It is not my work to enter into academic debates. That is necessary, yes, but others will have to undertake it, and this of course they can do only after mastering the teaching for themselves. The problems involved have been discussed by the cleverest intellects of mankind for thousands of years and still they remain to be discussed, still they remain unsettled. It is obvious that they can not be settled on the level of merely rational argument. The truth about them can be arrived at only by a higher faculty--insight. Each person must rediscover it for himself by developing this faculty. There is no other way; for anyone's say-so, least of all mine, has no validity for others. If this result seems unsatisfactory, the blame is neither mine nor anyone else's. But from my point of view, it is not unsatisfactory for it forces those who want to test the truth of this teaching to work hard at their own ultramystic development. Even if I am proved wrong in the sequence, their gain in character alone will surely be worthwhile. I have earlier written that the way up for and from science will lead to metaphysics. But obviously the conflict of doctrine in the metaphysical world makes this a dubious region. So I must qualify my statement; it is a metaphysics supported by science and inspired by mysticism, that is, the metaphysics of truth.
Constant reflection on metaphysical and ethical themes reaches a point where one day its accumulated weight pushes him around the corner into a mystical realization of those themes no less surely than meditation might have done.
Although every tenet of the metaphysics of truth is worked out with strict rationality and scientific respect for facts, there is a hidden support in transcendental knowledge running right through them all.
The whole intellectual structure is supported by a solid core of super-intellectual insight.
If philosophy harmonizes the two opposite elements of metaphysics and mysticism, it also transcends them through the ultramystic contemplations. The present volume carries the quest to a height where all reasoning reaches its ultimate limit and must then be dropped. At such a point it becomes necessary to separate the purely rational and ratiocinative portion of this teaching from the advanced-yoga--that is, ultramystic--portion. Accordingly the phrase "metaphysics of truth" will be used henceforth to indicate only the former portion.
The metaphysics of truth is set out in such a way that the student believes he is proceeding step by step purely by logical deduction from ascertainable facts, that his reasoned thinking upholds the findings of transcendental experience, whereas not only is he doing this but at the same time is proceeding upon a path which conforms to his own latent insight. It kindles a higher intelligence in its students. Consequently the sense either of sudden or of growing revelation may often accompany his studies, if he be sufficiently intuitive. The authentic metaphysics of truth can bring him close to the mystical experience of reality. Then the trigger-pull which will start the experience moving need only be something slight, perhaps a printed inspired sentence, perhaps just a single meeting with one who has learnt to live in the Overself, or perhaps a climb in the mountains. For then the mind becomes like a heap of dry wood, needing only a spark to flare up into a blazing pile. The close attention to its course of thought then becomes a yoga-path in itself.(P)
If the metaphysical mysteries are profound for him, then he need not see their disclosure. It is enough to live rightly and worship daily.
One day, if this kind of metaphysical thinking is carried on sufficiently, rightly, and concentratedly, his intellect may overreach itself, even lose itself in that wonderful faculty, intuition, or even slip farther into inspiration. This is a mysterious event where something grander takes over by a process which is certainly not mechanical.
Human knowledge may be relative, but the truth that there is an imperishable reality back of the cosmos, is an absolute one.
The final triumph of metaphysical thinking carries in itself the end of such thinking. Logic vanishes when its own work is done, when the intuition which it unwittingly invoked and successfully called into existence is born.
It would be as great an error to suppose that, because of its transcendental character, truth is inconsistent with reason as it would be to suppose that it is attainable by unaided reason alone.
The intellectual construction of the metaphysics of truth occurred subsequently to the living realization of truth. The latter finds a logical support in the former, although for the one who has finished treading the path of enlightenment such support is not necessary.
If these words will convey some illumination to his mind, it can be only because they are alive with truth.
Human intelligence has penetrated to the fact that behind the world-show there is a Reality but cannot penetrate the latter itself. Both science and metaphysics concur in this discovery, but no human writing has ever described it or can ever do so.
Whether it is ever possible to put into words that will not be idle ones truths of our real being has been a question whose answers are well argued for and against. But whatever the judgement may be, who can doubt that similes, metaphors--that is, symbols--may be offered, suggestive hints given forth, and clues left behind by those whose knowledge and experience carries authority. And these, too, are only words. Those who say that, in this matter, human language is suspect, completely untrustworthy, and utterly helpless, that its use here can only set up false images and fresh illusions, are going too far. It is to condemn us to hopelessness. And it does not explain why Lao Tzu, Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, John of the Cross, and Ramana Maharshi spoke or wrote despite their avowals. Of course their communication is all a matter of reference to levels. On the ordinary practical level--the immediate one--expression through any art, be it music, painting, drama, or literature, is not futile and does give something, does affect its audience. If it be given by an enlightened man to those still groping in darkness or dusk, it has its place and is justified. But on the ultimate level, with the mind absorbed in the Void, what is there to say? And to whom could it be said? Silence then becomes the correct attitude. When humanity attains this level, the descent of divine teachers and their words will not be needed.
If the enigma must be put into worded statements to satisfy demands, then they must be paradoxical ones. Those who require smooth, eloquent, and uplifting utterances may get comfort. But the truthful way is in the end the better way.
These teachings carry human thought as far as it will go; beyond them there can be only what superhuman beings could comprehend. This illumination is the final one, the terminal result and reward of all the arduous search of man's questing mind.
Truth clears away the remaining illusions which effort and instruction failed to clear away.
