Copyright
William Ralph Inge.

Personal idealism and mysticism online

. (page 1 of 11)
Online LibraryWilliam Ralph IngePersonal idealism and mysticism → online text (page 1 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


THE LIBRARY

OF
THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA
IRVINE

GIFT OF
FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY




PERSONAL IDEALISM AND
MYSTICISM



THE PADDOCK LECTURES

THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM CON-
SIDERED AS THE EXTENSION OF THE
INCARNATION. (The Bishop Paddock Lectures,
1892.) By MORGAN Dix, S.T.D., D.C.L., Rector
of Trinity Church, New York. Crown Svo, 6s.

THE CONDITIONS OF OUR LORD'S LIFE

UPON EARTH. (The Bishop Paddock Lectures,
1896.) To which is prefixed part of a First
Professorial Lecture at Cambridge. By the Rev.
ARTHUR JAMES MASON, D.D., Canon of Canter-
bury. Crown Svo, 5s.

ADVENTURE FOR GOD. By the Rt. Rev.

CHARLES H. BRENT, Bishop of the Philippine
Islands. (The Bishop Paddock Lectures, 1904.)
Crown Svo, 3s. net.

PRACTICE AND SCIENCE OF RELIGION :
a Study of Method in Comparative Religion. (The
Bishop Paddock Lectures, 1905-1906.) By JAMES
HAUGHTON WOODS, Instructor in Philosophy at
Harvard University. Crown Svo, 3s. 6d. net.

LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.

LONDON, NEW YORK, BOMBAY, AND CALCUTTA



PEESONAL IDEALISM
AND MYSTICISM

THE PADDOCK LECTURES FOR 1906

DELIVERED AT THE GENERAL SEMINARY
NEW YORK



BY



WILLIAM RALPH INGE> M.A., D.D.

LADY MARGARET PROFESSOR"OF DIVINITY IN THE
UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE



SECOND IMPRESSION



LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.

39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON

NEW YOKE, BOMBAY, AND CALCUTTA

1907

All rights reserved



"B



PREFACE

THESE Lectures were the occasion of my first
visit to America, during which I made many
friends, and experienced the wonderful hospi-
tality and kindness which Americans, above all
other nations, know how to show to visitors.
The month which I spent in the United States
will always be one of my happiest recollections.
The subject of the Lectures is far too wide
to be dealt with satisfactorily in a short course.
My purpose was rather to stimulate thought
than to criticise a powerful school of philosophy
and theology. Fortunately, the limitations of
" Pragmatism " have been exposed by abler
pens than mine ; and it is to be hoped that
its leading advocates will not allow themselves
to be tempted away from psychology, where



vi PREFACE

they are strong, to theology, where their in-
fluence appears to me to be mischievous. The
term "Personal Idealism" has been selected by
a group of these thinkers, to express their
antagonism to Naturalism and Absolutism.
The Preface to the volume of essays with this
title is a lucid statement of the point of view
against which these pages are directed.

W. R. I.



CONTENTS



OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

PAGES

Our religion is necessarily determined by our personal ex-
perience Man is a microcosm, with affinities to every
grade in creation There is no special organ for the
perception of God, but we are brought near to Him
by all our faculties, unified as the higher reason The
ascent of the soul, as described by the Neoplatonists
and Christian mystics The soul and the intelligence
The One above intelligence Ethical system : the
soul's progress Is the ascent purely ethical ? Hypo-
thesis of intellectual and aesthetic interests in God
Importance of this admission for the attitude of
religion to science and art Unfortunate tendency to
disparage the witness of nature to God The natural
order is not to be interpreted in terms of human
wishes Influence of Lotze on the side of a pluralistic
will-philosophy General character of Divine revela-
tion Psychological basis of Trinitarian doctrine
The problem of personality The problem of sin . 1-31



II

SOURCES AND GROWTH OF THE LOGOS-
CHRISTOLOGY

The doctrine of the Trinity best understood from the side
of Divine immanence Confusion caused by the dif-
ferent connotation of " Person" in Greek, Latin, and
vii



viii CONTENTS

PAGES

English Popular theology generally too tritheistic
Doctrine of Christ as the Logos " The Word of Jeho-
vah " in the Old Testament Sketch of the Logos-idea
in Greek philosophy Philo's doctrine of the Logos
Great importance of the doctrine of the cosmic Christ
in St. Paul Relations of Christ to the Father, the
world, and the human soul This side of St. Paul's
theology has been unduly neglected The prologue of
the fourth Gospel The Christology of St. Paul and
St. John almost identical ; their point of view dif-
ferent Importance for St. John of our Lord's life on
earth St. John's view of the symbolic value of his-
tory The inner witness to its truth . . . 32-64

