences of a world outside in space. Thomas Aquinas, who neither in method nor in doctrine leaned toward mysticism, though he was most certainly a harmonized man,' and who in theory postponed the vision of God to a realm beyond death, nevertheless had an experience two years before he died which made him put his pen and inkhorn on the shelf and never write another word of his Summa Theologia. When he was reminded of the incomplete state of his great work, and was urged to go on with it, he replied, 'I have seen that which makes all that I have written look small to me.'
It may be just possible that there is a universe of spiritual reality upon which our finite spirits open inward as inlets open into the sea.
Like tides on the crescent sea-beach
Such a view is perfectly sane and tenable; it conflicts with no proved and demonstrated facts in the nature either of the universe or of mind. It seems, in any event, to the mystic that there is such a world, that he has found it as surely as Columbus found San Salvador, and that his experience is a truth-telling experience.
But, granting that it is truth-telling and has objective reference, is the mystic justified in claiming that he has found and knows God? One does not need to be a very wide and extensive
student of mystical experience to discover what a meagre stock of knowledge the genuine mystic reports. William James's remarkable experience in the Adirondack woods very well illustrates the type. It had, he says, 'an intense significance of some sort, if one could only tell the significance. . . . In point of fact, I can't find a single word for all that significance and don't know what it was significant of, so that it remains a mere boulder of impression.' At a later date James refers to that 'extraordinary vivacity of man's psychological commerce with something ideal that feels as if it were also actual.' The greatest of all the fourteenth-century mystics, Meister Eckhart, could not put his impression into words or ideas. What he found was a 'wilderness of the Godhead where no one is at home'that is, an Object with no particular, differentiated, concrete characteristics. It was not an accident that so many of the mystics hit upon the via negativa, the way of negation, or that they called their discovery 'the divine Dark.'
Whatever your mind comes at,
God is not that.
Mystical experience does not supply concrete information. It does not bring new finite facts, new items that can be used in a description of 'the scenery and circumstance' of the realm beyond our sense-horizons. It is the awareness of a Presence, the consciousness of a Beyond, the discovery, as James put it, that we are continuous with a More of the same quality, which is operative in us and in touch with us.'
The most striking effect of such experience is not new fact-knowledge, not new items of empirical information, but new moral energy, heightened conviction, increased caloric quality, enlarged spiritual vision, an unusual radiant power of life. In short, the whole personality, in the case of the constructive
mystics, appears to be raised to a new level of life, and to have gained from somewhere many calories of life-feeding, spiritual substance. We are quite familiar with the way in which adrenalin suddenly flushes into the physical system and adds a new and incalculable power to brain and muscle. Under its stimulus a man can carry out a piano when the house is on fire. May not, perhaps, some energy, from some Source with which our spirits are allied, flush our inner being with forces and powers by which we can be fortified to stand the universe and more than stand it! 'We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us,' is the way one of the world's greatest mystics felt.
Mystical experience and we must remember, as Santayana has said, that 'experience is like a shrapnel shell and bursts into a thousand meanings'does at least one thing. It makes God sure to the person who has had the experience. It raises faith and conviction to the nth power. "The God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shined into my heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God,' is St. Paul's testimony. 'I knew God by revelation,' declares George Fox; 'I was as one who hath the key and doth open.' 'The man who has attained this felicity,' Plotinus says, 'meets some turn of fortune that he would not have chosen, but there is not the slightest lessening of his happiness for that.' But this experience, with its overwhelming conviction and its dynamic effect, cannot be put into the common coin of speech. Frederic Myers has well expressed the difficulty:
Oh could I tell, ye surely would believe it! Oh could I only say what I have seen! How should I tell or how can ye receive it, How, till He bringeth you where I have been? When Columbus found San Salvador, he was able to describe it to those who did not sail with him in the Santa Maria;
but when the mystic finds God, he cannot give us any 'knowledge' in plain words of everyday speech. He can only refer to his boulder, or his Gibraltar, of impression. That situation is what we should expect. We cannot, either, describe any of our great emotions. We cannot impart what flushes into our consciousness in moments of lofty intuition. We have a submerged life within us, which is certainly no less real than our hand or foot. It influences all that we do or say, but we do not find it easy to utter it. In the presence of the sublime we have nothing to say - or, if we do say anything, it is a great mistake! Language is forged to deal with experiences that are common to many persons, that is, with experiences that refer to objects in space. We have no vocabulary for the subtle, elusive flashes of vision, which are unique, individual, and unsharable, as, for instance, is our personal sense of 'the tender grace of a day that is dead.' We are forced in all these matters to resort to symbolic suggestion and to artistic devices. Coventry Patmore said with much insight:
In divinity and love
What's worth the saying can't be said.
I believe that mystical experiences do, in the long run, expand our knowledge of God, and do succeed in verifying themselves. Mysticism is a sort of spiritual protoplasm, which underlies, as a basic substance, much that is best in religion, in ethics, and in life itself. It has generally been the mystic, the prophet, the seer, who has spotted out new ways forward in the jungle of our world, or lifted our race to new spiritual levels. Their experiences have in some way equipped them for unusual tasks, have given supplies of energy to them which their neighbors did not have, and have apparently brought them into vital correspondence with dimensions and regions of reality that others miss.