Metaphysics is ordinarily concerned with the criticism of superficial views about the experienced world and the correction of erroneous ones, whilst it seeks to construct an accurate systematic and rational interpretation of existence as a whole. This is good in its own place because we shall be all the better and not worse for finding a metaphysical base for our beliefs. It is quite clear however that metaphysical systems cannot alone suffice for our higher purpose, for being based on personal assumptions, reasoning, or imaginations, if they partially enlighten mankind they also partially bewilder by their mutual contradictions. Hence philosophy steps in here and offers what it calls "the metaphysics of truth." This is an interpretation in intellectual terms of the results obtained from a direct mystical insight concerned with what is itself incapable of intellectual seizure. Through this superior insight it provides in orderly shape the reasons, laws, and conditions of the supersensuous experience of the Overself, unifies and explains the experiences which lead up to this consummation, and finally brings the whole into relation with the practical everyday life of mankind. It is the sole system that the antique sages intellectually built up after they had actually realized the Overself within their own experience. Such a point needs the utmost emphasis for it separates the system from all others which carry the name of metaphysics or philosophy. Whereas these others are but intelligent guesses or fragmentary anticipations of what ultimate truth or ultimate reality may be and hence hesitant between numerous "ifs" and "buts," this alone is a presentation from firsthand knowledge of what they really are. It bars out all speculation.
Just as science is a rational intellectualization of ordinary physical experience, so the metaphysics of truth is a rational intellectualization of the far sublimer transcendental experience. It is indeed an effort to translate into conventional thought what is essentially beyond such thought. As expressed in intellectual language, it is scientific in spirit, rational in attitude, cautious in statement, and factual throughout. It is devoted to the relentless exposure of error, the fearless removal of illusion, and the persevering pursuit of truth to the very end--irrespective of personal considerations. It seeks to understand the whole of life and not merely some particular aspects of it.(P)
Speculation vs. knowledge
When metaphysical thought abstracts itself from the rest of human nature and works in solitude, unmoved by feeling and unmoved to action, the result is useless for living although interesting for theory.
We need free minds to deal adequately with religious and physical problems. The doctrines erect obstacles to this accomplishment in their own way. The merely intellectualist doctrinaires, who have worked things out quite neatly and logically on paper, for instance, erect for themselves and their followers their own stumbling blocks to the attainment of truth. For without authentic mystical experience, of which they are so ignorant, life and man cannot adequately be understood.
Metaphysics instead of being, as it could and should be, a fertile field, has become instead a stagnant pool.
Metaphysics is an interminable maze. Well might Dante's line be written over its portal: "Abandon hope all ye who enter here." For men lose themselves within its tortuous labyrinths and end in bewilderment, agnosticism, or pseudo-knowledge.
The failure of metaphysics begins when it becomes speculation based on imagination, when its ideas are derived from other ideas instead of from observed facts.
The study of speculative metaphysics may chill off religious belief but the study of the metaphysics of truth brings with it deep religious feelings.
The prosaic man in the street fears to enter the domain of metaphysical study because it seems like a vast and void obscurity. And he is right. It is. But it need not be.
The unsatisfactoriness of most Vedantic metaphysics is that it limits itself to ontology. The unsatisfactoriness of most Western metaphysics is that it limits itself to epistemology. Both are one-legged creatures. A satisfying full-limbed system must first begin with epistemology and then end with ontology.(P)
Our advice is: study metaphysics to its bottom and then make good your escape from it before you become a mere metaphysician! Once you start using metaphysical jargon you are lost.(P)
After the French revolutionary armies successfully entered Italy and reached Padua, Napoleon visited the ancient university there. He went into a classroom and heard the professor of metaphysics expounding a theme. "Bah!" exclaimed the man of action and walked away. His disgust may have arisen from the lack of any practical foundation to the professor's statements, or from the theological bias which he detected in them. In any case it showed his opinion of metaphysics in general.
Through every epoch of history the best minds of Orient and Occident have devoted arduous efforts to solve this problem of truth. They succeeded in establishing a few important principles, but these were generally lost amid the fog of ungrounded speculations and the mist of meaningless words.
Unfortunately, although there are hundreds of books on metaphysics to instruct the novice, they are also there to confuse him. For where, as in most cases, they are not certified by the sublime experience of insight, they tell him what is, after all, but reasoned guesswork. And the guesses are naturally numerous, different, contradictory.
It is the business of science to deal with the course of things but the business of metaphysics to deal with the reason of their being.
The student who becomes fatigued by metaphysical quibbling and victory-seeking pedantry may be reassured. He does not have to endure all that.
This type of metaphysician, who deals only in verbal quibbles, first stands on his head each time he wishes to take a look at the world. We need not be surprised therefore at the atmosphere of farcical unreality which pervades his writings.
Through the portal of a merely metaphysical world-view one enters a dry barren realm which, although it is actually remote from experience, yields the deceptive illusion that it is the very essence of experience. Here the student may perform successful logical somersaults and verbal contortions but he cannot successfully realize truth.
When plagued with metaphysical points as he often was, Gautama unfailingly adopted this point of view: In his own words, "And why have I not elucidated these questions? Because they profit not, they have not to do with the fundamentals of true doctrine, therefore have I not elucidated them."
The failure of unspiritual and unmystical metaphysics is the failure of a mental attitude which is forever trying to look at so many sides of a problem that it never arrives at any conclusion at all.
When he has thoroughly grasped the philosophy of truth, he will find that none of the criticisms which mystical votaries and religionist followers will freely pour down upon him can shake his adherence to it. Indeed they will actually confirm it! For almost all such criticisms will reveal to his trained eye the unpurified egoisms, the hidden complexes, the emotional overweighting, and the distorted or incomplete thinking which keep down the progress of their own utterers at its present level.