III

DEVELOPMENT AND PERMANENT VALUE OF
THE LOGOS-CHRISTOLOGY

Significance of the old Christological controversies
Adoptianism and Arianism Modalism Attitude of
Athanasius towards the Logos-doctrine Continuous
generation of the Son, in Victorinus and others Was
the Incarnation part of God's_ original purpose ? The
immanent Logos Thedoctrine in theNew Testament
In the second-century Apologists In the Alexandrian
Platonists In Augustine In the medieval mystics
The Logos-doctrine and " natural religion " Panen-
theism and Panpsychism Ritschlian hostility to the
Logos-Christology Static view of revelation De-
velopment in revelation : Christ in the Church Christ
as the ideal of humanity Professor Wallace quoted 65-92

IV

THE PROBLEM OP PERSONALITY

The conception of " Personality," as used by modern philo-
sophy, was unknown to ancient thought Its intro-
duction has caused many difficulties in theology,



CONTENTS ix

PAGES

especially in relation to the sacraments The as-
sumption of rigid impervious personal units is contrary
to experience Unification of the personal life an
ideal, not a given fact The universal and the indi-
vidual are both abstractions But, practically, we
must lose and forget our Self before we can find it
"Personal Idealism" and Trinitarian doctrine
Christian love based on unio mystica Hypothesis of
a racial self or " Over-soul " The choice between
monism and pluralism What unity in Christ means
Metaphors of the vine, the body, &c. We are in real
spiritual contact with the Logos-Christ . . 93-121



THOUGHT AND WILL

Strong current of anti-intellectualism in contemporary
thought Disparagement of the intellect in Lotze,
Howison, W. James, and English " Pragmatists "
This movement is being utilised by Christian
apologists, both Catholic and Protestant Herr-
mann's tirade against mysticism His view of ethics
as wholly independent of science and philosophy
Causes of the reaction Separation of value-judg-
ments from judgments of fact untenable Scep-
tical orthodoxy has no sound foundation Our
view of the world ought to be cosmocentric rather
than anthropocentric We must not champion one
faculty against another The intellect is not, as Kidd
thought, a disintegrating principle Religious values
are not in danger Surrender of the will, not its
apotheosis, is what religion demands Our practical
ideals must also be our surest truths The present
fu<ro\oyta must be a transitory phase The Logos-
theology is cosmocentric, and indubitably Christian
Christian eschatology symbolic Insoluble difficulties
connected with space and time Healthy interaction
of Gnosis and Praxis We must act out our thoughts
and think out our acts 122-153



x CONTENTS

VI
THE PROBLEM OF SIN

PAGKS

Alleged tendency of mysticism to promote moral indiffer-
ence The problem of sin does not exist for sociology
Nor for morality, which accepts the conflict as
internecine Morality needs evil, without which it
could not exist Confused and inconsistent teaching
about sin in Christian theology Sin as rebellion
As lawlessness As imperfection Theory of original
guilt Influence of the Book of Genesis Christ's atti-
tude towards sin less tragic than that of later Christian
theology Sin should not hold a larger place in ethics
than virtue Theory that sin is rooted in sensuality
Or in pride The real root is selfishness Civilisation
based on individualism is on its trial, and is not
emerging victorious Selfishness leads to shipwreck
all through nature Vicarious redemption necessary
Individualism leads to loss of faith in eternal life
" Psychical research " of the kind advocated by Mr.
Myers can bring no help We can never believe in
heaven while our dreams of the future centre in self
Mysticism and the problem of evil Conclusion . 154-186



PERSONAL IDEALISM AND
MYSTICISM



OUR KNOWLEDGE OP GOD

" SUCH as men themselves are, such will God
appear to them to be." These words of John
Smith, the Cambridge Platonist, state a primary
fact about the conditions of religious belief from
which we can no more escape than we can leap
off our own shadows. The God of the moralist is
before all things a great Judge and Schoolmaster ;
the God of the priest is the Head of the celestial
and terrestrial hierarchies ; the God of science is
impersonal and inflexible vital Law ; the God of
the savage is the kind of chief he would be him-
self if he had the opportunity. So closely do
gods resemble their worshippers that we might
almost parody Pope's line and say that an honest
God is the noblest work of man. This incurable
anthropomorphism or anthropopsychism has been