The proof that they have found God, or at least a domain of spiritual reality, does not lie in some new stock of knowledge, not in some gnostic secret, which they bring back; it is to be seen rather in the moral and spiritual fruits which test out and verify the experience.
Consciousness of beauty or of truth or of goodness baffles analysis as much as consciousness of God does. These values have no objective standingground in current psychology. They are not things in the world of space. They submit to no adequate causal explanation. They have their ground of being in some other kind of world than that of the mechanical order, a world composed of quantitative masses of matter in motion. These experiences of value, which are as real for experience as stone-walls are, make very clear the fact that there are depths and capacities in the nature of the normal human mind which we do not usually recognize, and of which we have scant and imperfect accounts in our textbooks. Our minds, taken in their full range, in other words, have some sort of contact and relationship with an eternal nature of things far deeper than atoms and molecules. Only very slowly and gradually has the race learned, through finite symbols and temporal forms, to interpret beauty and truth and goodness, which, in their essence, are as ineffable and indescribable as is the mystic's experience of God. Plato often speaks as if he had high moments of experience when he rose to the naked vision of beautybeauty 'alone, separate and eternal,' as he says; and his myths are very probably told, as J. A. Stewart believes, to assist others to experience this same vision a beauty that 'does
not grow nor perish, is without increase or diminution and endures for everlasting.' But, as a matter of fact, however exalted heavenly and enduring beauty may be in its essence, we know what it is only as it appears in fair forms of objects, of body, of soul, of actions; in harmonious blending of sounds or colors; in well-ordered or happily combined groupings of many aspects in one unity, which is as it ought to be. Truth and moral goodness always transcend our attainments, and we sometimes feel that the very end and goal of life is the pursuit of that truth or that goodness which eye hath not seen nor ear heard. But whatever truth we do attain, or whatever goodness we do achieve, is always concrete. Truth is just this one more added fact that resists all attempt to doubt it. Goodness is just this simple everyday deed that reveals a heroic spirit and a brave venture of faith in the midst of difficulties.
So, too, the mystic knowledge of God is not some esoteric communication, supplied through trance or ecstasy; it is an intuitive personal touch with God, felt to be the essentially real, the bursting forth of an intense love for Him, which heightens all the capacities and activities of life, followed by the slow laboratory effects which verify it. 'All I could never be' now is. It seems possible to stand the universe even to do something toward the transformation of it. The bans get read for that most difficult of all marriages, the marriage of the possible with the actual, the ideal with the real. And if the experience does not prove that the soul has found God, it at least does this: it makes the soul feel that proofs of God are wholly unnecessary.
MEDITATIONS OF A BACHELOR
BY EDWARD CARRINGTON VENABLE
It is printed on some page of a now forgotten volume:
"The cry of "The Christian to the Lions!" resounded everywhere through the dark streets.'
The page was probably describing the reign of the Emperor Nero, and was possibly written by Sienkiewicz, though that is no matter here.
The little boy who read it, and went to bed immediately afterward, lay alone for a long time-or at least what seemed a long time-in a perfectly dark bedroom, hearing that terrible cry. It came to him in a dozen forms, but each distinctly articulate. There was a large clock below, at the stairs' foot, which ticked it; somewhere in the fields outside a cow bellowed it defiantly into the dark universe; a lonely whip-poorwill down by the river somewhere lamented it with equal intervals.
It was the very worst night of that little boy's life. Never afterward was he quite so frightened. He believed, a trifle arrogantly, may be, that he was a Christian, and, of course, he was sure of lions. To these facts, add that unnamable quality which the dark possesses, even for an animal, and you have by the simplest reasoning a truly terrifying situation. For it is a terrifying situation to be alone in the dark, a very small Christian, and hear a horde of barbarians shrieking for your life. It is terrifying, and it is childish, and it is as impeccably reasonable as arithmetic.
Of course, to the adult mind that last quality, the rationality, is not self-evident; but that is because the adult mind
cannot recapture firm faith in its own orthodoxy or shed its acquired knowledge of the scarcity of lions. But taking these two feats as accomplished, certainly the perfect reasonableness of that terror is undeniable. Anyone is afraid of being thrown to the lions, who knows that he is defenselessly liable to such a fate and that there is a plentiful and immediate supply of lions. That small boy was not, as his elders would have assured him, groundlessly alarmed. He was ignorant, very, and of many things — of zoölogy, of the improved customs of theological dispute; but he was not in the least irrational. His fright was childish, but it was not in any correct sense unreasonable.
That so simple a conclusion requires any demonstration shows the extent of the evil this confounding of the unreasonable with the childish. The two terms have become positively almost synonymous. The two adjectives pop out in any casual talk like the two barrels of a shot-gun. It would be more accurate, however, to say that they are in antithesis. For example, the fair question is rather whether there are any reasonable fears, except childish fears. It is this that gives them their unequaled poignancy. They assail not the imagination, but the very seat of reason itself. They cannot be argued away, because they have all the arguments on their side. Not Socrates himself that night could have reasoned that little boy into serenity. He remained alarmed at the horrible possibilities of his merciless logic, until experience