But if it is only ordinary metaphysics, then it cannot bring the student to such an experience, although it can give him good intellectual exercise and logical discipline if he wants these things. Ordinary metaphysical thinking is a kind of mental groping about in the dark, whereas that used in metaphysics of truth is like walking along a well-made road direct to a goal. This is so because the system itself is built up after and upon the mystic experience. Metaphysical self-debate for merely logical purposes is not meant here.
There are two kinds of knowledge: the ordinary kind which supplies information about a particular thing object or person and the higher kind which leads to wisdom. A man may correctly understand the handling of an electrical appliance and yet be a fool in the handling of his own life.
Buddha found the metaphysics of his time had run riot in worthless speculations and puerile logic-quibblings. He realized that only by making a clean sweep of the subject altogether could such speculations and quibblings be got rid of. Consequently, he enjoined upon his disciples to enter into no metaphysical controversies, but to apply themselves to the practical task which they have to achieve--liberation.
When metaphysics departs from the search for truth and roams about in mere speculation, it engages in such verbal trifling as whether movement is possible!
The trick of evading a direct question by giving a vague, abstract answer was known to metaphysicians called "eel-wrigglers" by Buddha.
If it is to be measured by values, then the first inheritance from philosophy is intellectual: it tells us what we need to know about self and how to find it out; and it teaches us about the world on a level that is left out by science--the metaphysical.
The metaphysics of truth has no recognized place in the academic world, as academic teaching is really based more or less on materialism.
Theological instruction is materialistic. Although this is a strange thought, a little reflection will show that, like the scientific knowledge of today, it is based on materialism--that is, as matter in itself being different from mind. The metaphysics of truth is based on insight, a faculty latent in all people but developed only in a few.
Some metaphysicians mostly write for each other, which is why the outside public finds them hard reading.
The philosopher does not denounce materialism so much as the one-sidedness which claims it to be the only aspect of existence. On the theoretical side it has its truth, and on the practical side it is worth attention. The name is used here not only in its narrow scientific sense, but also in its broad coverage of blind attachment exclusively to physical objects. Such ideas lead to mechanism without humanism, technological progress without care for negative consequences, atheism and anti-religion, and denial of psychological, mystical, and metaphysical experience.
The Pali texts of the Southern Buddhist school contain great wisdom but they also greatly contain unimaginative pedantic hair-splitting of the true scholasticism. It is strange how such sterility develops when men desert normal living for monastic retreat. This one-sidedness leads to the queer metaphysical illusion that the fine-spun intellectual analysis of life will suffice to yield the secret of life. On the contrary, it can no more do this than the scientific analysis of the materials out of which an organ is made, can yield the secret of its ethereal musical charm.
Reason is always proudly self-conscious of its worth. Just as the emotional devotee glories in abasing himself so the metaphysical student glories in exalting himself. Here he must be warned on one danger. Hence he should make a point of cultivating a sense of his personal unworthiness in other directions. He should hold to a wise humility as being one of his best safeguards.
Thinking can resolve all our doubts but it can do so only after it has been pushed to its farthest possible end, which means to its most metaphysical end.
Those who disparage this philosophy as intellectualism talk nonsense. Right understanding is essential, said Buddha. Said the Blessed One: "It is through not understanding this doctrine, Ananda, through not penetrating it, that thus mankind fails to extricate itself from suffering, rebirth."
The metaphysician who has lost himself in a jungle of intellectual subtleties which end nowhere must retrace his steps and achieve balance through yoga practice.
There is no unvarying answer to the question, What is Truth? The standpoint of he who asks it must inevitably delimit the nature and form of the answer he will receive, whether it come from life itself or from the sage who knows.
When we shall have worked out a criterion of truth we shall thereby be in possession of a clue to truth.
His metaphysical work must be thought out with heartfelt reverence.
Whoever presents a final statement of truth, deceives himself.
Metaphysics enables the mystic to make clear and conclusive to himself the principles on which his inward experience is based. This helps him, not only by satisfying the need for intellectual understanding, not only by supplying weapons to fight both his own doubts and the criticisms of sceptics, but also, by giving directional guidance, enables him to avoid errors in mystical practice.
Because philosophy aims to develop a fully rounded psyche, it does not share the fanatic and extreme points of view of some medieval Western mystics and modern Indian yogis who banish every intellectual pursuit from the aspirant's path and who regard study as not merely being useless but as even being harmful. It is true that if a student is forever reading and never digesting what he reads, or never acting on it, he will make little progress. Nevertheless he cannot be said to be entirely wasting his time, for he will be gaining information. And if his reading includes works by the great masters, he will also be gaining inspiration. If, moreover, he has learned to read properly, he will be gaining yet a third thing and that is stimulation in thinking and reflecting for himself. Yes! An inspired book and a good reader if brought together are not necessarily an unspiritual combination, but the qualifications which we earlier made should be remembered. What he reads should be digested. He should learn to think, to create his own ideas under the stimulus of what he reads. Otherwise the more he reads, the more bewildered he may become with contradictory ideas and doctrines. And again reading and thought must lead to action and not leave him uselessly suspended in the world of dreams and theories.