A






2 OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

noticed and ridiculed from Xenophanes to
Spinoza. It has been blamed, and to some
extent justly, by prophetic writers. " Thou
thoughtest wickedly," says the Psalmist, speaking
to the ungodly in the name of Jehovah, " that
I am even such an one as thyself." But the
thoughts of the ungodly about God are only
"wicked," because they are the thoughts of the
ungodly. Our religion must be based upon our
own experience, and it ought to be so. Al-
though God's thoughts are not as our thoughts,
nor His ways as our ways, we are made in His
image, and no higher category than our own
rational and spiritual life is open to us in which
we could place Him. God has made us in His
image, and we hope that we are in process of
transformation into His likeness.

But what are " we " ? Man is a microcpsm,
with affinities to every grade of God's creation.
He is a little lower than the angels, and a little
higher than the brutes. A modern biologist
might wish to put it even more strongly.
Every one of us, in his short span of life, re-
capitulates and hurries through the whole gamut
of creation. In the nine months before we see
the light, we pass through stages of evolution
7^? which in the race were spread over tens of



OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD 3

millions of years. And in our upward progress i
may there not be some dim anticipations of '
another long period of growth, which the slow
mills of God are grinding out without haste and
without rest? Can we set any limit to the
achievements of human nature, which God
created to reflect His own, and which was
revealed to half-blind eyes in its full potential
dignity when the Word of God became flesh
and tabernacled among us ? We can only know
what is akin to ourselves, but there is that in
us which is akin to God Himself.

Is this mysterious centre of our being, this
sacred hearth where the divine fire glows ever
unextinguished, this eye which is " the same eye
with which God sees us," to be regarded as a
special organ or faculty of spiritual vision, apart
from those faculties of which psychology takes
cognisance intellect, will, and feeling ? This
does not seem to be the truth. There is no
separate organ for the apprehension of divine
truth, independent of will, feeling, and thought.
Our knowledge of God comes to us in the inter-
play of those faculties. It is not given to us
through any one of them acting apart from the
others, nor indeed is it possible for any of them
to act independently of the others. Our nature



4 OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

is not tripartite. " It is everywhere the whole
mind, at once thinking, feeling, and passing
moral judgments," says Lotze, "which out of
the full completeness of its nature produces in
us these unspoken first principles." Julian of
Norwich says the same thing in simpler and
nobler words : " Our faith cometh of the natural
love of the soul, and of the clear light of our
reason, and of the steadfast mind which we have
of God in our first making."

We are thus united to God by all parts of our
psychical nature a threefold cord which is not
quickly broken. There is a Trinity within^ us,
an indissoluble synthesis which nevertheless
refuses to be wholly simplified, and which in
our imperfect experience often appears as a
concordia discors. For our nature is not fully
attuned ; there are contradictions, discords, strifes
within and without, and these are reflected in
the image which we are able to form of God.
This is why so many who crave for peace,
certainty, and definiteness, instead of accepting
our appointed lot of struggle, faith, and hope,
grasp at some delusive promise of a revelation
communicated purely from without, as if such
a revelation would carry with it some surer
pledge of truth than the assent of our reason.



OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD 5

But no such revelation could ever be made ;
for what part of ourselves could receive it ?
Are we asked to accept an incomprehensible
truth because it is guaranteed by miracle ? But
what is the connection between the sign and
the thing signified ? Who shall convince us
that there must be any connection at all ? And
if, as must needs be, the outward sign offers
itself to our understanding only, how can the
understanding, which deals with what is less
than ourselves, prove the truth of what is above
ourselves ? No, the apparent externality of a
revelation is no warrant of its divine character,
or of its value. In proportion as a truth is
external, it is either not revealed or not spiritual.
For in the spiritual world there is no outside and
inside. Spiritual things, as Plotinus says, are
separated from each other not by local division,
but only by discordance of nature. The organ
by which we apprehend divine truth is no special
faculty, but the higher reason, which we distin-
guish from the understanding because we mean
it to include the will and feelings, disciplined
under the guidance of the intellect. The higher
reason is that unification of our personality which
is the goal of our striving and the postulate of
all our rational life. God is the last object to be



6 OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

clearly known, precisely because He is at once
the presupposition and foundation and consum-
mation of all our knowledge.