Philosophy does not adopt the anti-intellectual attitude of so many medieval ascetics and their modern inheritors. For it declares that metaphysical thinking can lead the thinker to the very threshold of mystical intuition. It asserts that by persevering in abstract reflection he may earn the grace of the higher self and be led nearer and nearer to the highest truth. But there is one qualifying condition for such a triumphant achievement. The thinker must first undergo a self-purificatory discipline. His thoughts, his feelings, and his actions must submit themselves to a prolonged training and a constant regulation which will eliminate or at least reduce those factors which falsify his thinking or prevent the arisal of true intuition. Therefore his character has to be improved, his egoistic instinct has to be struggled against, his passions have to be ruled, his prejudices have to be destroyed, his biases have to be corrected. It is because they have not undergone this discipline that so many people have been led astray by the thinking activity into a miserable materialism. For philosophy asserts that the ordinary man's thinking is corrupted by his lower nature, with which it is completely entangled. Therefore he must free that thinking to a large extent from the thraldom of the lower nature if it is to lead to true conclusions, if it is to lead to the recognition of its own limitations, and if it is to invite intuition to arise and replace it at the proper moment. Just as education of intellect and practice of courtesy lift a man from a lower class of society to a higher one, so purification of thought, feeling, and will lifts his mind into a realm of higher perception than before. So philosophy welcomes and includes metaphysical activity into its scheme of things.(P)
Metaphysics is best assimilated through the printed word because it calls for close and continued thinking. Mysticism, on the other hand, is better assimilated through the spoken word, because it touches the emotions.
The religious devotee loses nothing worth keeping when he passes his faith through the sieve of scientific inquiry and metaphysical sanction. If the result is the dropping out of useless superstition and unfactual dogma, his religion will be all the stronger, all the more triumphant.
The mystic disdains to seek or receive a metaphysical explanation of his method and its results, disdains the contribution of intellect. He is like a man who refuses to have a bandage removed from his eyes and persists in walking blindfolded.
Metaphysics says that it is impossible to arrive at truth if we take a limited standpoint of the whole, or if we take our facts from a single state like that of waking instead of all the three states of existence--of waking, dream, and sleep.
The metaphysical scientist and the scientific metaphysician scorn the masses for making God in their own image. It never occurs to them that they but duplicate the process when they set up an arid dry unemotional and frigid concept as Deity. For it is a dull and dreary God precisely like their own colourless character. For the metaphysician and scientist overrate a particular phase of human make-up--intellect--and underrate another phase--emotion--when each should be valued in its own place. To make intellect primary is to upset the proper balance of life. It has a most important place but that place is subordinate to the higher values of life.
The theories of metaphysics need to be proved by the facts of life, by the discoveries of man, and by observation of the world.
The final test of the worth of the doctrines to which a man subscribes is what he himself is. By this test there are numerous men who are not metaphysicians like himself but who tower far above him in character. You may call yourself a philosopher but you have proved yourself to be but a metaphysician.
The words we use belong to the limited range of conditioned existence. How then can they be of actual service in describing the Unconditioned? The only service they can render is a symbolic or suggestive one. Reality cannot be expressed in any of the positive terms we know, for there is nothing like it in the familiar world. It may be hinted at negatively.
Truth can only be upheld by truthful arguments.
It is useless to discuss or study this subject before you have made clear to yourself what conception of truth you entertain in your mind.
Unless we can find a criterion of truth which shall be fully competent to adjudicate between this host of contending theories we shall merely wander without end and without a goal. For this alone can provide us with an adequate assurance of finality.
Is there any criterion whereby we can distinguish error from truth? The only answer to this question which will be universally valid is that the sole criterion must be reason based on experience.
Neither the quibblings of logic nor the quarrels of experience can constitute ultimate tests of truth. For logic may ignore, distort, suppress, or forget facts, while human experience is too limited.
The metaphysical system may be only a reflected image of the Truth, but still it is as faithful an image as present-day human intellect can show. Therefore, it is most helpful to the seeker who is groping his difficult way and needs all the guidance he can get.
As a metaphysical system, it may not be acceptable because considered to be a mere abstraction, remote from life and unfit for modern use. It is not. It is the law of all being, the science of all life, the truth of all existence. As such it is not for theoretical study only; it is just as much for practical application to every problem of life.
Any fool can be happy with any falsehood, but the prudent man will want his truth to bear up to any examination, however severe, and any test in experience, however varied.
Some individuals have undergone tremendous physical ordeals. It is the realization of such horrible experiences which underlies the Buddha's declaration that life in the flesh is a form of suffering, a declaration which the Western mentality usually rejects. Again with the terrible war that gripped mankind like an octopus, the doubt that may have been felt as to whether or not there is any use in metaphysical strivings brings home the same point. If life on earth were really satisfactory, few of us would ever engage in such striving, but it is because of its dissatisfactions that so many of us are sooner or later driven to seek inner solace. It would be an error, however, to set up metaphysical striving as being in opposition to ordinary human activity. On the contrary, it is complementary, and is an effort to carry on that activity more wisely and more satisfactorily. Where metaphysical effort leads to desertion of activity, then it loses its way. Certainly at such a time as the present, metaphysics should help us and inspire us to do our utmost in this great struggle against the forces of evil.
These are truths not only when they are known by the intellect, but also when they are felt by the emotions. The two must come together and be two sides of the same coin.
All theories must be brought to the test of experience and not only of reason, authority, and intuition before their value can be finally stated.
The modern school of existentialist metaphysics gives too much weight to passing experiences and too little to permanent principles, too much to appearances and too little to the realities, too much to the political economic and social, too little to the moral ethical and spiritual phases of human life. This brings about an unbalance and a half-truthness in its conclusions.
The doctrine of Advaita is after all a conception existing in a human head, for it had to take shape in that head, even if it had been revealed by the god Shiva or Vishnu or Brahma as Indian myth and legend would have us believe. Even if the doctrine were revealed in the deepest mystic experience by the discoverer digging within himself, it still remains a mental concept interpreted and formulated by the discoverer himself.
Those who need more intellectual sustenance than mysticism gives, may turn to metaphysics.
The intellectual who aims only at classifying and analysing kills the finer subtler part of that which he is dissecting; the artist who yields his feelings in love of it receives its soul.
If we remain true to the logical course of our thinking, we shall be forced in the end to accept the truth of philosophy.
The intellectual point of view is necessarily a developing one and its search for truth an unending one. It can never secure or offer any final formulation since reality is beyond the intellect's touch, even if it comes within the intellect's understanding.
Issues and adherents
What is self? What is thought? What is reality? These are accepted by metaphysics as three of its chief problems.
The immense growth of human knowledge in modern times has rendered it completely impossible for any single man to acquire even half the sum total in his lifetime. It is therefore of immense value to consider the relation of different branches to one another and to find those leading principles which shall coordinate all this mass of knowledge into a consistent whole and thus bring them within a single comprehensive purview. Metaphysics occupies itself with such an important task of unification, such universality of scope, and such an effort after unity in which all facts fall into place. This is possible to metaphysics alone.
Kant's mistake was to imprison human possibility within the intellect, to make the Spirit quite inaccessible. Hegel's error was in the opposite direction. He brought intellect into a false closeness to the Spirit and wrongly made history the chief preoccupation of the Absolute!
In the end, a man's actions are based on his metaphysical assumptions.
Plato, "the wisest of the Greeks," regarded the intuition of the poet and artist as being inferior to the insight of the metaphysician, because it could give no reflective explanation of itself.
Logical Positivism is a school which has excellent critiques to offer concerning matters of purely physical reference but which is completely misleading and mischievous when it wanders farther into matters of purely metaphysical mystical and non-physical reference. According to Logical Positivism, words are formed to deal with what is visible and tangible to us, to what the senses can grasp. The presupposition here is that this is all that exists. But this presupposition is wrong, as metaphysics demonstrates and mysticism reveals, for an immaterial and infinite mind is the source and sustenance of the senses themselves. The high priest of this school writes: "Let us find out how we teach the meaning of expressions, words and sentences to children and to primitive people; then we shall know what is meant by meaning!" The fallacy here is that we are neither children nor primitives. Both these classes are naturally materialistic, naturally take appearances for reality. We as adults are capable of abstract reflection and profound enquiry which free us from such naïve materialism. We may now comprehend why Logical Positivism, taking its cue from children and primitives, is such a materialistic school.
Hegel's use of terms in his dialectic system may perhaps be looked upon as follows: (1) The use of a set of intellectual concepts constitute his Thesis; (2) The use of an opposed set of such concepts is his Antithesis; (3) The use of noetic ideas or intuitions becomes his Synthesis.
Berkeley's acceptance of the distinction between primary and secondary qualities is antiquated and unnecessary. All the qualities are basically present together.
Hume's critique of causation and Berkeley's critique of matter still remain themes which scientists ought to ponder over.
For those who have devoted several years to its detailed study, this teaching is not a matter of pious belief or fanciful thinking but a tested fact and demonstrated truth. Nor, for them, does it depend upon the say-so of some bygone man or the tradition of some bygone century. It depends upon procurable evidence and appeals to scientific attitude.
When specialism is overdone, as in the case of such schools of mental and logical analysis as those of Logical Positivism and Semantics, it topples over into errors.
The tendency for rationalism to enter all the departments of life--although it is still weak in most of them and vigorous only in the department of science--is a necessary inevitable and evolutionary one. It is to be accepted, not to be deplored as the mystical sentimentalists and religious traditionalists deplore it. In the end it will lead man out of the materialism it creates for him, and into loftiest comprehension of the truth about himself and the world--philosophy.
To the extent that every man assumes certain elemental propositions about his surroundings--whether his assumptions are derived from instinct, convention, or education--to that extent he is unconsciously a metaphysician. It will not do therefore for him to say that he has no use for metaphysics or to disparage those who seek to arrive at such propositions more consciously and more rationally.
René Guènon's books take a standpoint which attracts an increasing number of Europeans. It needs to be understood thoroughly. It represents the latest of several of his own personal phases--including Catholic, Sceptical, Hindu, and lastly Muhammedan-Sufi. Guènon makes two important contributions to thought. First, he rightly perceives that science can add metaphysics not to displace itself but to complete itself. But what sort of metaphysics shall it be? If merely a speculation or a dogmatism, then that may lead only to further error. It must be a metaphysics based primarily on the mystical intuition and secondarily on the metaphysics of Truth, whose principle tenet, mentalism, is raised both out of observed facts, out of man's sense relations of the external world and his experience of it, and out of mystical seership. Is Guènon's system of this kind? Unfortunately, it is only partially so. Therefore, its grand truths suffer from certain insufficiencies and some errors. Second, Guènon rightly sees the existence of a universal crisis, but he misses one chief purpose and result of this crisis and that is its tremendous destructiveness. It is breaking adherence to past tendencies and shattering old forms. He fails to see that any return to vanished tradition could never be an internal but only an external one. It would lack reality, naturalness, and vitality. Yet his work possesses special importance not only, as he believes, for Western seekers who have thrown off conventional religious fetters but especially for the more intellectual.