" The higher reason is king " ({3a<ri\eus 6 Now).
I am not afraid to join Plotinus in this act of
homage, in spite of all the heavy artillery which
has been turned upon intellectualism in our
generation, and nowhere with greater energy
and effect than in the country of that brilliant
psychologist, Professor William James. My posi-
tion with regard to the claims of the intellect
and the will to supremacy in religion must be
explained, if I can succeed in explaining it, in
my fifth lecture. Here I need only express my
conviction that there are three avenues to the
knowledge of God purposive action, reasoning
thought, and loving affection ; and that the
normal order of their development is that in
which I have put them. Their order of develop-
ment, but not the order of their dignity. For
the will may energise without either intelligence
or affection; and the intellect may energise
without affection, though not without the pre-
sence of will in the form of attention ; but
love in its divine fulness is the unity of will
and reason in the highest power of each.

It is, I think, a strange thing that the religious



OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD 7

psychology of the Neoplatonists, which through
Augustine and others had such an immense in-
fluence upon Christian theology, should be so
much neglected in our time. It is often supposed
that Plotinus is only the chief European repre-
sentative of a dreamy and unpractical type of
philosophy which may be studied in its purest
form in the Indian religions. But Neoplatonism
is in the line of Greek, not Oriental, thought ; and
Plotinus is the last great figure in the magnificent
series of Greek philosophers which spans the
longest period of unfettered thought that the
human race has ever been permitted to enjoy.
The last word in philosophy of the old civilisation
is not, as our English students are almost en-
couraged to believe, the proud and melancholy
moralism of the later Stoics. The real conclusion
of that long travail of thought was a system
which expounds the philosophy of the soul's
journey to God, as traversed in the normal re-
ligious experience. We find much the same
chart in all the Christian mystics, not, for the
most part, because they have read Plotinus, but
because they have made the voyage for them-
selves. Such is, in point of fact, the road along
which the soul must take its solitary journey.
The map of the country is, as we might expect,



8 OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

drawn very much alike by all who have travelled
through it.

In this introductory lecture I will try to give
a sketch of the process by which, according to
these authorities, and especially Plotinus, the
father of European mysticism, we arrive at the
knowledge of God. Keeping the old antithesis
of the one and the many, which is as character-
istic of Greek thought as insistence upon the
subject-object relation is characteristic of modern
philosophy, we may perhaps say that mere multi-
plicity the TroXXa JJ.OVQV is the logical reductio
ad dbsurdum of materialism, while bare abstract
unity the eV /u.6vov is the reductio ad absurdum
of idealism. These two extremes lie, for Neo-
platonism, outside existence. The former is TO
M ov ; of the latter it is said that " it is not "
(OVK ecrri), being beyond existence. Between them
lie two spheres, of which the higher has for its
principle the Intelligence (Noi;?), the content of
the Divine mind. Its numerical symbol is the
Onej^Many (eV-7roXXa). The One is manifested
hi a multiplicity of aspects, in which it appears
polarised but not dissipated or even divided.
For even as St. Augustine says of the omni-
presence of God that He is not only present in
all things, but present is His totality in all things,



OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD 9

so Plotinus teaches that the whole is potentially
present in each one of its parts. This " intelligible
world " is the real world ; in it God is immanent,
and yet He is transcendent, because it is only as
His thoughts and for His pleasure that the whole
fair picture is outspread.

But the world in which we mostly live is not
the intelligible world, the sphere of the One-
Many, but the soul-world, of which the numerical
symbol is the One and the Many (eV KOI TTO\\O).
To our normal consciousness, God the One is
present, not as the unifying principle in all ex-
perience, but rather as the supreme Entity by the
side of other entities, partially independent of
Himself. There is in this sphere a partial dis-
integration of reality, a partial depotentiation of
the Divine energy. It is in this sphere that evil
asserts itself as the appearance of a positive force
in rebellion against the will of God. The soul-
world is also the time-world, for time (as Professor
Royce has said) is the form of the will, and will
or purposive action is the characteristic quality
of the soul-life.