On Spinoza's Doctrine (by PB): (a) Spinoza taught that God was the whole of things in the universe. This brought him into the category of pantheism. Philosophy says this is true but only part of the truth. For God is not only immanent in the universe but also transcends it. God still would be God even if there were no universe. (b) He declared that the unknown reality was Substance. Philosophy says this is only an attribute of Reality and as such still not the ultimate itself, any more than the quality of fragrance is the flower itself. (c) He believed in Causality, as science did in the nineteenth century, and as all must do who do not comprehend the final truth that Reality is nondual, hence leaves no room for the duality of cause and an effect. Spinoza's pantheism made him declare that everything is God. This is the theological outlook. The philosophical one declares that everything is a manifestation of One Infinite Reality. For if the ego also is God, then who is God? (d) Spinoza's teaching that God has two attributes, Mind and Matter, that reality has two aspects--mind and body, made him a dualist. Philosophy knows only one reality--Mind. It admits causality only for the immediate and practical purposes of the illusory world. (e) His teaching on how to live so as to fulfil the proper purpose of life is identical with philosophy's teaching. He saw that man so far must become wholly free inwardly, and as free as possible outwardly. This is to be achieved by self-mastery, by overcoming desires, subjugating passions, and simplifying existence. This brings true happiness.
The philosophy of Martin Heidegger is heavily based on Heraclitus and Parmenides. In his opinion their thinking is still the basis of Western culture.
How far is he mystical? The simplest answer to this question is that according to Heidegger Being is finite and time-bound, which is not the way in which mystics usually express themselves. He is also a nationalist and thinks that one can only philosophize in Greek and German . . . Several years later I heard that Heidegger had changed or developed his views: he now took a mystical stand, especially regarding Time.
The semantic philosophers, like Chase, who say that `me', the senses, and the world are fundamental have gone so far, but no farther into truth. They have not stopped to ask what is `me'? The `me' is only the body. What are the senses? What is the world? All these questions they have not gone into deeply, but we must give them every credit for their work on language. They have gone on the right track but they are afraid of going farther. That is why Vedanta says one must be determined to go to the end in quest of ultimate truth.
He will not be able to avoid the influence of metaphysics, anyway, for he will be subject to it at third hand, but in greatly diluted homeopathic doses, through the ministration of religion.
Every man has his own abstract view of his relation to the universe. In most cases it is either an unconscious or a half-conscious one. But still it is there. To the extent that he seeks to make it a fully conscious and adequately truthful one, he becomes a metaphysician.
When we consider the purpose why anything came into existence, we call that purpose its reason. When we consider the means or medium through which it came to exist, we call the latter its cause.
What is the difference between the concepts of existence and Being? Hegel has tried in his ponderous way to express it metaphysically and only intellectually.
Causality is the foundation stone of the world creation problem. When it is displaced the entire structure of every cosmogony--religious and scientific--collapses.
Against this Correspondence Theory of Truth it suffices to point out that it is impossible to lay one's idea upon the fact to see if it is an exact copy; it is impossible to take the impression in one's mind and ascertain whether it is perfectly like the original throughout. Moreover, if the fact itself is directly known for what it is, the question of its truth ought not to arise, whilst if it is unknown how can it be discovered whether the idea corresponds with it?
A shy little man shocked the Western world of metaphysicians with his critical analysis of the very foundations of their knowledge. Such was Immanuel Kant and such was the startling effect of his magnum opus, The Critique of Pure Reason, which appeared in 1781 to amaze the learned. It was the logical, if late, result of the purpose fixed thirty-five years earlier, when Kant wrote to someone: "I will enter on my course and nothing will prevent me from pursuing it. I have already fixed upon the line which I am resolved to keep." He gave European thinkers a nut on which many have broken their teeth, though none have yet succeeded in breaking the nut. He indicated the limits of the human mind and proved, as conclusively as it can be proved, that human reason was utterly unable to penetrate into the reality of things, which necessarily transcends it.
He courageously accepted the conclusions of his own rigorous reasoning. He admitted that metaphysics as a science transcending all sciences, as an intellectual quest of God, was doomed to failure. The rational could never discover the Suprarational.
Kant, after all, was a rationalist. He worked primarily with purely intellectual concepts not with mystical ones. Consequently he shared the limitations of such a narrow standpoint. He recognized that his ideas pointed beyond themselves, but he did not venture to make the journey himself. Besides, professors have to consider their posts first and truth afterwards and truth often comes off second best. But Kant, being a thoroughly honest man who had already found that the full and free expression of his views brought threats of dismissal from the State authorities, probably refrained from entering religious mysticism and fell into silence about it because the intellectual revolution he advocated was itself a tremendous enough advance. He used logical reasoning to show that what lay beneath all our reasoning was beyond our knowing, that the essence of existence was beyond finite perception, but he did not say that there was no essence. It is there, whether we know it or not.
Bergson's study of memory convinced his mathematical mind that the fleshly brain was far less, and quite other than, the invisible mind. They were in two different categories. This is how he came to reject the materialism with which he started.
Even metaphysicians may misunderstand each other, as when Kant wrongly thought that Berkeley had tried to establish that things experienced in space are mere imaginations. Kant then proceeded to waste his own and his readers' time disproving what Berkeley never claimed.
G. Lowes Dickinson, the Cambridge don, read Plato and Plotinus in the original Greek. They led him to believe that there might be a way toward ultimate truth and ultimate experience. But time made him more cautious and in the end he lost this belief. The human mind was quite inadequate to find answers to ultimate questions, he decided, and kept this scepticism until the end of his long life. As for yoga, he was willing to grant its mind-over-body power but was unwilling to test it, as he feared its dangers and suspected its delusions.
Hegel would rationalize the Overself just as the Hindu mystics would irrationalize it. Hegel's metaphysically rational Absolute satisfies the head but leaves the heart untouched.
Because Spinoza was a mathematician as well as a metaphysician the few who admire and honour him as such are surprised when Richard Church, himself a poet, called him "every poet's friend." Or he is denounced by others as "a pantheist," for this led him into alleged heresy. "He shows us Mother Earth as he showed it to Wordsworth."
What a pity that Kant did not put his meanings more directly, clearly, and compactly, for then his greatness as a transition thinker would have emerged with less difficulty for most readers.
Even though Kant proved that the human mind is so limited by its nature that the Real eludes it, he did not stop there. For he went on to prove also that it could still get clues, hints, or slender notions which confirm the basic spirituality of the Real.
We must gladly welcome the recent interest in writings like the Dane Kierkegaard's, for even if they are not wholly emancipated from religious bias, they are excellent transitions from orthodox religion to mystical religion. They prepare the reader who accepts them to accept mysticism itself as his next forward step.
This habit of persistent daily reflection of the great verities, of thinking about the nature or attributes of the Overself, is a very rewarding one. From mere intellectual ideas, they begin to take on warmth, life, and power.
If we want to trace out what is real in either human or universal existence it is essential that we separate appearance from reality, effect from cause, and object from subject.
Can the infinite impersonal Mind really play at being the little personal ego as one school of metaphysicians assert?
Hegel limited the Absolute when he limited access to it only through the faculty of Reason.
Metaphysics must act as a custodian of the truth and as a guardian of the road to it. To refuse to submit to its discipline is equivalent to choosing a different goal, and another road than truth.
Its spiritual significance
Metaphysical knowledge is the rain, devotional fervour is the sunshine. Both are needed to bring the plant to flowering and fruition. But rain attracts people less than sunshine. And so we find that most aspirants avoid the labours of metaphysical study for the pleasures of mystical practice.
The day when the seeker must wrestle with the problems of metaphysics is usually postponed until he is thought to be ready for them, which means until much of his life has passed away. However, this suited the convenience of ancient times, when the general mental level of mankind was much lower than it is today. There is more disadvantage than advantage in such postponement, and the sooner this study is undertaken the better for the seeker himself.
The philosophic student knows that the same thoughts which rear their heads and obstruct the mystic from attaining Thought can be turned round and used to help him attain it. But to achieve this successfully there must be metaphysical knowledge.
Those who make philosophical writings their constant study are using life profitably.
He must study the great teachings of philosophy with something like passion.
When thought hits into one's passions and prejudices, few people care to draw a line of hard thinking unto its bitter end. The consequences of philosophical brain activity can be too dreadful for weak mortals. Only he who has made thought his lord and king can accept its commands.
Philosophy provides its mystical students with a scientific basis and a metaphysical background. Thus and thus alone can they get a secure position in the intellectual world of today. Let him turn these ideas over and over in his reflections until they are quite comprehensible.
Philosophy provides for the intellectual and emotional needs of evolving spirituality, not merely, as does mysticism, for the emotional needs alone.
Metaphysics has no pictorial images and emotional appeals to offer its votaries. Hence it is at a disadvantage compared to religion or art. The abstract ideas which it gives instead can satisfy only an uncommon kind of intellect.
Metaphysics gives itself the work of uncovering intellectually life's deepest secret.
But let it not be thought that the metaphysical effort is a wasted one. On the contrary, it is essential for training the mind to think correctly about the Overself, for supplying it with the firm conviction that such an ultimate reality does exist, and for encouraging it to take up the practical quest of ultramysticism; whilst after the latter quest has been successfully realized the metaphysical effort again becomes useful when the sage seeks to communicate to others a precise report and accurate explanation of his own grand experience.
But if we say that every attempt of the intellect to judge the nature of reality involves it in a maze of contradictions, that in short the Overself is impenetrable to thinking, this is not to say that thinking is useless and metaphysics is sterile. For the negative knowledge which they provide enables us to confirm the validity of ultramystic insight as well as to reject the validity of lower-mystic intuition. Moreover, there is a certain chaotic vagueness about the lower-mystic experience, into which philosophic enquiry introduces the cleansing breeze of system and understanding and thus brings into the clear light of self-consciousness what is genuinely real in that experience.
Once he begins to bestow his thought upon thought itself, he begins a path of enquiry which, if pushed to its farthest end, will bring him into astonishing discoveries and, if he follows them into practical application, beneficial changes.
A metaphysical faculty is required to understand the truth. However sharp a businessman's intelligence may be, or a scientist's intellect, truth will be beyond their grasp if this faculty is lacking. But the lack may be repaired. Steadfast determined and resolute study will develop the needed equipment.
Metaphysical study may exercise the reason, but if it is the metaphysics of truth it will also unfold the intuition. Therefore, it is also a holy path.
If a man will constantly think about these metaphysical truths, he will develop in time the capacity to perceive them by direct intuition instead of by second-remove reflection. But to do this kind of thinking properly the mind must be made steady, poised, concentrated, and easily detached from the world.(P)
His conduct will be better, his mind wiser, and his heart happier if he seeks and gains a knowledge of the divine laws governing the universe than if he refuses to do so.
The task of philosophy is to see through every situation from its beginning to its end, from its core to its surface, but this it can only do if it approaches the situation with an entirely impartial mind, with a perfectly trained power of concentration, and with a thirst for facts rather than opinion.
This is the training which frees his mind from the influences of origin, the compulsions of environment, the suggestions of education.
Mystical teachings were too often in the past presented in a form which demands blind faith or which is hard to understand. Philosophical teachings are presented in a comprehensible form and so logically that they arouse mental trust.
He alone is fit to study metaphysics who can use logic rigidly yet not get so intoxicated by its use as to forget that its syllogisms are only of limited applicability.
From all these metaphysical studies he will derive even without seeking it a lofty tranquillity and a noble impersonality.