In what sense is the " soul-world " less real and
less noble than the " intelligible world " ? Was
Plotinus at all misled by his favourite analogy of
light, which is diminished by distance from its



10 OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

source and by the diffusion of its rays ? Is not
this an analogy which may fail in the spiritual
world ? And is there perhaps a trace of another
fallacy, namely, that a state of change is inferior
to and less divine than a state of immobility ?
Plotinus was well aware that " the eternal Now "
(as Eckhart calls it), is not inertia but action
viewed sub specie ceternitatis. His disciple Proclus
distinguishes three kinds of whole the sum of
the parts, the resultant of the parts, and the
contexture of the whole and its parts, which is
the highest kind of unity. So St. Augustine
says that things above are higher than things
below, but that the whole creation together is
higher than things above. This line of thought
might suggest the conclusion that the sphere of
the soul the will-world is not inferior to the
intelligible world, but only to the supreme syn-
thesis of will and intelligence in the Absolute'
As a symbol of this synthesis we might use the
old philosophical conception of an evepyeia axivwias.
Instead of an ascending series, we should then
have the soul-world and the intelligible world in
a kind of parallelism, with the ineffable One as
the unknown but necessary reconciler and fulfiller
of both. But this would not be a fruitful line of
speculation. The parallelism between the physical



OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD 11

and psychical must not be duplicated or inter-
preted as a parallelism between will and intelli-
gence. The intelligible world, as envisaged by
Plotinus, leaves out nothing that belongs to the
world of soul, and must not be set in opposition
to it. Its superiority lies in giving a positive
value to elements which in the lower sphere
appear as negations and discords in finding a
soul of goodness in things evil, and an eternal
principle in the midst of time. Thus it involves
the repudiation of that erroneous view super-
ficially optimistic but really pessimistic, which
recognises no difference between that which is
given in our normal experience and that which
ought to be and must be. There are discords
there is evil in the world of our common
experience. The soul has its enemies, which in
its own proper sphere must be hated, resisted,
and overcome. But in the world of the eternal
Ideas God's own mind the victory is already
won, and the bad transmuted or suppressed. And
among the elements of that victorious good, in
that world, are the energies which in the soul-life
appear as effecting that result.

The intelligible world, then, is the sphere
towards which we are ascending, and which is
even now partly open to us. In this sphere, as I



12 OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

have said, God is both immanent and trans-
cendent. Is this the final goal ? To go beyond
Intelligence, says Plotinus, is to fall outside it
And yet, as we all know, the One beyond
Intelligence plays an important part in his
philosophy, and hi the philosophy of mysticism
generally. The Intellect, even in its most
exalted and comprehensive significance, even the
Nous epwv, the Amor intellectualis Dei, is not
allowed to have quite the last word. Even as
religion starts in an undifferentiated feeling of
the Beyond, a feeling in which all possible
developments of the moral, intellectual, and
emotional life are implicit, so its supreme and
ideal consummation, after the wheel has gone full
circle, must be a final identification of thinker
and thought, in which the Mind, which has come
to its full rights by including all experience
within itself, passes again on an infinitely higher
plane into the region of undifferentiated feeling.
The extremes are simple, says Proclus, the inter-
mediate stages complex. So Clement of Alex-
andria tells us that faith, the first stage of our
course, and love, the last, " are not taught " :
there is a spontaneity in them which is lacking in
the long day's work. Platonism and Christianity
are at one in representing the final consumma-



OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD 13

tion as a passing of knowledge into love. The
" intellect in love " loses itself in the supreme
transit which is its goal and the end of its
labours.

Logically, the system is incomplete without
this ideal completion of the spiritual ascent,
though it has but little relation to any facts of
experience. Love the unifier is ours; but to be
" made perfect in love " belongs not to our present
state. It is more than doubtful whether the
ecstasy, which the mystics valued as an anticipa-
tion of the beatific vision, is anything more than
a proof of the wise maxim already quoted, that
to strive to pass beyond reason is to fall outside
it. Medical psychology has not yet fully explained
the religious ecstasy, and I will not attempt to
discuss what parts in it should be assigned to
unconscious cerebration, to nervous exhaustion
following on emotional overstrain, and to genuine
illumination. The question whether, on mystical
principles, we can know God without at least
occasionally swooning into the Absolute, must be
answered by drawing, with Eckhart, a distinction
between the Godhead and God. Our knowledge
must be of God, not of the Godhead, and the God
of religion is not the Absolute, but the highest
form under which the Absolute can manifest


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryWilliam Ralph IngePersonal idealism and mysticism → online text (page 1 of 11)