We must climb this pyramid of reflection to the grand apex of truth.
The worth of metaphysics to us is relative to the work which we put into it, to the degree of hard thinking which we achieve under its direction. For it demands sustained enquiry into facts, careful assessment of the value of statements, and careful judgement of conclusions.
People turn from metaphysics as from a dry and forbidding subject. Yet for those to whom it is a pathway to Truth, its statements carry the attractiveness of a good novel; its books possess the readability of a good biography.
An important value of a metaphysical outlook lies in the conscious understanding it bestows of what we ordinarily experience unwittingly and unreflectively.
Such thinking is admittedly difficult. The average man habitually regards the flat toneless tenets of ordinary metaphysics as something to make his head ache. He possesses a veritable fear of entering their cloudy domain of unprofitable remoteness and useless logical hair-splitting. Nevertheless, their subject is too important to be ignored without involving him in definite intellectual loss. And more men have a capacity for comprehending it than are usually aware of being able to do so. In some, the metaphysical tendencies have been lying dormant waiting for a suitable opportunity or a fit environment to rise and manifest themselves, but neither opportunity nor environment being propitious they have wrongly thought the subject to be beyond their range. Only when the passing years bring the needed change do they discover that the intellectual significance of experience discloses itself to them with increasing clearness and interest just as the inner content of a novel increasingly discloses itself.
Those who pride themselves on being practical and who consequently (such is their reasoning) dispense with metaphysical theory as a useless encumbrance, may learn with surprise that there are students of metaphysics who are not less practical than they are and who find in their studies the best foundations for their management of day-to-day living.
The mystic who has not this clear metaphysical knowledge may attain a limited goal, but even then, because his effort is not a guided one, much of it is lost in blind striving.
The concepts formed by common sense will not avail us here.
Without the knowledge of this metaphysical system, he is like a traveller in a strange land, who is ignorant of his whereabouts, unprovided with a map, and unguided by a native.
Readers must again be reminded and must ever keep in memory that the term metaphysics is used here to indicate the particular system called "Metaphysics of Truth" alone. This warning is a needed one. For perhaps in no other study have men so lost themselves in mere verbiage, so strayed afar from actuality and reality.
The study of the metaphysics of truth prepares the mind for mystical revelation, helps it to become mystically intuitive.
A high grade and inventive engineer's mentality is better suited to grasp the metaphysics of truth than most others.
It trains the mind to move guardedly along the path from reasoned thinking to conclusive judgement, to proceed cautiously and not precipitately when opinions are formed, and to form them not at random but only after sifting factual evidence from idle hearsay.
There is this to be said for such study, that it brings to us ready for assimilation what others have had to purchase by long experience and arduous research.
He must have the courage not to be frightened away from these doctrines merely because at first sight they seem absurd. If he will take the time and trouble to make a comparative research, he will find that great minds in ancient Greece and Rome and Egypt, in medieval Europe and Asia, as well as a growing minority in the modern world found these ideas reasonable.
The grades and levels of spirituality as well as the schools and systems of metaphysics may be studied from the outside.
Unsound theoretical principles can never lead to sound practical deeds. Therefore, metaphysical study is required.
Most men fall into easy acceptance of the belief that abstract thinking and mystical experience are too vague and too intangible to spur emotion and influence action. This is one reason why most men do not even trouble to investigate mysticism or study metaphysics.
The value of a systematic course in philosophy is that it gives a solid foundation. A casual self-education lacks this, has no teacher to question or to organize its reading; it picks up knowledge in bits and pieces--too fragmentary and scattered to be complete.
Too many people are too fatigued, whether by their work or by the stress of modern conditions, to be willing to read books demanding an effort of close intellectual attention. They feel that they need writings which give them something instead of requiring the reader to give anything, which inspire, counsel, and console.
The partisan, the sectarian, and the fanatic should keep away from philosophy for they might then get cured of their ailment.
So subtle is the metaphysics of truth that the mind unpractised in concentration will soon waver in following it; the heart, unpurified of desires, will soon weary in applying it. The Long Path work is absolutely necessary as a preliminary.
Hitherto we have used the thinking faculty to extend our hands and lengthen our legs, that is to say, to create ingenious tools, instruments, and devices and to invent amazing land, sea, and air vehicles. This has brought us powers surpassing those of most animals but they do not make us more than clever animals. The evolutionary hour is now at hand when we must also use thinking for higher purposes, when we must let it guide us not merely to mass production or quicker locomotion but to the dignity of our own divinity.
A slow measured delivery of these unfamiliar metaphysical and mystical explanations helps the hearer understand better and accords with the dignity of the subject.
Metaphysical study lifts a man into the clear keen air above personal considerations.
Those who left divine forces outside their world view have become baffled, confused, and hesitant.
There is nothing wrong in asking that the search for, no less than the statement of, truth should be reasonable.
Although he cannot be relieved of the great strain of studying its metaphysical side, for it clarifies the meaning of human existence, he can be helped to bear it more easily.
Metaphysics makes us exercise intellectual muscles which have got flabby because they are little used.
The basic ideas of this teaching have been transmitted down through the ages but only to a selected few.
Because the metaphysics of truth deals with root ideas, and because in a mentalist universe such ideas are naturally more potentially powerful and more important than materialist ones, the metaphysics of truth becomes the most worthwhile study in which man's intellect can engage. For these ideas provide him with the right patterns for shaping physical existence.(P)
The contemplation of universal laws and metaphysical truth chastens the feelings and elevates the thoughts. This study causes man to forget himself, to turn aside from his little ego, and thus helps to clear a path to discovery of his Overself.